- Nancy: You’re immature, Fielding.
- Mellish: How am I immature?
- Nancy: Emotionally, sexually and intellectually.
- Mellish: Yeah, but what other ways
- Nancy: Have you ever been to Denmark?
- Mellish: I’ve been, yes… to the Vatican.
- Nancy: The Vatican? The Vatican is in Rome.
- Mellish: Well, they were doing so well in Rome that they opened one in Denmark
Bananas marks my first introduction to Woody Allen’s movie many years back. This movie was made in 1971, much before his Love & Death, Annie Hall and so on. This is one of his lighter works and there’s no denial that most of the pre-Annie Hall films are simple collections of standup bits than they are the complete films. Regardless, he was by that time an experienced humorist and Bananas is still a hilarious movie. We know Woody’s reputation of as an auteur who could tell real, meaningful stories. By that time, though, his earlier works suddenly come across as trivial and raw. So if you like Woody Allen at all–and thereby New York Jewish humor, slapstick, randomness, standup, one-liners, and sex, and here you have it all. Outside of that, Bananas is, as I alluded to earlier, a more straightforward comedy than any of the other Woody Allen films I have ever watched….
Bananas is largely due to its topical, satirical subtext that had been more poignant coming out of the turbulent 1960s, but also because Allen employs a great deal of old-fashioned forms of slapstick that recall the Marx Brothers, Three Stooges and their ilk from the 1930s. Targeting such things as U.S. foreign policy, the cold-war, upstart dictatorships, Cuban revolution, the C.I.A., Jewish mothers and the predictability of television & commercialization of media- Allen pokes fun in rather benign ways at many of the day’s topsy-turvy hot topics, all the while maintaining its absurd tone throughout
Bananas is the series of short and long skits revolving around the times of 60s and early 70s, the real story here is fluid. Woody Allen draws the politics of the day to the new high with his underlying truthfulness and laughter quotient to your new high. His way of comic sense is pepped up throughout the film, with the social commentary in a subtle and slick background and as ever this is a cool film and still remain as one…..
The part of the story is based on the book Don Quixote, U.S.A. by Richard P. Powell. The plot is about the main character in the name of Fielding Mellish (Woody Allen). He appears only after the opening credits. The cold open sequence that featured the assassination of the president of the fictional “banana republic” of San Marcos, in a complete coup bringing Gen. Emilio Molina Vargas (Carlos Montalban) to power, sets up the situation that Mellish would enter later in the movie. The scene was in the form of a championship boxing telecast on Wide World of Sports, with Don Dunphy as the host and Howard Cosell as the commentator.
Mellish is a neurotic blue collar man who tries to impress social activist Nancy (Louise Lasser) by trying to get in touch with the revolution in San Marcos. He visits the republic and attempts to show his concern for the native people. However, nearly killed by the local caudillo, only to be saved by the revolutionaries, he is then indebted to help them. Mellish clumsily learns how to be a revolutionary. When the revolution is successful, the Castro-style leader goes mad, forcing the rebels to place Mellish as their President.
When traveling back to the U.S. to obtain financial aid, he reunites with his activist ex-girlfriend and is exposed. In a classic courtroom scene, Mellish tries to defend himself from a series of incriminating witnesses, including a reigning Miss America and a middle-aged African-American woman who facetiously claims to be J. Edgar Hoover and is taken seriously by the whole court. One of the witnesses does provide testimony favorable to Mellish, but the court clerk twists it to make him appear thoroughly dishonest. Mellish is eventually sentenced to prison, but his sentence is suspended on the condition that he does not move into the judge’s neighborhood. Nancy then agrees to marry him.
The climax parades the covers consummation of their marriage, an event that was over much more quickly than Nancy had anticipated. In the concluding scene, Howard Cosell again provides live television coverage of the play by play of Fielding’s honeymoon night. Like the opening scene, it was accompanied by Cosell providing commentary.
Although it is the cast in the comparatively classic, dumb-slob-who-succeeds narrative form, nothing in the story is so important that it can’t be interrupted or forgotten for a visual or verbal gag, a variation on an old joke, some satire that takes reality to its outer reaches, or just a nice, crazy reference to a film classic (“Potemkin”) that has almost been loved to death.
Woody Allen’s view of the world is fraught with everything except despair; this is one such view, which tickles as here is the man who would love to face the situation. His warm smile and a shrug, is extraordinaire in the crazy order of the way things are. Allen is his own best actor, and defensive, but I also like Miss Lasser (the former Mrs. Allen), who reminds me of a young Elaine May, and Carlos Montalban, as a Castro-like freedom fighter who, at his victory celebration, goes a little nuts and declares Swedish to be the official language…..
Here are those coolest reminders of the memorable scenes, images, and one-liners in the movie
- The classic opening scene is commentator Howard Cosell’s coverage of a Latin-American president’s assassination for ABC’s Wide World of Sports. His commentary includes: “Well, of course, you’re upset.”
- As a young boy, Fielding’s electric blanket electrocuted him because he was a bed-wetter.
- Fielding stole pornographic books printed in Braille and then rubbed the dirty parts with his hands.
- Fielding’s job is testing products for a marketing research corporation (including a stereo headphones coffin for Californians).
- The “execucisor” scene: Fielding tests exercise equipment (gone haywire) for busy executives who must exercise at their desks, a tribute to Chaplin’s Modern Times.
- Fielding’s embarrassment when a shop dealer makes it obvious to other customers that he is purchasing a pornographic magazine (“Hey Ralph! How much is a copy of Orgasm?”).
And there you have Sylvester Stallone in his un-credited role as a subway thug, and so long when Allen was asked why the film was called Bananas, his reply was, “Because there are no bananas in it.” In Don Quixote, U.S.A., the novel by Richard P. Powell that served as a source for Bananas, the protagonist was an agronomist specializing in bananas.
I tell you that it’s always tempting to say that Bananas is real worth watching, especially the attempts to mix together love, Cuban revolution, the C.I.A., Jewish mothers, J. Edgar Hoover and a few other odds and ends (including a sequence in which someone orders 1,000 grilled cheese sandwiches) is bound to be a little weird—and been most welcoming, even after 40 years of its release, is still remain a thorough charming comedy. While the real stride in the last third, the rest is littered with great one-liners, some inspired scenes and a central performance by Allen which, whilst very familiar at this point, is thoroughly sycophantic and at its best is about as good as a comedy can be…….
- Directed by Woody Allen
- Produced by Jack Grossberg
- Written by Woody Allen & Mickey Rose
- Starring: Woody Allen; Louise Lasser & Carlos Montalban
- Music by Marvin Hamlisch
- Cinematography: Andrew M. Costikyan
- Edited by Ron Kalish & Ralph Rosenblum
- Distributed by United Artists
- Release date: April 28, 1971
- Run time of 82 minutes
- Country: United States
- Language: English