• Crimes And Misdemeanors

    Crimes And Misdemeanors
    Released by: Twilight Time Releasing
    Released on: February 11th, 2014.
    Director: Woody Allen
    Cast: Martin Landau, Woody Allen, Alan Alda, Mia Farrow, Angelica Huston
    Year: 1989
    Purchase Screen Archives Entertainment

    The Movie:

    Woody Allen’s 1989 film Crimes And Misdemeanors introduces us to a wealthy ophthalmologist named Judah Rosenthal (Martin Landau) who lives with his wife Miriam (Claire Bloom) in Connecticut and practices in Manhattan. Judah is unfaithful to his wife, for some time now he’s been having a clandestine affair with a flight attendant named Delores Paley (Anjelica Huston) but as his affections for his mistress have waned considerably, Delores has decided that it’s time for Judah to divorce his wife and be with her on a permanent basis. If he does not oblige her, the threats she’s made to go public not only about the affair but about some of his less than squeaky clean financial dealings is one that could ruin him. Judah’s connected brother, Jack (Jerry Orbach), suggests that they take care of Delores permanently and eventually Judah agrees and they pay a hitman to take care of the problem.

    Meanwhile, a documentary filmmaker named Cliff Stern is in the midst of shooting a documentary for PBS about the life and times of his brother-in-law, a famous Hollywood big shot named Lester (Alan Alda). Cliff wrestles with how to portray Lester in the film – does he shoot a publicity friendly piece or expose the man for the wretched fool that he is? He’d rather be working on a documentary about a philosopher but things get even more complicated for Cliff, a married man himself, when he falls for his producer, Halley Reed (Mia Farrow).

    At the core of the story Allen is telling in Crimes And Misdemeanors are men wresting with their dubious moral decisions. Obviously Judah has to at least try to come to terms with what he’s facing in the picture and more explicitly how he decides to deal with it, while Cliff’s conundrum is twofold in that he’s not only wrestling with his artistic integrity but the looming temptation of infidelity as well. Allen’s films are full of sinners, Crimes And Misdemeanors is no different in that regard. Having said that, there are countless other films out there that also feature characters wrestling with similar situations and Crimes And Misdemeanors’ having roots in film noir basically ensures this. What makes this picture different, and very much worth seeing, is how Allen lets his characters deal with it.

    Additionally, as this is a Woody Allen movie, the film also details the background and childhood of Judah and Jack. We learn of their traditional Jewish upbringing and the effect that it had on them living under the watchful eye of a God who sees all. We learn how their father was ever so stern in regards to matters or morality and how this in turn shaped the worldview and psyche of his children. This comes full circle in a scene where Judah treats an aging Rabbi whose sight is no longer what it once was. Of course the Rabbi tells him exactly what you’d expect a Rabbi to tell someone in a situation like this when asked for advice, but Allen’s emphasis on eyesight and blindness in this picture would infer a darker approach as it delivers, sometimes more subtly than others, a reprobate’s view on a Godless world.

    It’s a dark picture well-acted by an excellent cast. Allen does his thing as well here as he has in other pictures while Orbach makes for a great supporting character. Farrow is charming and even endearing in certain scenes while Alda plays the pompous fool almost too well. It’s Martin Landau who really steals the show here. As he wrestles with these acts of conscience we see him create an incredibly believable character and his performance is outstanding.


    Crimes And Misdemeanors looks very good on Blu-ray from Twilight Time, framed in its proper 1.85.1 widescreen aspect ratio in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer on a 50GB disc. Detail is strong throughout the presentation and while the film’s grain structure appears to have been left alone, the image is crisp and clean showing no serious print damage outside of some minor specks here and there. There’s no obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement to note while skin tones appear lifelike and natural. Black levels are solid and shadow detail is good, there are no problems with any compression artifacts of note. Many of the outdoor scenes, shot in the fall it would seem, have a nice naturalness to them while the indoor scenes also benefit from the enhanced resolution that Blu-ray offers by showing off strong detail and texture.

    The English language DTS-HD Mono track is also quite good. It has more depth than most single channel tracks do and the dialogue sounds quite natural and properly mixed in against the score. This isn’t a particularly effects heavy track so Mono works just fine. The score has good range and presence to it and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion. Optional English subtitles are provided.

    Extras on the disc itself are slim, though we do get an isolated score track, a trailer for the feature and an MGM promo spot in addition to menus and chapter selection. Inside the keepcase is a booklet of liner notes from essayist Julie Kirgo that do an interesting job of making the case for evaluating this film as a noir. She also talks about the morality of the storyline and the characters that populate it as well as the film’s unusual mix of darkness and humor. It’s a good piece that makes some interesting critical observations about the film and its director.

    The Final Word:

    Crimes And Misdemeanors is a smart, darkly comic movie that asks some intriguing questions about the morality of man and the value of life. It’s an unconventional thriller to be sure but it’s well made as most of Allen’s pictures are and it benefits from an exceptional cast and a solid score. The Blu-ray debut from Twilight Time is light on extras but it sounds good and it looks excellent. A very strong release overall.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!