Blu-ray Review: Bananas - Twilight Time Limited Edition

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'Tis the season to be grateful for Twilight Time and their longstanding, ongoing effort to bring the early Woody Allen filmography into the HD age. This holiday season fans can soak in the newly-released Bananas, the last of Allen's classic 'early, funny ones' to arrive on Blu-ray. While a few of the most popular films (Sleeper, Annie Hall, Manhattan) were issued by MGM (and Take the Money and Run by Kino Classics), the majority of Allen's '70s (and '80s, for that matter) catalog is on Blu-ray via Twilight Time.

Bananas has long figured prominently on many comedy fans' lists of 'most wanted' on Blu-ray. Not for nothing did the film secure a plum spot on AFI's "100 Years...100 Laughs" list of top 100 comedies (admittedly a list, at 17 years of age, begging for an update). The original, hazy MGM DVD was in dire need of an upgrade. Now, at long last, we have that upgrade—and it's a must-have for anyone collecting Twilight Time's Allen releases. Andrew M. Costikyan's cinematography is more serviceable than sumptuous, but the layer of grime that tainted MGM's rather crude DVD presentation of old has been lifted. Maybe the movie itself is no visual showcase, but it has never looked better than it does on TT's new limited edition Blu-ray. The lossless DTS-HD MA mono mix is clean and packs noticeably more presence than the old DVD.

Bananas may not "hold up" as a comedy in the LOL generation, no matter how funny it remains for seasoned viewers. That's not ageism. What was outrageously irreverent in 1971 often plays as far less so for young millennials. Does anyone under 30 even remember Howard Cosell? The legendary sportscaster memorably cameos, and while the gag should still provoke a response (a broadcaster providing color commentary to a couple's boudoir activities) the pop culture impact is undeniably lessened for viewers under a certain age. No matter, Bananas' story of Fielding Mellish—the everyman (after a fashion) who unwittingly becomes a revolutionary leader of a banana republic country—is 82 minutes of wall-to-wall sight gags, wordplay, and mild topical commentary.

The late Emmy-nominated writer Mickey Rose (1935-2013) co-wrote Bananas with Allen, following up their equally winning collaboration Take the Money and Run (Rose also worked on Allen's feature-film debut What's Up, Tiger Lily?). Without the plain white titles and '30s/'40s-era Great American Songbook classics that soon became hallmarks of Allen's oeuvre, Bananas in retrospect is clearly the work of an auteur still finding his voice. Glad to have it on Blu-ray—get 'em while they last, visit the Twilight Time site or distributor Screen Archives as this edition is limited to 3,000 units.


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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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