Filmsite Movie Review
Sleeper (1973)
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Sleeper (1973) is Woody Allen's science-fiction satirical comedy classic and screwball comedy about the future - with Dixieland and swing music. The film's posters stated:


This film was from Allen's earlier period, when he was known for appearing in or directing lightweight comedies, such as Take the Money and Run (1969), Bananas (1971), Play It Again, Sam (1972), and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* But Were Afraid to Ask (1972).

Filled with one-liners, Allen's film both satirizes the 1970's and parodies sci-fi books and past classics, such as Buck Rogers "Serial" (1939), Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and A Clockwork Orange (1971), George Lucas' THX 1138 (1971), George Orwell's futuristic novel 1984, and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.

It also evokes such slapstick comedy classics as Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton films, the Keystone Kops, Chaplin's Modern Times (1936) and the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup (1933). Like Chaplin in many of his films, Allen directed, wrote, starred in, and composed the soundtrack for this film.

The Story

Jazz clarinet musician and co-owner of a Greenwich Village health food store, nerdy Miles Monroe (Woody Allen), finds himself 200 years in the dystopian future in the year 2173 - he was cyrogenically 'frozen' in aluminum foil when complications arose - after entering a New York hospital in 1973 for what he thought was a minor peptic ulcer operation. An observer remarks, "It's hard to believe that you haven't had sex for two hundred years." "Two hundred and four," he replies, "if you count my marriage."

In the classic fish-out-of-water comedy, he soon finds out that he is considered both a subversive alien fugitive by the Big Brother-type totalitarian government and a savior to the rebels wishing to overthrow it, led by Erno Windt (John Beck). With knowledge of important historical information, he disguises himself as a domestic robot to prevent capture, but is still pursued in a number of slapstick scenes, outwitting the cops, giant computers, robots, and "the Leader" of the totalitarian society.

The climax occurs when he and his love interest, a rich, clueless, pseudo-intellectual poetess named Luna Schlosser (Diane Keaton in her second appearance with Allen in a film, but in her first Allen-directed film) attempt to assassinate The Leader (a wheel-chair bound dictator with a white dog), who is ultimately reduced to a benign, disembodied nose after a bombing - and then steam-rolled.

Memorable images, lines, and funniest scenes:

  • his first steps after waking from the long sleep, staggering around like Frankenstein (1931).
  • the McDonald's sign showing trillions of hamburgers sold.
  • being accidentally trapped in an "Orgasmatron", a substitute experience for sex, or using "The Orb," a large metal ball, for a drug fix.
  • his hilarious commentary on "ancient 20th century artifacts."
  • winning a mock beauty pageant in which he believes he's Miss America.
  • his slipping on a giant ten-foot-long banana peel.
  • getting fitted for a suit by two robotic yet very Jewish tailors.
  • the brainwashing scene.
  • a funny rendition of a scene from A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) - with Allen as Blanche (Vivien Leigh's part) and Keaton as Stanley (Marlon Brando's role).
  • Miles' performance as an inept servant-robot, with a silver-painted face and dome on his head, in a household during a party, and his struggle against killer pudding with a broomstick.

The film ends with the famous "sex and death" line:

Sex and death. Two things that come once in a lifetime. But at least after death you're not nauseous.

[Note: Mike Myers' Austin Powers series owes a debt to this film.]