• Bananas

    Released by: Twilight Time Releasing
    Released on: December 5th, 2017.
    Director: Woody Allen
    Cast: Woody Allen, Carlos Montalban, Howard Cosell, Rene Enriquez, Charlotte Rae, Conrad Bain, Louise Lasser
    Year: 1971
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:

    1971’s Bananas opens with an assassination scene in the banana republic of San Marcos. Sportscaster Howard
    Cosell is on the scene, giving a play by play as it happens. From there we meet Fielding Mellish, played by co-writer/director/actor Woody Allen. Fielding is a nebbish denizen of New York City. He is, like most of the characters that Allen played during this period, a bit of a loser in life. He works as a product tester, helping to install things like ‘The Execusizer’ (a desk-friendly workout contraption for busy businessmen) and flirting unsuccessfully with the few women in the company. When one day he gets a knock on his apartment door from a pretty left-wing activist named Nancy (Louise Lasser), he falls head over heels for her and pretends to be remarkably invested in her cause in hopes of winning her affection. What is that cause? She and her crew what the American government to stop backing the military dictatorship in power in the small South American country of San Marcos and instead back the left-leaning rebels.

    Fielding and Nancy hit it off but soon she realizes that he just doesn’t do it for her. He isn’t enough of a leader for her. Broken hearted and with nothing else to really live for, after talking to his doctor parents (Charlotte Rae and Stanley Ackerman) in the middle of surgery, he decides he’s going to head to San Marcos for himself to see what all the hubbub is about. Once he gets there he winds up meeting General Emilio M. Vargas (Carlos Montalbán) and his cadre of gun totting fascists but soon falls in with the rebels himself. When they manage to take Vargas out of power and he realizes that the rebel leader is fairly insane (he wants to change the national language to Swedish and make people change their underwear every half hour), it’s decided that he’ll be the man in charge. He might be a college dropout, but as one rebel tells him ‘at least you can read.’

    Like a lot of Allen’s best films, Bananas is funny from start to finish. Yeah, fine, some of the jokes are a bit predictable and so much of the humor revolves around Allen’s ‘nebbish, neurotic, New York City Jewish guy’ persona, but it’s hard not to laugh at the silliness of it all. While the film does manage to make some poignant observations about American meddling in international politics, the picture is never even close to heavy-handed with its message. For a movie that deals heavily in politics, Bananas is surprisingly apolitical in that it’s far more focused on making us laugh than on making us think. And in that regard, it’s quite successful. Allen’s knack for physical comedy shines here – when he’s demonstrating the exercise in that early scene in the office (look for a cameo from Mr. Drummed himself Conrad Bain in this scene) or when he’s on the subway trying to read Orgasm magazine while two toughs (one of whom is a young and uncredited Sylvester Stallone) rough up the old lady next to him, and then later fielding himself. It’s goofy, sure, but you’ll have a hard time keeping a straight face when you watch.

    If Allen is basically playing the same character here he’s played in so many of his earlier ‘funny’ movies, at least he does it well. The supporting players are also quite good. Louise Lasser is charming, cute and ridiculously likeable even if at times she comes across as sanctimonious and maybe too liberal for her own good. She seems to be more concerned with keeping up the appearance of trying to make a difference in the world than actually making a difference in the world. That never once stops Fielding from second guessing things, however. He’s bound and determined to sleep with her, and if Howard
    Cosell shows up to give a play by play when it happens, bringing the film full circle, then so be it.


    Bananas debuts on Blu-ray from Twilight Time, framed in its proper 1.85.1 widescreen aspect ratio in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer on a 50GB disc, and it looks very good. Detail is strong throughout the presentation and while the film is moderately grainy throughout, the image remains clean save for some minor print damage in the form of small white specks here and there. Some scenes look a little softer than others, much of this looks like it has to do with the lighting more than anything else, but there are no obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement to note while skin tones appear lifelike and natural. Black levels are decent as well and colors would seem to be pretty accurately reproduced. Detail and texture definitely rise above what DVD could provide and all in all this seems like an accurate transfer.

    The English language DTS-HD Mono track is also of nice quality. It has more depth than most single channel tracks do and the dialogue sounds quite natural and properly mixed in against the score. This isn’t a particularly effects heavy track as most of the mix is simply made up of dialogue, so Mono works just fine. The score has good range and presence to it and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion. Optional English subtitles are provided.

    Extras are slim, limited to an isolated score option, the film’s original theatrical trailer, an interactive Twilight Time catalogue, static menus and chapter selection. Inside the clear Blu-ray keepcase, however, there is the requisite insert booklet containing liner notes by Julie Kirgo that detail the history of the film and its impact, noting that this is basically the movie that made the studios stand up and take notice of Allen’s rising star.

    The Final Word:

    Bananas is pretty funny stuff. It’s clever, it’s goofy, it’s occasionally sweet the way some of Allen’s films are but most importantly, it keeps the laughs coming. Twilight Time’s Blu-ray release is, like every release of one of the director’s films, very light on extras but it does look and sound quite nice. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!