Play It Again Sam

By Matthew Bull

Herbert Ross, USA, 1972, 86 minutes

That's right, a film starring Woody Allen which he didn't direct. But then he did write the original play on which the film was based. A mild-mannered film critic is dumped by his wife. His two closest friends help him to start dating again, in which he is also aided by apparitions both of his hero, Humphrey Bogart, and his ex-wife. But the dates go disastrously wrong, and the helpful advice of Bogart is completely useless. Eventually, Allen is attracted to his best friend's wife, played by Diane Keaton, and the two have an affair. But it is Allen who resolves the situation by facing up to his problem and relaxing. The true hero, he finishes his affair realising it is for the best for all concerned.

Play It Again, Sam is an obvious homage to Casablanca - even the title is one of the most oft-used misquotes of all time, and the final section of the film copies Casablanca almost word-for-word. Perhaps better than in any other of his films, Woody comes across as the four-eyed useless no-hoper, plagued by neuroses and angst. Particularly memorable are the porno-mag scene, and the various nightmare-dates-from-hell that Woody encounters. If you don't laugh at any stage of this film then there's something seriously wrong with you.

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