Sleeper (1973 film)

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Sleeper ver1.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Robert McGinnis
Directed by Woody Allen
Produced by Jack Grossberg
Written by Woody Allen
Marshall Brickman
Starring Woody Allen
Diane Keaton
John Beck
Marya Small
Susan Miller
Music by Woody Allen
Cinematography David M. Walsh
Edited by O. Nicholas Brown
Ron Kalish
Ralph Rosenblum
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • December 17, 1973 (1973-12-17)
Running time 88 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2 million[1]
Box office $18,344,729[1]

Sleeper is a 1973 futuristic comic science fiction film, written by Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman, and directed by Allen. The plot involves the adventures of the owner (played by Woody Allen) of a health food store who is cryogenically frozen in 1973 and defrosted 200 years later in an ineptly-led police state. The film contains many elements which parody notable works of science fiction.


Miles Monroe (Woody Allen), a jazz musician and owner of the "Happy Carrot" health-food store in 1973, is subjected to cryopreservation without his consent, and not revived for 200 years.[2] The scientists who revive him are members of a rebellion: 22nd-century America seems to be a police state, ruled by a dictator about to implement a secret plan known as the "Aries Project". The rebels hope to use Miles as a spy to infiltrate the Aries Project, because he is the only member of this society without a known biometric identity.

The authorities discover the scientists' project, and arrest them. Miles escapes by disguising himself as a robot, and goes to work as a butler in the house of socialite Luna Schlosser (Diane Keaton). When Luna decides to have his head replaced with something more "aesthetically pleasing," Miles reveals his true identity to her, whereupon Luna threatens to give Miles to the authorities. In response, he kidnaps her and goes on the run, searching for the Aries Project.

Miles and Luna fall in love, but Miles is captured and brainwashed into becoming a complacent member of the society, while Luna joins the rebellion. The rebels kidnap Miles and perform reverse-brainwashing, whereupon he remembers his past and joins their efforts. Miles becomes jealous when he catches Luna kissing the rebel leader, Erno Windt (John Beck), and she tells him that she believes in free love.

Miles and Luna infiltrate the Aries Project, wherein they quickly learn that the national leader had been killed by a rebel bomb ten months previously. All that survives is his nose. Other members of the Aries Project, mistaking Miles and Luna for doctors, expect them to clone the leader from this single remaining part. Miles steals the nose and "assassinates" it by dropping it in the path of a road roller.

After escaping, Miles and Luna debate their future together. He tells her that Erno will inevitably become as corrupt as the Leader. Miles and Luna confess their love for one another, but she claims that science has proven men and women cannot have meaningful relationships due to chemical incompatibilities. Miles dismisses this, saying that he does not believe in science, and Luna points out that he does not believe in God or political systems either. Luna asks Miles if there is anything he does believe in, and he responds with the line, "Sex and death — two things that come once in a lifetime — but at least after death you're not nauseous."[3] The film ends as the two embrace.


Jackie Mason (as voice of one of the robot tailors)[4] and Douglas Rain (voice of the Evil Computer[3]) appear in uncredited roles.


The film was shot in and around Denver, Colorado. The outdoor shots of the hospital were filmed at the Table Mesa Laboratory of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. There is also a cameo appearance of the main building of the Denver Botanic Gardens and of the signature concrete lamp posts. The Sculptured House, designed by architect Charles Deaton, is a private home known locally since the film was shot as the "Sleeper House" located on Genesee Mountain near Genesee Park, west of Denver. The Mile Hi Church of Religious Science[5] in Lakewood, Colorado was turned into a futuristic McDonald's, featuring a sign counting the number sold: the digit 1 followed by more than twenty zeroes.[6]


Vincent Canby, in The New York Times, called the film "terrific", saying it "confidently advances the Allen art into slapstick territory that I associate with the best of Laurel and Hardy. It's the kind of film comedy that no one in Hollywood has done with style in many years, certainly not since Jerry Lewis began to take himself seriously. Sleeper is a comic epic that recalls the breathless pace and dizzy logic of the old two-reelers."[7] Roger Ebert gave the film 3½ out of four stars, saying Allen "gives us moments in Sleeper that are as good as anything since the silent films of Buster Keaton."[2]


In 1974, the film was awarded the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at Discon II, the 32nd World Science Fiction Convention, in Washington, D.C.[8]

In 2000, readers of Total Film magazine voted Sleeper the 30th greatest comedy film of all time. That same year, the American Film Institute listed Sleeper as 80th among its 100 Years… 100 Laughs.

In October 2013, the film was voted by the Guardian readers as the tenth best film directed by Woody Allen.[9]

Film as tribute[edit]

The film contains several plot points which parody or spoof several well-known works of science-fiction, most notably H. G. Wells' The Sleeper Awakes and George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.[citation needed] Another direct homage/parody is the use of actor Douglas Rain (best known as the voice of HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey) to voice the evil computer in Sleeper.[3]

In an interview published in 2007, Allen stated that Sleeper is mainly a comedic tribute to the comedians whom he deeply admires: Benny Hill and Bob Hope.[10]

  • Margaret Keane's "Big Eyes" paintings are also parodied in the film, where Allen suggests that by the year 2173 Keane paintings would finally be appreciated by the cultural elite (it seems he was only off by about ±173 years...)

Alternate versions[edit]

There are two known cuts of Sleeper. The first, seemingly original cut, contains a dinner scene shortly after Miles and Luna return to the house where Miles was originally taken after revival. In the dialogue-less scene, Miles eats in time with a piano soundtrack while Luna watches him in amazement. A different scene is substituted for the former in another cut, distributed in the United States, in which Miles shaves using a high-tech mirror and accidentally tunes into the view from the mirror in another bathroom. The latter cut is on the MGM 2000 DVD, which has both a widescreen and full-screen version of the film, a trailer, Spanish dubbing, and French subtitles.

The network television version cuts the scene in which Miles and Luna discover a 1990s newspaper with the headline "Pope's Wife Gives Birth to Twins".


  1. ^ a b "Box Office Information for Sleeper". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 30, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Roger Ebert (December 17, 1973). "Sleeper". Retrieved August 22, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c Dirks, Tim. "Sleeper (1973)". Retrieved April 16, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Ginsberg and Cohen: Computerized Fittings, since 2073"
  5. ^ Mile Hi Church of Religious Science, Lakewood, Colorado
  6. ^ Mike Flanigan, "Out West" Denver Post Magazine, May 2, 1984, p.26
  7. ^ Vincent Canby (December 18, 1973). "Sleeper (1973)". The New York Times. Retrieved August 22, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Briefs On The Arts". The New York Times. September 11, 1974. Retrieved March 30, 2010. "'Sleeper' Comedy Gets Hugo Award Woody Allen's "Sleeper," a comedy set 200 years in the future, has won the Hugo Award as the best film presentation of 1973." 
  9. ^ "The 10 best Woody Allen films". The Guardian. October 4, 2013. Retrieved November 22, 2014. 
  10. ^ Eric Lax (2007). Conversations with Woody Allen. New York City: Knopf. ISBN 0375415335. [page needed]

External links[edit]