Sleeper (1973) – Woody Allen


Sleeper is a scantly known Woody Allen movie recommended to me by fellow blogger badfinger20. I was enthralled by it and frankly it remains a mystery how it isn’t more widely known. I cannot remember the last time I laughed so hard watching a movie.

IMDB: Miles, a nebbishy clarinet player who also runs a health food store in NYC’s Greenwich Village, is cryogenically frozen, and brought back – 200 years in the future, by anti-government radicals in order to assist them in their attempt to overthrow the oppressive government. When he goes off on his own, he begins to explore this brave new world, which has Orgasmatron booths to replace sex and confessional robots.

“I don’t know what the hell I’m doing here. I’m 237 years old; I should be collecting social security.”

Apart from being one of the funniest movies I’ve seen, it also contains one of the wittiest premises. I’ve watched a fair few Allen movies and I have enjoyed them all, but his comedic genius radiates most intensely in this. I for one did not know that Woody was such a great physical comedian. His physical slap stick comedy is brilliant.
But the intelligence behind his manic goofiness in Sleeper is the crowning achievement. Despite how different things are in the future, his neurotic Jewish Brooklynite’s wry sense of humour stays the same. The movie is interspersed with occasional ragtime theme music and stepped-up film speed which despite harping back to the comedic pioneers like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, still looks and feels as fresh as yesterday’s coat of paint.

Diane Keaton

Diane Keaton who regularly appears as Woody Allen’s confidante in his movies, is more than his match here and regularly steals the limelight. It showcases her unassailable comedic talents like no other movie I have seen her in.  The highlight for me and what is one of the funniest scenes in the entire film involves her doing an impression of Marlon Brando. Her performance in Sleeper is one of the most hilarious I have seen by an actress full-stop.

The other aspect of Sleeper which impressed me greatly were the props and production design. The orgasm-machine, futuristic houses, round vehicles, stiff servant gay-robots, gigantic fruits all seem to indicate we are moving towards times where ignorance revels and empty pleasure-hunting is celebrated as the correct form of bliss. It genuinely feels like something you might expect to see if Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel Brave New World was adapted for the screen, with of course a twisted comedic flavor. And regarding the premise and political commentary, you could throw George Orwell’s 1984 into the mix as well.

As far as sci-fi comedies go, Sleeper is a definite winner. I had so much fun with it. There wasn’t a pedestrian moment in it. Also, there aren’t many comedies out there which can top this in terms of gags-per-second ratio and just sheer quality. The ‘rewatchability’ force is strong with this one!

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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Posted in Movies and TV
14 comments on “Sleeper (1973) – Woody Allen
  1. badfinger20 says:

    Thanks for the link! I can never get enough of this movie. Like his others you have to pay attention to get the quick one liners he threw out.

    I really like his earlier stuff when he combined the physical and neurotic together. Of course I like his other ones also.

    Groucho Marx was alive until 1977 and he called Allen the funniest comedian of the time. High praise coming from him.

    I just saw you that you reviewed Hannah and Her Sisters…I haven’t seen that….I’ll check your review out.

    • I was just watching bits of it again this morning and laughing out loud as I was aligning Spanish subtitles to it.
      I’m going to show Sleeper to my kids this weekend. I think they’ll love it.
      I didn’t know that about Groucho’s comments. Comedy it seems has gone full circle in that case. The pioneer praising the new comic genius.
      I don’t think my Hannah review is anything to write home about. So beware.

      • badfinger20 says:

        Woody and Dick Cavett were/are good frriends and they would hang out with Groucho in the 70s…Cavett had both on his show a few times.

        Have you ever watched the Dick Cavett show? The reason I ask is because he wasn’t Carson or anything like that really.
        He had people like Brando, Bette Davis, Hepburn and others that usually didn’t go to other talk shows. He would have a real converstion with them…not 5 minutes and out you go.

        The review told me enough to know that I want to watch it.

      • No, I hadn’t heard of the Cavett show. It sounds like it must have been a great show.

        Regarding Hannah, that scene I posted where Allen pulls out the sacred Catholic items from the brown paper bag and then lobs on top the bread and mayonnaise is just so quintessential Woody.

      • badfinger20 says:

        I’m looking forward to seeing it.

      • Hey Bad, I just finished watching this fabulous interview of Woody Allen on Michael Parkinson. Highly recommend if you haven’t already seen it.

      • badfinger20 says:

        I will check it out no doubt…thank you.

      • He is wonderfully articulate and witty in this. What impressed me so much was how he addressed the audience. It seemed almost a theatrical monologue.

      • badfinger20 says:

        We watched the first of it and then went to sleep…will finish it tonight.

        Here is the one that we saw a while back and I told you about

      • Thanks Bad. I will watch it later tonight. Cheers

  2. hanspostcard says:

    Those early Woody Allen comedies were a lot of fun. My favorite- Take The Money And Run!

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