Small Time Crooks appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. As a whole, this is a simply terrific picture that presents almost no concerns.
Sharpness usually seemed excellent. A few interior shots in Rayís apartment appeared ever-so-slightly flat, but the vast majority of the movie came across as crisp and well-defined. Moirť effects and jagged edges presented no concerns, and artifacts from the anamorphic downconversion on my 4X3 TV seemed minor. Print flaws were equally nonexistent. I saw no signs of grain, speckles, scratches, tears, blotches, grit or other defects.
Colors appeared absolutely wonderful. The film showed some lovely hues that were perfectly rendered and seemed exceedingly true. Probably my favorite example came during an early shot of Ray and Frenchy on their apartment buildingís roof; the scene occurs at sunset, and the warm orange tones appeared magnificent. Black levels also were deep and rich, and shadow detail seemed excellent. Low-light situations came across as smooth and appropriately-dark but lacked any excessive heaviness. To see how good these shots can look, check out the aforementioned sunset scene; Ray and Frenchy can be seen perfectly clearly through the darkness. (This starts at the 7:35 mark, if you want to jump to it.) All in all, Small Time Crooks looked terrific.
Less exciting is the filmís monaural soundtrack. For what it is, the sound seemed adequate, but the simple fact remains that a movie from 2000 should not have single-channel audio. However, Allen apparently dislikes multi-channel mixes, so I guess weíre stuck with mono audio for all of his films.
The situation made selecting a grade for the sound difficult. I encountered the same problem when I reviewed Allenís Sweet and Lowdown. The audio itself seemed good, but the lack of ambition means it simply canít compare favorably with other modern films.
As such, I chose a rating of "C-". As a whole, the sound came across as clear and crisp. Dialogue always seemed natural and accurate, with no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Effects were clean and realistic and displayed no distortion. Because Allen used very old jazz recordings for the score, the music seemed thin and weak, but I canít fault the soundtrack for that problem; it resulted totally from the source material. Ultimately, the DVD duplicates the original recordings accurately, but it still merits a below-average grade because of its monaural nature.
Since Allen apparently dislikes supplements on DVDs, we find very little on this disc. Production Notes offers some solid text about the film. The piece is brief but fairly interesting. The same notes appear in both the DVDís booklet and on the disc itself.
Cast and Filmmakers provides basic biographies for eight actors and seven crew members. The listings for Allen - which are the same under both categories - differ, however, in that they include no biographical information; we simply find filmographies for him. At least these are nicely annotated; they provide details of Oscar nominations and victories.
Lastly, we find the movieís theatrical trailer. Itís a pretty modest package, but I guess itís about as good as weíll get for an Allen film.
At least the movie itself is pretty good. Woody Allenís work has been rather hit or miss throughout his career, but Small Time Crooks provides some of his better work, at least over the last couple of decades. The DVD features an absolutely fantastic picture, monaural but clear audio, and almost no extras. The lack of supplements makes the package less endearing as a purchase, but Allen fans should be happy with it nonetheless. For others, Small Time Crooks at least merits a rental.