Don't Drink the Water


1h 40m 1969
Don't Drink the Water

Brief Synopsis

A tourist family is stranded behind the Iron Curtain.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1969
Premiere Information
New York opening: 11 Nov 1969
Production Company
Charles H. Joffe; Jack Rollins
Distribution Company
Avco Embassy Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Miami, Florida, USA; Quebec, Canada
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Don't Drink the Water by Woody Allen (New York, 17 Nov 1966).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Path├ęcolor)

Synopsis

Returning from a European tour, Newark caterer Walter Hollander, wife Marion, and daughter Susan, are passengers on a hijacked plane which lands in Communist Vulgaria. When the family photographs the Vulgarian airport, Krojack, the head of the Vulgarian secret police, suspects espionage and attempts to arrest them. The tourists, however, are granted asylum in the American embassy, temporarily supervised by Axel Magee, son of the ambassador. There the Hollanders meet mad Father Drobney, who for 6 years has enjoyed sanctuary within the consulate's confines. Although the United States attempts to rescue the family by repatriating Vulgarian agent Grey Fox, he commits suicide before an exchange can be negotiated. When middle-aged student agitators picket and bomb the embassy, Hollander, Marion, and Susan don the robes of a visiting sultan and his harem and rush to a rescue point. They are met by a senile American pilot who has spent 6 years awaiting the prelate's escape. Discovering room for only two on board the craft, Susan happily bids her parents farewell, and secures diplomatic immunity by marrying Magee.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1969
Premiere Information
New York opening: 11 Nov 1969
Production Company
Charles H. Joffe; Jack Rollins
Distribution Company
Avco Embassy Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Miami, Florida, USA; Quebec, Canada
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Don't Drink the Water by Woody Allen (New York, 17 Nov 1966).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Path├ęcolor)

Articles

Don't Drink the Water - Jackie Gleason in Woody Allen's DON'T DRINK THE WATER on DVD


We're glad that this woebegone film version of Woody Allen's 1966 play, Don't Drink the Water wasn't the first Allen-penned work to hit the screen, as it might have ended his career before it started. Luckily, Allen was already pre-sold as a screenwriter and comic actor prior to his directing debut in 1969's Take the Money and Run. The original play is said to have been agreeably amusing, whereas this cheaply made and frankly ugly-looking film version flattens its comic hostage situation into TV-movie shapelessness. The impressive cast is almost entirely wasted, and TV comedy star Howard Morris directs as if all one needs to generate big laughs is to put Jackie Gleason in a funny shirt.

Synopsis: New Jersey caterer Walter Hollander (Jackie Gleason) indulges his ditzy wife Marion (Estelle Parsons of Bonnie and Clyde) and nubile daughter Susan (Joan Delaney of The President's Analyst) with a European vacation, but the trip is interrupted when their plane is hijacked to Communist Vulgaria. Observed taking an innocent photo by security chief Krojack (Michael Constantine), the family seeks asylum in the American Embassy. Unfortunately, absent Ambassador Magee (Howard St. John) has put a diplomatic bungler in charge: his son Axel (Ted Bessell). An opportunity to clear up the misunderstanding vanishes when Krojack tricks Axel into stating that his guests are spies. Forced to hide in the embassy while coached Vulgarian demonstrators demand their arrest, the Hollanders cope as best they can. Walter worries about the state of his business back in Jersey, Marion runs up a colossal phone bill and Susan and Axel are soon using the building's old secret passageways to meet in her bedroom.

Don't Drink the Water just seemed flat in 1969, when TV star Jackie Gleason could carry a joke just by mugging; now the film is almost unwatchable. The script adds a reel of new material showing the Hollanders' vacation preparations, all inter-cut with annoying animated titles. Editor Ralph Rosenblum took credit for 'saving' Woody Allen's Take the Money and Run in his book When the Shooting Stops, the Cutting Begins, but I don't remember him remarking much about this hopeless mess.

In Vulgaria, the Hollanders skip past the guards surrounding their plane, behaving like the silly tourist caricatures in TV commercials and movies like If It's Tuesday It Must Be Belgium. After a brief second-unit chase, they end up in an Embassy set that looks as if it were built for a High School production of Camelot. Nothing, absolutely nothing coheres. Everyone tries desperately to be funny with the effect that none of the characters has any continuity: rational one moment, stupid the next. Each member of the Hollander family makes inane faces until it's his/her time to be 'on', at which point they instantly adopt a Woody Allen wit for a couple of moments. Under these conditions, Allen's jokes play like terrible Bob Hope rejects.

With any potential satirical point lost in translation, the characters might as well be doing skit humor for a TV show like Hee Haw. Marion argues with the cook, and Susan musters a vacant smile to come on to the colorless Axel. A visit by a Sultan (Avery Schreiber) and his harem brings a chance for escape, but that's ruined because Walter can't keep his mouth shut. Another asylum-seeker is Drobney (Richard Libertini), a maladroit priest who wants to be a magician; his character is enlisted for a series of weak magician gags.

Apparently eager to see his play in a better form, Woody Allen directed a well-received 1994 ABC TV version starring Michael J. Fox as Axel, Julie Kavner as Marion Hollander and himself as Walter. It was released on DVD in 2003 by Buena Vista Home Video. Viewers that share the sentiments of the aliens in Stardust Memories and would like to see Allen doing a Cold War farce from his earlier period ("You know -- the funny ones") might want to give that version a try first.

Lionsgate's DVD of the 1969 Don't Drink the Water need make no apologies for their presentation, as the excellent enhanced transfer brings out all the color in the film's garish costumes and cheap settings! No extras are provided.

For more information about Don't Drink the Water, visit Lionsgate. To order Don't Drink the Water, go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson
Don't Drink The Water - Jackie Gleason In Woody Allen's Don't Drink The Water On Dvd

Don't Drink the Water - Jackie Gleason in Woody Allen's DON'T DRINK THE WATER on DVD

We're glad that this woebegone film version of Woody Allen's 1966 play, Don't Drink the Water wasn't the first Allen-penned work to hit the screen, as it might have ended his career before it started. Luckily, Allen was already pre-sold as a screenwriter and comic actor prior to his directing debut in 1969's Take the Money and Run. The original play is said to have been agreeably amusing, whereas this cheaply made and frankly ugly-looking film version flattens its comic hostage situation into TV-movie shapelessness. The impressive cast is almost entirely wasted, and TV comedy star Howard Morris directs as if all one needs to generate big laughs is to put Jackie Gleason in a funny shirt. Synopsis: New Jersey caterer Walter Hollander (Jackie Gleason) indulges his ditzy wife Marion (Estelle Parsons of Bonnie and Clyde) and nubile daughter Susan (Joan Delaney of The President's Analyst) with a European vacation, but the trip is interrupted when their plane is hijacked to Communist Vulgaria. Observed taking an innocent photo by security chief Krojack (Michael Constantine), the family seeks asylum in the American Embassy. Unfortunately, absent Ambassador Magee (Howard St. John) has put a diplomatic bungler in charge: his son Axel (Ted Bessell). An opportunity to clear up the misunderstanding vanishes when Krojack tricks Axel into stating that his guests are spies. Forced to hide in the embassy while coached Vulgarian demonstrators demand their arrest, the Hollanders cope as best they can. Walter worries about the state of his business back in Jersey, Marion runs up a colossal phone bill and Susan and Axel are soon using the building's old secret passageways to meet in her bedroom. Don't Drink the Water just seemed flat in 1969, when TV star Jackie Gleason could carry a joke just by mugging; now the film is almost unwatchable. The script adds a reel of new material showing the Hollanders' vacation preparations, all inter-cut with annoying animated titles. Editor Ralph Rosenblum took credit for 'saving' Woody Allen's Take the Money and Run in his book When the Shooting Stops, the Cutting Begins, but I don't remember him remarking much about this hopeless mess. In Vulgaria, the Hollanders skip past the guards surrounding their plane, behaving like the silly tourist caricatures in TV commercials and movies like If It's Tuesday It Must Be Belgium. After a brief second-unit chase, they end up in an Embassy set that looks as if it were built for a High School production of Camelot. Nothing, absolutely nothing coheres. Everyone tries desperately to be funny with the effect that none of the characters has any continuity: rational one moment, stupid the next. Each member of the Hollander family makes inane faces until it's his/her time to be 'on', at which point they instantly adopt a Woody Allen wit for a couple of moments. Under these conditions, Allen's jokes play like terrible Bob Hope rejects. With any potential satirical point lost in translation, the characters might as well be doing skit humor for a TV show like Hee Haw. Marion argues with the cook, and Susan musters a vacant smile to come on to the colorless Axel. A visit by a Sultan (Avery Schreiber) and his harem brings a chance for escape, but that's ruined because Walter can't keep his mouth shut. Another asylum-seeker is Drobney (Richard Libertini), a maladroit priest who wants to be a magician; his character is enlisted for a series of weak magician gags. Apparently eager to see his play in a better form, Woody Allen directed a well-received 1994 ABC TV version starring Michael J. Fox as Axel, Julie Kavner as Marion Hollander and himself as Walter. It was released on DVD in 2003 by Buena Vista Home Video. Viewers that share the sentiments of the aliens in Stardust Memories and would like to see Allen doing a Cold War farce from his earlier period ("You know -- the funny ones") might want to give that version a try first. Lionsgate's DVD of the 1969 Don't Drink the Water need make no apologies for their presentation, as the excellent enhanced transfer brings out all the color in the film's garish costumes and cheap settings! No extras are provided. For more information about Don't Drink the Water, visit Lionsgate. To order Don't Drink the Water, go to TCM Shopping. by Glenn Erickson

Don't Drink the Water


The Hollander family just wants to have an enjoyable European holiday. What they get instead is a hijacked plane to Vulgaria and mistaken identities as spies, forcing them to take refuge in the American Embassy until they can be rescued. If this sounds like the mad-cap, screwball scenario of a film from the sixties, it's because...it is. The 1969 film comedy, Don't Drink the Water, was based on Woody Allen's play written in 1966. At the time, Allen was kicking around London, waiting to shoot a small part in Casino Royale (1967), a spoof of the Bond films that Allen helped script. The delay turned into six months, and Allen used the time to his advantage by writing Don't Drink the Water. The play enjoyed a one year run on Broadway. When 20th Century Fox was organizing a film version, however, Allen was conspicuously absent.

Shot mostly in Quebec and Miami, Don't Drink the Water was "inspired by Woody's firsthand impressions of what it was like to be in a foreign country, deprived of the everyday necessities of New York life, while the plot, said Woody, posited the idea of what might happen if his own family were let loose abroad, even though they had never had that experience." (from Woody: Movies From Manhattan by Julian Fox).

Starring Jackie Gleason and Estelle Parsons, Don't Drink the Water was helmed by Howard Morris, a man of many talents. Beginning his career entertaining WWII troops with Carl Reiner, he cut his teeth working for Sid Caesar during the 50s. Reflecting on his relationship with Morris, Reiner once commented, "The thing about Howie that's most interesting is the extent of his talent." Beginning in the 60s, his voice was used for hundreds of Hanna-Barbera characters in animated cartoons and he delivered many memorable performances on the big and small screen, most notably in Mel Brooks' High Anxiety (1977) and as Ernest T. Bass on The Andy Griffith Show (1960-8). Behind the camera he teamed up with the screenwriters of Don't Drink the Water, R.S. Allen (no relation to Woody) and Harvey Bullock to make the light comedies Who's Minding the Mint? (1967) with Milton Berle and With Six You Get Eggroll (1968) starring Doris Day.

Jackie Gleason, already a comedy legend for his work in The Honeymooners (1955-6) and his enormously popular variety show The Jackie Gleason Show (1952-9), brings his larger-than-life presence to the screen as father Walter Hollander. As his hapless wife Marion, Estelle Parsons gets a shot at a comedic turn, a change of pace for an actor nominated for her supporting work in the dramas Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and Rachel, Rachel (1968).

Don't Drink the Water's supporting cast has some notable additions: Ted Bessell, as the ambassador's son, was best known as "That Guy" Don Hollinger from the That Girl (1966-71) television series starring Marlo Thomas. Michael Constantine has received recent notice as the Windex-wielding father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002). And Richard Libertini, who reprised his role from the Broadway show to the screen in his first major film credit, is best known for his offbeat, quirky characters, like the cosmic mystic from Carl Reiner's All of Me (1984). Director Morris takes another turn in front of the camera and pops up in an uncredited role as the aged getaway pilot who's been on call for six years. Even Unit Manager Martin Danzig gets in on the action in a bit part!

All fun and games aside, Woody was not amused. The film's editor, Ralph Rosenblum, recalled (in Woody: Movies From Manhattan by Julian Fox) 'He [Howard Morris] didn't do a very good job of it. He missed the whole point of the thing. It should have been in these very cramped little quarters of this foreign embassy and he blew it up, made it much too lavish. It finally cost about $8m but no one came to see it. It was a terrible failure.' Woody's dissatisfaction with the film version of Don't Drink the Water led him to direct and star in his own television version in 1994, co-starring Michael J. Fox.

Producer: Jack Grossberg, Charles H. Joffe, Joseph E. Levine, Henry Polonsky, Jack Rollins
Director: Howard Morris
Screenplay: Woody Allen, R.S. Allen, Harvey Bullock
Cinematography: Harvey Genkins
Film Editing: Ralph Rosenblum
Art Direction: Robert Gundlach
Music: Patrick Williams
Cast: Jackie Gleason (Walter Hollander), Estelle Parsons (Marion Hollander), Ted Bessell (Axel Magee), Joan Delaney (Susan Hollander), Michael Constantine (Krojack), Howard St. John (Ambassador Magee).
C-100m. Letterboxed.

by Eleanor Quin

Don't Drink the Water

The Hollander family just wants to have an enjoyable European holiday. What they get instead is a hijacked plane to Vulgaria and mistaken identities as spies, forcing them to take refuge in the American Embassy until they can be rescued. If this sounds like the mad-cap, screwball scenario of a film from the sixties, it's because...it is. The 1969 film comedy, Don't Drink the Water, was based on Woody Allen's play written in 1966. At the time, Allen was kicking around London, waiting to shoot a small part in Casino Royale (1967), a spoof of the Bond films that Allen helped script. The delay turned into six months, and Allen used the time to his advantage by writing Don't Drink the Water. The play enjoyed a one year run on Broadway. When 20th Century Fox was organizing a film version, however, Allen was conspicuously absent. Shot mostly in Quebec and Miami, Don't Drink the Water was "inspired by Woody's firsthand impressions of what it was like to be in a foreign country, deprived of the everyday necessities of New York life, while the plot, said Woody, posited the idea of what might happen if his own family were let loose abroad, even though they had never had that experience." (from Woody: Movies From Manhattan by Julian Fox). Starring Jackie Gleason and Estelle Parsons, Don't Drink the Water was helmed by Howard Morris, a man of many talents. Beginning his career entertaining WWII troops with Carl Reiner, he cut his teeth working for Sid Caesar during the 50s. Reflecting on his relationship with Morris, Reiner once commented, "The thing about Howie that's most interesting is the extent of his talent." Beginning in the 60s, his voice was used for hundreds of Hanna-Barbera characters in animated cartoons and he delivered many memorable performances on the big and small screen, most notably in Mel Brooks' High Anxiety (1977) and as Ernest T. Bass on The Andy Griffith Show (1960-8). Behind the camera he teamed up with the screenwriters of Don't Drink the Water, R.S. Allen (no relation to Woody) and Harvey Bullock to make the light comedies Who's Minding the Mint? (1967) with Milton Berle and With Six You Get Eggroll (1968) starring Doris Day. Jackie Gleason, already a comedy legend for his work in The Honeymooners (1955-6) and his enormously popular variety show The Jackie Gleason Show (1952-9), brings his larger-than-life presence to the screen as father Walter Hollander. As his hapless wife Marion, Estelle Parsons gets a shot at a comedic turn, a change of pace for an actor nominated for her supporting work in the dramas Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and Rachel, Rachel (1968). Don't Drink the Water's supporting cast has some notable additions: Ted Bessell, as the ambassador's son, was best known as "That Guy" Don Hollinger from the That Girl (1966-71) television series starring Marlo Thomas. Michael Constantine has received recent notice as the Windex-wielding father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002). And Richard Libertini, who reprised his role from the Broadway show to the screen in his first major film credit, is best known for his offbeat, quirky characters, like the cosmic mystic from Carl Reiner's All of Me (1984). Director Morris takes another turn in front of the camera and pops up in an uncredited role as the aged getaway pilot who's been on call for six years. Even Unit Manager Martin Danzig gets in on the action in a bit part! All fun and games aside, Woody was not amused. The film's editor, Ralph Rosenblum, recalled (in Woody: Movies From Manhattan by Julian Fox) 'He [Howard Morris] didn't do a very good job of it. He missed the whole point of the thing. It should have been in these very cramped little quarters of this foreign embassy and he blew it up, made it much too lavish. It finally cost about $8m but no one came to see it. It was a terrible failure.' Woody's dissatisfaction with the film version of Don't Drink the Water led him to direct and star in his own television version in 1994, co-starring Michael J. Fox. Producer: Jack Grossberg, Charles H. Joffe, Joseph E. Levine, Henry Polonsky, Jack RollinsDirector: Howard MorrisScreenplay: Woody Allen, R.S. Allen, Harvey BullockCinematography: Harvey GenkinsFilm Editing: Ralph RosenblumArt Direction: Robert GundlachMusic: Patrick WilliamsCast: Jackie Gleason (Walter Hollander), Estelle Parsons (Marion Hollander), Ted Bessell (Axel Magee), Joan Delaney (Susan Hollander), Michael Constantine (Krojack), Howard St. John (Ambassador Magee). C-100m. Letterboxed. by Eleanor Quin

Quotes

I don't eat oysters. You have to eat them alive. I like my food dead. Not sick, not wounded -- dead!
- Walter Hollander

Trivia

Notes

Location scenes filmed in Miami, Florida, and Quebec, Canada.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Fall November 1969

Based on the Woody Allen play "Don't Drink the Water."

Released in USA on video.

Released in United States Fall November 1969