Woody Allen was having a strong streak in the mid-eighties, putting out a film a year, alternating archetypal classics like Hannah and Her Sisters with more modest, relatively lighthearted, and very nostalgic movies like The Purple Rose of Cairo and Radio Days. Woody Allen being Woody Allen, we are talking about relatively lighthearted here. Domestic abuse plays an integral role in the overall enchanting Purple Rose. Similarly Radio Days slips out a few jokes about child beating and links “Mairzey Doats” with a cleaver-wielding maniac, but such stray moments aside, this is one of Allen’s sweetest, kindest films, full of lovably flawed characters whose desires range from the childishly basic—say, scoring a Masked Avenger decoder ring—to the stratospheric—say, graduating from cigarette girl to radio star. In all cases, it is radio that binds the ensemble of characters together, though Hollywood cinema of the past seems to hold equal sway over proceedings that have the same cartoonish tinge as the similarly forties-nostalgic A Christmas Story (another delightful eighties picture in which a secret decoder ring holds sway over a boy’s imagination).
An endlessly pleasing movie, Radio Days gains as much appeal from Allen’s gauzy direction and cuttingly hilarious writing (“You don’t like it, take the gas pipe!”) as it does from a spectacular cast led by tiny Seth Green as Allen’s pre-teen stand in Joe and Mia Farrow at her comedic best as the squeaky cigarette girl. Support swells from Julie Kavner and Michael Tucker as Joe’s parents, and the likes of Wallace Shawn, Larry David, Danny Aiello, Jeff Daniels, Mercedes Ruehl, Tony Roberts, Diane Keaton, Kenneth Welsh, William H. Macy, and Kenneth Mars in small but memorable roles. As is often the case in Allen’s movies, it is Diane Wiest who steals the show as Joe’s perpetually swooning aunt.
Radio Days comes to blu-ray from Twilight Time, which takes titles that might not come to hi-def if left in the hands of the companies that own them and releases them in limited runs of 3,000. Like its Fox Searchlight DVD counterpart from 2001, Twilight Time’s new blu-ray is pretty bare bones, which is standard for Allen’s movies on home video unfortunately. Twilight Time adds its requisite booklet essay and isolated music track, but the real draw is the hi-def upgrade that does not smear out the grain so integral to the film’s olden days aesthetic.
Get Radio Days on blu-ray exclusively at Screenarchives.com here.