Before he became a "serious" filmmaker and gained the respect and admiration of film critics, Woody Allen was already entertaining millions of fans with such unashamedly silly comedies as 1973's 'Sleeper.' The science-fiction story concerns an unfortunate Miles Monroe (Allen), the 1970s owner of the Happy Carrot health-food store, who goes into St. Vincent's Hospital for a routine peptic ulcer operation and wakes up 200 years later in a terrifying police state. He is revived by a subversive underground rebel organisation to help uncover the secrets of the dreaded "Aries Project," and to overthrow the tyrannical government and its dictator. Along the way, Miles enlists the help of the neurotic and exuberant Luna Schlosser (Diane Keaton, who collaborated with Allen on multiple occasions, most notably in 'Annie Hall (1977)' and 'Manhattan (1979)').
A chaotic blend of razor-sharp satire and slapstick humour, 'Sleeper' contains enough of Allen's and co-writer Marshall Brickmann's trademark wit to remind us of what makes their later collaborations so brilliant. Of course, as Allen had yet to reach his creative peak, some of the jokes in the film work (the infamous Orgasmatron; the Volkswagen Beetle that starts up immediately after 200 years of neglect), whilst others aren't pulled off quite so well (the giant chicken; the mock Miss America pageant). In one memorable sequence, year 2173 historians show Miles a collection of historical items and photographs, and he idly gives off ridiculous explanations which they accept as fact. For example, yes, Howard Cosell's sporting reports were used as punishment for criminals who had committed a crime against the state!
The promotional posters for the film proclaimed: "Woody Allen Takes A Nostalgic Look At The Future." This, more than likely, refers to the style of comedy, which, aside from Allen's witty observations, very much evokes memories of the silent slapstick comedies of Lloyd, Keaton and Chaplin. Much like the latter did with most of his films, Allen wrote, directed, starred in and composed the score for 'Sleeper.' The score itself, which is very upbeat, New Orleans-style traditional jazz, was performed by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band with Allen sitting in on clarinet. 'Sleeper' may have been inspired by H.G. Wells' classic novel, 'The Sleeper Awakes,' which recounts the tale of a man who awakes from a 203-year sleep to find himself in a horrifyingly-transformed futuristic London.
Aside from including a wealth of instantly-quotable one-liners ("I'm not really the heroic type. I was beat up by Quakers"), Allen also has a lot of fun in his disorganised futuristic dystopia. After pouring too much "Instant Pudding" into a bowl, the overdone dessert practically comes to life and has to be beaten into submission with a broom; it is also revealed that, contrary to popular agreement in 1973, such substances as deep fat, tobacco and hot fudge are not only not unhealthy, but probably the best thing for your body! When Miles happens upon a garden of human-size fruit and vegetables, we just know that the giant banana peel is going to come into play somewhere, and, sure enough, Miles inevitably takes a tumble.