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Film / Sleeper

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1973 film starring Woody Allen and Diane Keaton, wherein Woody Allen plays the role of Miles Monroe, a jazz musician who is accidentally frozen (with tinfoil for freshness) for two hundred years, waking in the year 2173. He is drafted by the scientists who wake him, as he's the only man in the world who hasn't been scanned and cataloged by the globe-spanning dictatorship of "The Leader".

Miles disguises himself as a robot to escape his pursuers, falls in love with a future woman, gets brainwashed, wins the Miss America pageant, and topples the world government with the help of his new girlfriend, wacky disguises, and a steamroller.

Spoofing similar sci-fi and suspense films, future tech, and social standards of the time to great effect, this was Allen's piece on how government control destroys creativity. It's based on H. G. Wells novel The Sleeper Awakes, and while it seems to be loosely based on the book at face value, it's just as satirical and insightful.

This film provides examples of:

  • Affectionate Parody: Of 1970s sci-fi films.
  • Afraid of Needles: Miles is approached by a technician with a huge hypodermic...he stares in horror as the man walks by him to inject a potted plant, and promptly blacks out.
  • The Alleged Car: Turned completely on its head. While on the run from future dystopian authorities, Miles and Luna discover what appears to be a dust-covered, 200-year-old, mid-Sixties vintage Volkswagen Beetle. When Miles turns the key in the ignition the car starts without a millisecond's hesitation and purrs happily. Miles observes, "Wow, they really built these things, didn't they?"
  • Alliterative Name: Miles Monroe.
  • Alter Kocker: Jackie Mason and Myron Cohen voice two old Jewish robots who run a clothing shop, complete with yamulke-like head covers.
  • Banana Peel: Super economy size peels result in lots and lots of slipping.
  • "Bang!" Flag Gun: Miles threatens the Leader's nose with such a gun.
  • Beauty Contest: Miles is captured and made to assimilate through mental manipulation, put in a beauty contest scenario in a lab. It works, as a switch is thrown and he breathily spouts a banal speech about using the title to promote peace and brotherhood.
  • Bloodless Carnage: As with Bananas, there's never any damage shown because Allen was going for a Chaplinesque comedy. The worst is a flattened nose.
  • Brainwashed/Deprogram: Parodied as with everything else; Miles is subject to brainwashing to make him conform, and Luna must deprogram him. The deprogramming process, however, goes through a number of different personalities until it ends up being an impromptu performance of A Streetcar Named Desire. With Miles as Blanche and Luna as Stanley.
  • Breathless Non Sequitur: Miles desperately tries to keep Luna from turning him in.
    I'm a good person, I've got good life drives! I don't smoke, I don't drink, I would never force myself sexually on a blind person...
  • Bronson Canyon and Caves: Miles and Luna venture into the Bronson Caves and discover a 200-year-old Volkswagon (which still runs) and copy of The New York Times from 1990 with the headline "Pope's Wife Gives Birth to Twins."
  • Casting Gag: Guess who they got to voice the main computer? Douglas Rain AKA Hal 9000.
  • Casual Interplanetary Travel: It's not specified where they go but space travel is common enough that the average Joe can be expected to have a spacesuit at home.
  • Confessional: After being captured by the Evil government, Miles goes to confession. He admits to various minor acts of disloyalty and asks for forgiveness. The priest is revealed to be a robot, which flashes "Absolved" on its screen and delivers a Kewpie doll.
  • Coin Walk Flexing: Miles uses a coin walk as a seduction technique on Luna.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Watching a video of Howard Cosell is the worst punishment known to 2173. Miles of 1973 agrees wholeheartedly.
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon:
    Miles: You sit here. I'll go find us something, and don't try anything funny while I'm gone, 'cause you know what you'll get.
    Luna: What?
    Miles: What? W-w-what will you get? Uh, a ... large and painful hickey!
    • His next line of dialog?
      "My God... I just beat a man senseless with a strawberry!"
  • Do You Want to Copulate?: The idea of two people having sex is alien to the people, as they've had machines to... do it for them, as it were.
    Luna: Do you want to perform sex with me?
    Miles: Perform sex? I-i-i-i don't think I'm up for a performance, but I'll rehearse with you if you like.
  • Dystopia: Remarkably, Allen uses the setting of a future dystopia to pay homage to the style of old silent comedies.
  • Electric Instant Gratification.
    Miles: (refusing to get into the Orgasmatron) Machine?! I'm not getting into that thing. I'm strictly a hand operator. I don't like anything with moving parts that aren't my own.
    (Of course, when Miles hides in an activated Orgasmatron, he comes out ... excessively pleased.)
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Miles pushes a Volkswagen Beetle he'd used as a getaway car off a tall cliff into a lake to throw off pursuit. The car lands almost completely intact and the water turns out to be only a few inches deep.
  • Everything Is An I Pod In The Future: Thanks to an homage to THX 1138 homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
  • Exty Years from Publication: Miles is out for precisely 200 years, with the film starting at the publication year of 1973.
  • Fantastic Drug: "Orb"—a silver sphere that makes the handler feel giddy and laugh uncontrollably when it's touched or rubbed. Great for parties.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Miles is cryogenically frozen when he doesn't recover from routine surgery, then revived 200 years later. He unwillingly becomes a key figure in a revolution as someone who has no identifying records.
  • The Food Poisoning Incident: Miles is cryogenically frozen and revived 200 years later as a fugitive. He pleads that he never did anything wrong, that he was just an owner of a health food store—"occasionally a customer got botulism, but that was very rare!"
  • Fruit of the Loon: Miles searches for food and comes across a farm where insanely large fruit is being grown. He picks a banana the size of a canoe, and when a guard runs up to catch him, the two slip repeatedly on the carpet-size banana peel.
  • Full-Circle Revolution: At the end, Miles has deliberately facilitated a communist takeover but fully expects a follow-up revolution.
  • Funny Background Event: While Miles is disguised as a robot butler, he attempts to deal with an out of control, sentient gelatin mold while Luna and one of her party guests have an obliviously-mundane conversation.
  • Future Copter: In 2173 we'll have helicopter backpacks...but they won't work very well.
  • Future Imperfect:
    • The scientists' knowledge of the past is limited and comes from old tapes of Howard Cosell. They seek to learn more by asking a Woody Allen character, which one supposes is an improvement.
    • Art in this future is influenced by big-eye-kid painter Walter Keanenote  — "Keane" is in fact the descriptive term for a brilliant work, and is apparently one rank above Xavier Cugat.
  • Gasoline Lasts Forever: Miles and Luna find a Volkswagen Beetle that has been in storage for 200 years. It starts right up and they drive it for a considerable distance with no problems.
  • Giant Food: Advances in agriculture result in comically immense fruits and veggies. Miles notably and quotably "Beats a man senseless with a strawberry".
  • Glorious Leader: The Leader, naturally. At least, his nose.
  • Helicopter Pack: After his attempt to use a Jet Pack fails (see below), Miles puts on and uses a helicopter backpack.
  • Homage: Woody Allen wanted to do a Charlie Chaplin-styled movie. This was to be a silent film; instead, the film has a lot of slapstick comedy with no dialog. Allen also did something only Chaplin did: write, direct, star, produce, and write and perform the music in the soundtrack.
  • Human Popsicle: This is how Miles ends up in 2173 in the first place.
  • If It Tastes Bad, It Must Be Good for You: Played with:
    Dr. Melik: listing items Miles had requested for breakfast ... wheat germ, organic honey, and... Tiger's Milk.
    Dr. Aragon: Oh, yes. Those are the charmed substances that some years ago were thought to contain life-preserving properties.
    Dr. Melik: You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or... hot fudge?
    Dr. Aragon: Those were thought to be unhealthy... precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.
    Dr. Melik: Incredible!
    • Miles owned a health food store - he claims the awful food served in 2173 would've sold well there.
  • Improvised Weapon: In a fight with a guard at a futuristic farm, Miles knocks him cold with a strawberry the size of a medicine ball. Earlier he subdued another guard by asphyxiating him with a block of blue cheese.
  • Insane Troll Logic:
    Luna: (amazed) Miles, do you know that "God" spelled backwards is "dog"?
    Miles: So?
    Luna: It makes you think.
    Miles: Luna, help me push the car.
  • Jet Pack: Miles tries to use one to escape the security police, but it takes off without him.
  • Kindhearted Simpleton: Luna is a Nice Girl but rather dumb, as she apparently thought butterflies turn into caterpillars, rather than vice versa, along with realizing God is dog spelled backwards and thinking that constitutes some kind of amazing insight.
  • Lost Common Knowledge: Played for laughs. Miles Monroe wakes up in the year 2173 after spending 200 years as a Human Popsicle. The people of that time have lost most of their historical knowledge due to a nuclear war, so they ask him questions about 20th century artifacts (e.g. "chattering teeth") and people. Miles makes up a bunch of lies about them for his own amusement ("Bela Lugosi...was the mayor of New York for a while" and "Charles de Gaulle...was a very famous French chef.").
  • Mirror Routine: At one point, Miles does the routine shaving at a futuristic mirror, where he notices his reflection is just a bit off-sync.
  • Mumbling Brando: Miles is undergoing a deprogramming - something goes wrong and he assumes the persona of Blanche du Bois from A Streetcar Named Desire. To give them time to sedate him, Luna plays Stanley Kowalski. Funnily enough, Diane Keaton starred opposite Marlon Brando in The Godfather.
  • Mythology Gag: Luna's rebel song is identical to Esposito's from Bananas: "Rebels are we! Born to be free — just like the fish in the sea!"
  • Naked Apron: At one point Miles finds himself in an apartment where some gay men live. Enter the butler, clad only in an apron.
  • Naked on Arrival: Played with when Miles claims he will clone the dictatorial leader from his remains (his nose) directly into his suit (he's bluffing).
  • No Ending: The Leader is destroyed, but the albeit dying totalitarian state still rules, and Miles really doesn't care.
    Luna: Oh, I see. You don't believe in science, and you also don't believe that political systems work, and you don't believe in God, huh?
    Miles: Right.
    Luna: So then, what do you believe in?
    Miles: Sex and death - two things that come once in a lifetime... but at least after death, you're not nauseous. (Big Damn Kiss, film ends.)
  • Nobody Here but Us Statues: While Miles is on the run from the authorities, he ducks into a van full of domestic servant robots and hastily makes himself up as one. Maybe it's a sign of intelligence in the future that everyone who sees him is fooled.
  • Noodle Incident:
  • Oh, Crap!: Miles, while disguised as a Domesticon, dropping his mouthpiece as the other ones are having their heads ripped off at the service lab.
  • One-Word Title
  • Orgasmatron: An elevator-like machine is used to make people have orgasms. Another device, an orb, gives orgasmic sensations to whoever holds it.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Miles as a robot.
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: Luna describes a friend's painting as "pure keane. No, it's greater than's cugat." (The made-up words are a Shout-Out to '60s schlock artistnote  Walter Keane and bandleader-turned-cartoonist Xavier Cugat, respectively.)
  • Plunger Detonator: There's a Running Gag involving a laser cannon that's fired using a plunger detonator. Each time part of the weapon is destroyed, instead of what's in front of it.
  • Putting on the Reich: The US government has turned into a fascist, totalitarian state.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: Parodied. After 200 years, a VW Beetle is still in perfect working condition. Miles then remarks, "Wow, they really built these things, didn't they?"
  • Reliably Unreliable Guns: A Running Gag involves a different part of a laser cannon blowing up every time they try to fire it at Miles.
  • Retro Upgrade: After waking up in the future, Miles orders some health food for breakfast (he used to own a health food store). It's revealed that in the future they've discovered that "unhealthy" foods are actually extremely good for you.
  • Ridiculous Future Sequelisation: A McDonald's sign shows the number of hamburgers served as 1 followed by a hundred zeroes (a googol). In real life, the chain ended the count at 100 million in 1994, replacing it with "billions and billions served."
  • Road Apples: Miles wonders if the robot dog leaves batteries behind to clean up.
  • Robot Dog: Rags.
    Rags: Woof, woof, woof. Hello, I'm Rags! Woof, woof, woof.
    Miles: Is he house-trained or is he going to be leaving batteries everywhere?
  • Robot Maid: Disguising as one of these is how Miles makes his escape initially.
  • Robosexual: Miles asks if there are female robots because "the possibilities are endless."
  • Running Gag: An ambiguous Ray Gun weapon that uses a Plunger Detonator for firing never works properly.
  • Shout-Out: Aside from the general homage to silent comedies, there's a blink and you miss it moment where we see a Domesticom van driver dressed in dark blue coveralls and an unusual brimless cap, similar to the workers from Metropolis.
  • Silent Film: It's not one, but some of the sequences where Miles escapes the soldiers are set to that bouncy jazzy score and lack sound effects and dialogue, evoking the "feel" of a silent film.
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse: Miles wakes up 200 years after he was put to sleep to find a completely different world. One in which it was finally found out that smoking was good for you, and 200 year old VW bugs (the old model) started instantly.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The music is very jazzy for such a clean and dull future — because Miles is a jazz musician.
  • Squashed Flat: The Leader of the futuristic dictatorship — or what's left of him, his nose — ends up flattened under a steamroller.
  • Strawberry Shorthand: Miles is foraging at a farm growing enormous produce, and knocks out a guard with a strawberry the size of a beachball.
    My God... I beat a man sensible with a strawberry!
  • Take That!:
    • The gay couple's super-effeminate robot is named "Reagan", then-Governor of California.
    • Also when Miles "confirms" the scientists' hypothesis that recordings of Howard Cosell were used as a torture device.note 
  • The Talk: Miles recalls his childhood.
    When I asked my mother where babies came from, she thought I said "rabies". She said you get them from being bitten by a dog. The next week, a woman on my block gave birth to triplets... I thought she'd been bitten by a great dane.
  • They Don't Make Them Like They Used To: Interior cave - day: Luna—“What is it?” Miles—“It’s a 200-year-old Volkswagen.” (Turns key; car starts) “Ah. They really built these things, didn’t they?”
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Miles and Luna have infiltrated Big Brother HQ to bring down the dictatorship. She produces a gun, he asks "Where were you hiding that? ...don't tell me."
  • Video Phone: Present, notably when Luna notifies the authorities that she has been kidnapped by Miles. Bathroom mirrors have also been replaced with video screens; changing the channel on a vid-mirror results in seeing other people go through their bathroom routines.
  • We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future: Science has discovered that everything tasty is actually good for you, making everyone's health a lot better than when we were forcing ourselves to eat all that crappy health food.
  • What Are Records?: Among the room full of "artifacts" that Miles is tasked with identifying is an old phonograph.
  • What We Now Know to Be True: Trope Namer.
    Dr. Melik: This morning for breakfast he [Miles] requested something called "wheat germ, organic honey and tiger's milk."
    Dr. Aragon: Oh, yes. Those are the charmed substances that some years ago were thought to contain life-preserving properties.
    Dr. Melik: You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or... hot fudge?
    Dr. Aragon: Those were thought to be unhealthy... precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.
    Dr. Melik: Incredible.note 
  • Your Normal Is Our Taboo: Hinted at:
    Luna: I wanted to have sex, but we didn't invite enough people.