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The Front

66 customer reviews

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(Feb 17, 2004)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

This acclaimed comedy – with its serious, compelling theme – vividly brings to life one of America's most disturbing memories: the Communist “witch hunts” of the ‘50s. Woody Allen stars as Howard Prince – a small-time restaurant cashier, part-time bookie and full-time loser – who is induced by a writer-friend to “front” for the submission of his TV scripts when he is blacklisted as an alleged subversive. Howard is soon “fronting” for other writers. He becomes a celebrity and is lionized as television’s most brilliant and prolific young author. But when popular TV comic Hecky Brown (Zero Mostel) is blacklisted and his career is threatened, he agrees to keep Howard under surveillance. Howard is then summoned to appear before an investigative committee and his stand before them brings about an unexpected dramatic conclusion.

The Front is both a comic delight and perhaps the most graceful act of show business revenge in cinema history. Written by, directed by, and starring various talents blacklisted during the McCarthy-era witch hunts of the 1950s entertainment industry, the film stars Woody Allen as Howard, a cashier and bookie approached by blacklisted television-writer Alfred (Michael Murphy) to act as a "front," i.e., the alleged author of Alfred's works. The scam proves hugely successful. Soon Howard is fronting for several other banned writers, taking a cut from every sale to the networks, and basking in praise (and romantic attentions) for his prolific talent. It all unravels when congressional investigators dig into Howard's past for Communist ties and squeeze him to name others with supposed links to the Red Menace. The Front is charming, tragic, heroic, and briskly intelligent, featuring a heartbreaking performance by Zero Mostel and directed by Martin Ritt (Hud). --Tom Keogh

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Michael Murphy, Herschel Bernardi, Andrea Marcovicci, Danny Aiello, Woody Allen
  • Directors: Martin Ritt
  • Producers: Martin Ritt
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Extra tracks, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Japanese, Georgian
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    Some Region 1 DVDs may contain Regional Coding Enhancement (RCE). Some, but not all, of our international customers have had problems playing these enhanced discs on what are called "region-free" DVD players. For more information on RCE, click .
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: February 17, 2004
  • Run Time: 95 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00013D580
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #36,529 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Front" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 48 people found the following review helpful By David Kusumoto on November 20, 2001
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
Soon after the release of his hilarious 1975 film, "Love and Death," Woody Allen did something he rarely does...

...he starred in a movie -- that he didn't write nor direct.

Back in the mid-1970s, the idea of slapstick actor Woody Allen -- crossing into "serious" territory and coming out heroic -- was unfathomable.

Yet when "The Front" came out in 1976, its ad campaign blared, "America's Most Unlikely Hero." I couldn't shake off Allen's image as a prankster, the same foolish nerd who's vividly on display in his early, fall-down-funny films.

But when I saw Allen in "The Front," directed by the late Martin Ritt, it marked the beginning of my "conversion" -- from an on-the-fence "observer" -- into a full-fledged, Woody Allen fan.

"The Front" feels like it's all Woody Allen -- because it has a comedic flair with which we're familiar in all of his films. But former blacklisted writer Walter Bernstein -- not Woody Allen -- wrote the script for "The Front."

The film is about a serious part of American history. Allen is a cashier and a part-time bookie -- who shoots to super stardom as a "front" for blacklisted television writers who are Communist sympathizers. His built-in persona as a clumsy and intellectual nerd -- vested into a heartfelt character who feels tremendous loyalty and affection for his friends -- is a wonderment. And in 1976, for the first time -- we got to see humanity and horror reflected in a starkly emotional face -- that Allen himself rarely reveals -- when he's an actor in his own films.

When this "PG-rated" picture came out more than 30 years ago, I was shocked by its ending.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By R. Spell VINE VOICE on January 12, 2001
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
An exceptional expose on the absurdity of the Hollywood Blacklist. Allen is a restaurant cashier asked by a former high school chum to "front" as a writer so this gentleman can continue to write and get paid. It works so well, two more blacklist writers are added. It's funny to watch unassuming Allen develop an ego as he takes on the persona of an actual writer. In addition, there is a love interest which questions whether this love would grow if he were still a cashier.
The second half of this movie really builds around the conflicts involved with whether to testify and "name names". The absurdity is so evident when Allen is forced to testify to escape punishment if he will "out" a purported communist who has just committed suicide. Zero Mostel also has a great role as an actor trying to get work.
I strongly recommend this movie to challenge your beliefs about the blacklist. Also, make sure and stay for the credits to see the many involved who were blacklisted but were able to work on this movie. An exceptionally entertaining and educational movie.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By 718 Session on April 6, 2004
Format: DVD
It is always interesting to watch an old movie about an older time. This 1976 examination of the McCarthy-era serves a couple of purposes. At a time when the cold war was focusing on East Asia, the time was right for a re-examation of the excesses of the 50s lest they fade from memory (something that still applies to today). We start off during the opening credits with newsreel scenes from 1952: Joltin' Joe DiMaggio, frontlines from the Korean War, Marilyn Monroe getting her star on Hollywood Blvd, the Rosenbergs being carted off to their execution, new cars, new homes complete with bomb shelters, etc. But the movie focusus on the blacklisitng of writers, directors, and actors in entertainment; specifically at NBC television. The details and the methodology of the blacklist are exact and don't involve a lot of exposition. Halfway through the film, you get a fairly complete picture of how the blacklist worked.
The movie is also a good old-fashioned "Screw You!". The film was written by a blacklisted writer (who is obviously drawing from his own experience), directed by a blacklisted director and is populated (not exclusively) by blacklisted actors. The actors who were blacklisted get their own titles in the closing credits.
And thirdly, (and most importantly) the movie is good entertainment. Amateur bookie Harold Prince, described by his brother as "a lowlife bum", cares about two things: making money with as little effort as possible and getting laid. He has no apparent talent and no political convictions. Prince's lifelong buddy Al Miller (played by Mike "Jack Tanner" Murphy) has problems of his own: despite award-winning work, he can't get a job writing because word is out that he marched in a May Day parade. Al makes a proposition.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 27, 1999
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
This is an important film about a time many would rather forget. It's hard to believe that events like these could occur in America but thank God there are films like these around to warn future generations of just how easily the tide can change. As I watched this film, I found myself wanting to believe that I would have had the courage to stand up to such pressure. All I know for sure is how much I admire those who did. This film is far from preachy, though. It's an extremely entertaining look at one of the ugliest chapters in American history.
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