Nothing else in cinema is quite like a Christopher Walken monologue. Abel Ferrara, Tim Burton, and Quentin Tarantino have all used this fact to their advantages, but before any of them was Woody Allen. In Annie Hall, Walken plays Duane, the title character’s brother. He appears briefly at the dinner table while Alvy’s eating with the Halls, but it’s only later that he gets his time to shine. He beckons Alvy into his bedroom, then (half-shrouded in shadow) launches into a hilariously eerie monologue:
I tell you this because, as an artist, I think you’ll understand. Sometimes when I’m driving, on the road at night, I see two headlights coming toward me… fast, I have this sudden impulse to turn the wheel quickly head-on into the oncoming car. I can anticipate the explosion: the sound of shattering glass, the… flames, rising out of the flowing gasoline.
The only break from Walken’s intensity is a momentary cutaway to Alvy rolling his eyes; Allen is smart enough to just let Walken sit back and do his amazing work. As he’s written, Duane could be just another regional caricature, maybe the psychotic Midwestern counterpart to all the phonies and weirdos Alvy encounters in California. But when he’s invested with Walken’s unique verbal cadences, he comes to life as a real, terrifying force on the screen. It’s a hilarious scene with a magnificent punchline (Duane driving Alvy and Annie to the airport), but Allen’s derision seems miscalculated. Walken is just too damn good.