Don’t Drink the Water

Bananas, written by Woody Allen and Mickey Rose; directed by Woody Allen; starring Woody Allen (Fielding Mellish), Louise Lasser (Nancy), Carlos Montalban (General Vargas), and Howard Cosell as himself (1971): Allen’s second movie as (co-)writer, director, and star is a jolly romp through military dictatorships and the CIA agents who propagate them.

Allen’s Fielding Mellish starts off as a tester of ludicrous products, moves on to being an anti-war protester to satisfy his girlfriend (Lasser), and eventually becomes the leader of a small Central American country through an improbable series of events.

Like the Marx Brothers at their peak (Duck Soup comes to mind), Allen just keeps throwing verbal and physical humour at the screen — if one joke fails, don’t worry, another will be along in a few seconds. What may surprise many viewers unfamiliar with early Woody Allen is what a gifted physical comedian he was both in and of himself and in terms of setting up ridiculous situations for slapstick. The political satire of pretty much every portion of the spectrum still holds up today.

Also welcome is Howard Cosell as himself, delivering colour commentary on political rebellions, assassinations, and sex acts for ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Highly recommended.

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