Within the new Woody Allen Collection 1982-1987, 1984ís Broadway Danny Rose was one of the flicks I least looked forward to watching. I hadnít seen it in years, but I remembered that I didnít care for it. Unfortunately, my hazy memory obliterated any notion of why I disliked it, so I went into this screening with a fairly blank slate, albeit one influenced by a general notion of animosity.
The same predisposition accompanied my viewing of 1982ís A Midsummer Nightís Sex Comedy, but I ultimately found it to be a reasonably enjoyable experience. Would my new examination of Rose offer similar alterations of my opinions? As a matter of fact, it would. While Rose didnít provide a terrific experience, it seemed to be a fairly charming and entertaining film that worked much better than I expected.
At the start of the film, we see a group of veteran Manhattan show biz types as they share old stories over a meal. The subject turns to the ďlegendaryĒ Danny Rose, an agent, though a comically unsuccessful one. We hear - and see, via flashbacks - some brief anecdotes about Rose before one of the guys declares that he has the ultimate Danny story.
The remainder of the film depicts this tale, as we see an adventure brought about by Roseís involvement with lounge singer Lou Canova (Nick Apollo Forte). Originally managed by Rose, Lou hit it big in the Forties with a novelty tune called ďAgitaĒ and he quickly ditched Danny for different representation. Much older - and fatter - Louís career is on the wane, and Dannyís the only one willing to work with him.
Mainly this means some low-rent gigs for Canova, but Rose finagles a spot on a Milton Berle card. Apparently a ďnostalgiaĒ craze has picked up some heat, and old-time crooners like Lou have become somewhat popular again, so this is his big shot to reignite his career. Unfortunately, Lou has some quirks, and he insists that his mistress Tina (Mia Farrow) must attend the show. Danny gets the assignment as chauffeur, which leads to a series of comic entanglements, especially when a suitor with mob connections wants to kill Danny for coming between him and Tina.
The more I watched Broadway Danny Rose, the more confused I became: why did I originally dislike this flick? Years ago I developed a theory that the only good Woody Allen movies were the ones in which he didnít appear - or did no more than a voice-over, ala Radio Days - but my examination of flicks like Midsummer and Rose dispelled that notion. Neither film stands as his best work, but both offer a lot of good material.
At times, Rose veered a little too close to the cutesy side of the coin, with some scenes that seemed a bit slapstick and silly for this kind of piece. However, Allen balanced this with a nice human touch that made the movie more memorable than I expected. Probably my biggest surprise came from Allenís superb performance in the title role. Granted, Woody always plays a minor variation on the same personality - his - but he presented a more endearing quality to Rose than I usually find in his roles. Many of Allenís schlubs are grating, but Danny seems like the quintessential lovable loser. Even elements that probably should have appeared annoying were charming and amusing; for example, I loved Roseís continued reliance on his old stand-up act to ingratiate himself with people, even though this occurred in many inappropriate situations.
While Danny remained the eternal optimist throughout much of the movie, Allen allowed the character to display heartbreaking melancholy when he finally got screwed one more time. That element was what made Rose more intriguing to me. So much of it came across as a borderline farce that I didnít really expect any greater depth, but Allen managed to integrate real emotion with the laughs in a manner that seemed appropriate and believable.
Ultimately, Broadway Danny Rose offered a surprisingly warm and witty experience. Some of the wacky bits wore out their welcome to a degree, but as a whole, the movie provided a nicely engaging and likable piece that stands as a very solid entry in the Woody Allen canon.
Footnote: I must admit the timeframe in which Rose took place confused me. From what I could tell, it was set during the late Sixties; I figured that mainly because Danny told Lou to use some song lyrics that referred to the moon landing. However, Allen took very few pains to make the movie look like something from an earlier era. In fact, at one point a theater marquee clearly shows that 1982ís Halloween III: Season of the Witch!
Second footnote: ďAgitaĒ may well be the most annoying song ever written. Unfortunately, itís been lodged in my tiny brain for the last few days and shows no signs of leaving. Arrgh!
Broadway Danny Rose appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The black and white film displayed some minor concerns, but overall I thought the disc provided a solid picture.
Sharpness looked very strong throughout the movie. I felt the image appeared crisp and well defined during the entire presentation; no signs of softness or fuzziness marred the picture. A few moirť effects cropped up at times, mainly due to some hideous checked clothes, but I detected no jagged edges or edge enhancement.
Overall, the black and white presentation showed nice depth and delineation. Black levels remained consistently dark and dense, while shadow detail came across as appropriately heavy but not excessively opaque. Low-light situations were clear and easily visible, and contrast seemed fine as a whole.
As with the other DVDs in the Woody Allen Collection, Roseís biggest problem stemmed from print flaws. Some light grain appeared throughout the film, while a mix of grit and speckles also cropped up with modest frequency. Overall, the defects didnít become terrible, but they caused some distractions. Nonetheless, I found the image of Broadway Danny Rose to seem pleasing.
As with virtually all other Woody Allen films, Broadway Danny Rose offered only a monaural soundtrack. This one seemed acceptable but unexceptional. Dialogue appeared reasonably natural and distinct for the most part. Some mild edginess marred some of the lines, but this remained minor, and I encountered no concerns related to intelligibility. Effects provided a small part of the mix, but they seemed to be fairly accurate, though somewhat thin and bland.
Music displayed somewhat erratic tones. Rose featured no score other than endless variations of ďAgitaĒ. Actually, as much as I hate that song, I must admit it worked well as the movieís theme; it got altered in ways that fit the mood well. Anyway, at times, the music sounded nicely clear and rich; for example, one version started with a strong thump from a drum and appeared surprisingly deep and dynamic. However, other renditions came across with less presence, and they seemed more ordinary. Ultimately, the soundtrack of Broadway Danny Rose appeared fine for the material, but it didnít do much to stand out from the crowd.
Apparently Woody Allen doesnít care for DVD extras, which is why none of the DVDs for his films include many. That is also the case for Broadway Danny Rose. All we find are some fun and informative production notes within the four-page booklet and the movieís theatrical trailer. Though short, I really like the text in the booklets found with the Woody Allen Collection discs. Iíve noticed that many reviews donít even bother to mention them, but they pack a lot of material into a little space.
While I thought Iíd dislike Broadway Danny Rose, I found a surprisingly amusing and warm experience. The movie had a few slow moments, but overall it seemed fun and charming, with a nice touch of depth. The DVD provided fairly strong picture plus acceptable sound with only minor extras. Danny Rose offered a solid flick that should please Allen diehards and many others as well.
Note: Broadway Danny Rose can be purchased on its own or as part of the Woody Allen Collection 1982-1987. The latter also includes Zelig, A Midsummer Nightís Sex Comedy, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Hannah and Her Sisters and Radio Days. Unlike packages such as The Oliver Stone Collection or The New Stanley Kubrick Collection, 1982-1987 tosses in no exclusive extras, but its list price of $99.96 is about 17 percent off of the separate cost of all six movies. As such, it would be a nice bargain for anyone who wants all of the different films.