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Bananas

Bananas(1971)

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The working title of the film was El Weirdo. In both the opening and closing credits, all letters are lowercase. Ralph Rosenblum's opening onscreen credit reads: "Associate Producer and Editor." The song "Quiero la noche" is sung during the opening onscreen credits, which flicker the letters of the names in time to the music. The sound of gunshots punctuates the song, and black dots representing bullet holes appear in the frames around the names. During the ending credits, the song "'Cause I Believe in Loving You" is heard. Among the themes in Marvin Hamlisch's score are pastiche tunes in various jazz styles, a parody of a James Bond-like theme and an excerpt from 1812 Overture by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, heard during "Fielding Mellish's" sexual encounter with a female rebel. Brief excerpts from the Victor Herbert operetta Naughty Marietta are heard during a torture scene.
       Louise Lasser, who portrayed "Nancy," was the wife of director-writer-actor Woody Allen from 1966 to 1970. Modern sources add Danny DeVito, who was not discernable in the print viewed, and Mary Jo Catlett to the cast. According to the Variety review, Bananas was shot on location in Puerto Rico and in New York City. An August 1970 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that a riot scene involving 2,000 students was shot at Queens Community College in New York. A July 1970 LAHExam article stated that Bananas cost $1.7 million and was the first of a three-picture deal Allen had with United Artists. Allen's affiliation with United Artists continued into the late 1980s.
       A sequence before the opening credits features well-known sportscasters Don Dunphy and Howard Cosell as they cover a "live, on the spot" assassination of San Marcos' president for the ABC television show Wide World of Sports. As spectators wait outside the palace, gunmen working for "General Emilio M. Vargas" shoot the president, after which Cosell works his way through the crowd to have a "last word" with the fallen leader before he dies and an interview with Vargas. At the end of the film, as Cosell questions Fielding and Nancy after the consummation of their marriage, a "special news bulletin" banner at the bottom of the screen reports that astronauts landed safely on the moon and erected the first Protestant-only cafeteria.
       As noted in the LAHExam review, Cosell and Dunphy followed their classic formula used in the long-running Wide World of Sports. The weekly sports anthology first aired in the 1960s on the ABC-TV network and continues into the twenty-first century as a weekend sports program, ABC Sports. Cosell, whose unique style of delivery has often been parodied, was one of the best-known and most controversial sportscasters in television history. Dunphy was often called "the voice of boxing." During Bananas, television news anchorman Roger Grimsby, who also appeared as himself, is shown reporting for the Six O'Clock News. All three reporters marked their film debuts in Bananas, but later appeared as themselves or unnamed reporters in other films.
       The title Bananas, as noted the Variety review, referred both to the film's fictitious Latin-American country's exported agricultural produce and the popular colloquial description of a hysterical or manic state of mind. As noted in several reviews, Allen liberally studded the film with sight gags and one-liners, which, according to the Hollywood Reporter reviewer, conferred a "hit-and-run style" to the picture. About the film's message, the WSJ reviewer reported that Allen satirized the absurdities of sex and politics, as well as Western culture in general, by taking "identifiable social trends in present-day society" to their "inevitable if insane conclusion." Both the WST and New York magazine reviewers compared Allen's comedy to the surreal madness of the Marx Brothers, and the Hollywood Reporter review specified that the bedroom sequence with Lasser rivaled the best of what the Marx Brothers offered. The WSJ review noted that Allen's character remained the same in all of his films, in the same way Groucho Marx repeated the same characterizations, and The Sunday Telegraph (London) review reported the "best joke" as the persona Allen depicted of a "cocky, trouble-prone, outwardly cool customer who doesn't so much attract disaster as provoke it." The Los Angeles Herald Express review described Allen's character as "a real person with disorganized emotions and misplaced ideals-a Walter Mitty whose fantasies are always grounded."
       Not mentioned in the plot summary are several other comic sequences, among them, Fielding trying surreptitiously to buy Orgasm magazine; Fielding hearing celestial harp music and discovering the harpist practicing in his closet; Fielding getting battered by the "Execusizer" he is testing, which The Observer Review (London) compared to a scene from the 1936 Charlie Chaplin film Modern Times (see below); and a lengthy sequence during which the bungling Fielding trains with the rebels. As noted in the Los Angeles Times review, Bananas contains a parody of a cigarette commercial, in which a priest, during communion, suggests a brand of cigarettes to a communicant. According to the Washington Post, as quoted in Filmfacts, the National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures gave Bananas a condemned rating.