Sleeper (1973)

I don't know if there'll be many Woody Allen film reviews put on GGG, but I've always been a big fan - well, the recent ones haven't been great, but even now show a creative imagination exceeding heaps of American filmakers today. And this particular little gem has always been one of my favourite Allen films ... it's got science fiction elements, and a really funny slapstick sensibility. I've seen it multiple times and some scenes still have me laughing out loud.

What's it all about? New York Health store owner, Miles Monroe (Woody), has a minor operation in the seventies, but wakes from cryogenic suspension in the far-flung future. How do these futuristic scientists keep him suspended? By wrapping him in tin-foil, no less, glasses on the outside, of course. Miles wreaks havoc in an electric wheelchair, but once he fully comes to, all he can bemoan is the amount of rent owing on his apartment. However, he's been awakened for a special purpose - to assassinate the tyrannical ruler of this future dystopia. He wants none of it. Escaping, he comes across an uptight, neurotic artist named Luna (Dianne Keaton). Disguising himself as a butler-robot (probably one of the main images of the film is Woody in silver paint and dome-head) he infiltrates the household and escapes his government pursuers temporarily.

Eventually though, things go awry and he and Luna are caught. Luna wanted nothing to do with him and just to stay in her cosy easy life, but she was kidnapped by Miles and ended up blamed by the Government anyway. Both are mind-wiped and put to work as drones, but Luna escapes and realizing how bad things were, breaks Miles out and reverts him to normal. With a revolutionary group, they kidnap all that is left of the leader after an assassination bombing - his nose, and it's flattened by a steamroller. The good guys have won, but Miles knows that all leaders are bad and only "sex and death" have meaning.

Sound complex, and maybe even unfunny? Try mixing this basic plot with Woody and Diane at the top of their comic form, wonderful woody-composed dixieland music, great slapstick routines, funny lines and great visual comedy and try not to laugh. I challenge you.

Some of my favourite scenes are as follows. Woody in robot-mode starts cooking a futuristic pudding which swells to enormous proportions and attacks him. He defends himself with a broom. Again disguised as a robot, Miles sits on a production line, hoping to not be found. Suddenly he realises each robot in front of him is having it's head ripped off and smashed. He shuffles away timidly and of course, mayhem ensues. There's also a futuristic orgasmatron which he and Luna use - it's very quick. The whole kidnapping of the Leader's nose, with Miles and Luna pretending to be surgeons, is pretty damn funny too.

I could reel off several more scenes, but I'll just say at this time that I think it's a great film, and although his work progressed to a higher artistic level,perhaps, this one is hard to beat for pure innocent laughs. It's also fun watching, admittedly on a comedic level, what people in the seventies thought the future would look like. Everything's white interiors, futuristic bubble cars that "hum", people in outrageous silver clothes and kaftans, and silver balls that get everyone high just by holding them. Not to mention the orgasmatron. I hope I live to see the future of "Sleeper", perhaps without the despotic leaders!

I would definitely recommend this one for light viewing and a few laughs. But hey, you probably still need to be a fan. If you don't like Allen's films or the Woody persona, this one won't convert you.


© Boris Lugosi 2002.

Review written: 04/13/2002 12:37:46