Filmsite Movie Review
Bananas (1971)
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Background

Bananas (1971) is director/actor Woody Allen's early anarchic slapstick comedy. It told the story of a nerdy New Yorker who became a South American rebel leader, to impress his political activist love interest Nancy (Louise Lasser).

It was typically filled with many of Woody Allen's lampooning political commentary, visual set-ups and sight-gags, and witty one-liner jokes.

The Story

The opening scene was a play-by-play commentary by ABC's Wide World of Sports of a Latin-American president's "live, on-the-spot assassination" on the outdoor palace steps in the tiny Third World Republic of San Marcos. Sportscaster announcer Howard Cosell (Himself) provided the live coverage, as he asked the dying leader:

"Well, of course, you're upset, and that's understandable under the circumstances. I guess now you'll have to announce your retirement."

The clumsy, anxiety-ridden nerd Fielding Mellish (Woody Allen) was the film's main protagonist. As a young boy, Fielding's electric blanket electrocuted him because he was a bed-wetter. He stole pornographic books printed in Braille and then rubbed the dirty parts with his hands.

He was employed by General Equipment as a guinea-pig for his New York corporation's strange research inventions as a consumer product tester (including a stereo headphones coffin for Californians). He was seen testing a malfunctioning, sedentary exercise-machine ("The Execu-cisor") designed to be used by busy office executives at their desks - an obvious tribute scene to Chaplin's Modern Times (1936).

One of the film's most hilarious scenes was set in an adult porno shop, where the aspiring playboy Fielding nervously purchased a porno magazine (camouflaged by other more intellectual publications such as Time Magazine, Commentary, Saturday Review, and Newsweek). He became embarrassed when a shop dealer made it obvious to other respectable, disapproving customers that he was purchasing a dirty magazine. Fielding cringed when his order was screamed out by the clerk: ("Hey Ralph? How much is a copy of Orgasm?...Orgasm. This man wants to buy a copy. How much is it?"). Fielding stuttered: "Doing a sociological study on perversion. l'm up to advanced child molesting" titled Orgasm.

Fielding unsuccessfully and cowardly attempted to protect an old woman during a subway mugging by two thugs (including a young Sylvester Stallone in his screen debut).

His red-headed radical, social activist, college student girlfriend Nancy (Louise Lasser) urged him to sign a petition supporting the rebels of San Marcos, who were opposed to the new appointed dictator Gen. Emilio M. Vargas (Carlos Montalban). After an unsatisfying attempt at sex with her (when she complained that he was completely immature): (Fielding: "How am I immature?" Nancy: "Well...intellectually, emotionally and sexually." Fielding: "Yeah, but in what other ways?"), she decided to break up with him.

In despair after the breakup, Fielding traveled to the tiny Latin American banana republic (fictional) of San Marcos. He disguised himself as a fake-bearded revolutionary guerrilla to pose as the guest of the new dictator.

In a rebel camp where he was held after escaping from Gen. Vargas' assassins, and while training with the rebels in the jungle, nebbish Fielding viewed a half-naked woman clutching her left breast while crying out: "I got bitten by a snake." This was after he had learned about first-aid treatment for snakebite: ("In the event of snake-bite, you make an incision and you suck out the poison - remember, you suck out the poison"). With a huge grin on his face, he pursued her greedily and lasciviously, and was followed by the rest of the rebel soldiers.

He placed a to-go order of almost one thousand grilled cheese sandwiches and seven hundred cups of coffee for the revolutionary Latin-American troops at a lunch counter deli during a South American revolution, before he was installed as El Presidente of the republic of San Marcos, to replace the power-mad, self-appointed rebel leader Esposito (Jacobo Morales).

Now as the accidental leader El Presidente (and wearing Castro-like fatigues and a ridiculous fake red beard), Fielding was urged to return to the US to attend a high-society dinner fundraiser. He delivered a stuttering, outrageously inappropriate keynote speech at the event:

Although the United States is, uh, a very rich country and San Marcos is a very poor one, there are a great many things we have to offer your country in return for aid. For instance, there, uh, there are locusts. Uh, we have more locusts than...uh, locusts of all races and creeds. These, these locusts, incidentally, are available at popular prices. And so, by the way, are most of the women of San Marcos...despite the tiny size of our nation, few people realize that we lead the world in hernias. They also fail to realize that before Columbus discovered your country, he stopped in San Marcos and contracted a disease which today can be cured with one shot of penicillin...

He was also reunited with Nancy (who at first didn't recognize him) who was impressed by his leadership qualities.

During the scene of his US trial after he was arrested for treason (in which FBI head J. Edgar Hoover (Dorothi Fox) appeared as a fat, middle-aged black woman), Fielding acted as his own defense lawyer - he cross-examined himself and objected to the Judge:

"I object your honor. This trial is a travesty. It's a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham. I move for a mistrial."

The Judge finally ruled that he would receive a 15-year suspended sentence (if he didn't live in the Judge's neighborhood).

In the concluding scene, The closing televised Fielding Mellish Honeymoon Night broadcast (on Wide World of Sports) was viewed as a between-the-covers, sexual boxing match - again by commentator Howard Cosell. Fielding was reunited with Nancy as his recent marital partner and in bed with her at the Royal Manhattan Hotel for the competitive bout. She admitted:

"Well, Howard, it all went by so fast. I just had no idea that it would be so quick, really. I was expecting a longer bout... Well, as you know, l'm extraordinarily ticklish so l had a kind of a rough time there. l couldn't stop laughing...And you know, l thought it would really get in my way. But l really trained well for this and l think it sort of held me, so there really wasn't any time that l didn't feel in complete control."

Then she added that it was over too quickly: "The timing was a little off, but l think he'll be fine. I mean, he's not the worst l've had. Not the best, but not the worst." Their next bout would be in the late spring. Cosell ended the interview with special hope that "they may live happily ever after and again they may not," but assured the viewers that he would be there to cover the action.