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Retro Review 1981: Pacific Banana

Posted by Thurston McQ on Thursday, February 3, 2011

Pacific Banana (Original Release Date: 5 February 1981)

This week marks the first instance of me reviewing a movie discovered as a direct result of writing this column.  I anticipate future cases where I will find newly discovered movies so disagreeable I will be made to wish I had never lighted on the idea of reviewing these suckers, but this isn’t one of those cases.  Pacific Banana is a treat.  It flies thick through a fog of continuity errors, the casts’ collective stab at acting is lamentable, the plot contrivances begin stacking tall from the outset, and the plot is threadbare, but its charm and good-naturedness make it hard not to developsome affection for it.

Part of this charm is in its casually smarmy approach.  If I were cataloging it for a special interests video store, I would categorize it a “milquetoast sex romp,” and I would put it on the same shelf as Porky’s, Zapped!, The Last American Virgin, and, maybe, Fast Times at Ridgemont High.  (Strange coincidence: these were all released in 1982.  I don’t want to pretend Pacific Banana had any influence on them, since my guess is that none of their respective makers had even heard of it.)  It differs from all these, however, in that there’s no serious conflict, nor any hint of darkness.  The movie is as affable and easy going as one might expect from the culture that produced Crocodile Dundee.

Like last week’s movie, Pacific Banana is conspicuously bereft of subtlety.  It has tits, it wants to show you its tits, and it doesn’t bother with teasing you beforehand.  It concocts a reason to show you its tits, but the reason is a clear concoction.  The reason: our hero, Martin, can’t keep an erection.  He can get one, but he appears to be pathologically disposed to sneezing once he has one.  Once he sneezes, it’s gone.  (The title song, written and performed by costars Deborah Gray and Luan Peters, spells it out for us: “It wants to go up, up, up, but it always goes down, down, down!”)  Naturally, nearly every female in the movie wants to be the one to cure him.  (Nearly every female appears completely nude, too.  The exceptions are the only two women in the movie who are clearly menopausal.)
 

pacific_banana_002

 
It’s basically a porn plot.  It’s a little more complex, but not much.  Martin develops his problem when his boss, Lady Blandings, tries to make him service her while he is piloting her private jet.  The two of them are caught in the act by her husband, and the shame of it draws out Martin’s first erection-crushing sneeze.  The husband, despite assuring Martin he knows his wife’s incurable licentiousness is to blame, tells Martin he will have to relocate him to Pacific Banana, their sister airline.  Martin is driven there by a company employee who also tries to molest him.  Martin is receptive to her advances until he finds out she is the daughter of Lady Blandings.  Achoo!

Our narrator, whom I have yet to introduce, and who describes himself as Martin’s “Fairy Godfather,” tells us that Martin’s problem wasn’t cemented until this moment.  He spends the rest of the movie avoiding Lady Blandings’s other, youngest daughter and bumbling about while woman after woman tries to seduce him. It’s pretty clear from the moment the youngest Blandings steps in frame that she’s supposed to be the one to cure Martin (spoiler: she does), however, so you know not to expect any of the other women’s efforts to be successful.

Martin’s bumbling is one of the movie’s biggest contrivances.  The filmmakers try to weave as much physical comedy in the narrative tapestry as possible, and Martin appears to be their favorite thread.  The problem with this is that Graeme Blundell, the actor playing Martin, just isn’t a physical comedian.  They have him tripping into fountains, stepping into boxes, getting tangled up trying to hop over a guardrail, and trying to remove his pants after he’s already walked into the ocean, but there’s a tentativeness to every stunt and a gentleness to every pratfall.  Still, Blundell appears to be game, and it’s amusing to watch him bumble at bumbling.

 

pacific_banana_001
Paul (Robin Stewart, left) and Martin (Graeme Blundell, right) at the controls of their big Banana.

 

Martin is the main character, but he has a foil in Paul, his copilot at Pacific Banana.  Paul, the narrator and theme song tell us multiple times, has the “opposite problem.”  He can’t keep it down.  Although he has two fiancées (roommates who appear to be happy with the arrangement), he can’t say no to sex with a woman, and pretty much no woman can say no to him.  The exception is one Candy Bubbles, the matron of an island sex resort who performs the “Ritual of the Sleeping Giant” toward the end of the movie to try to restore Martin’s virility.  (It fails -- “for the first time in two hundred years,” according to her -- but it causes a volcano to erupt and puts out some kind of sex shockwave that sends everyone on the island but Martin into a libidinous rage.)

About the narrator: he’s a dirty old coot with a propensity for punning. (This movie puns with more abandon than Shakespeare.  It was happening so frequently that I began collecting them.  I may include the ones I collected in the comment section.)  Sometimes Martin appears to be able to break the fourth wall and hear the narrator, and sometimes he doesn’t.  The closest analog I could come up with for the role the narrator plays is Peter Ustinov’s narrator in Takashi’s Metamorphoses (I grew up calling this one Winds of Change, as that was the version I had on tape), or Paddy O’Byrne’s narrator in Animals Are Beautiful People and The Gods Must Be Crazy.  He’s cheeky, alternately approving and disapproving of characters’ actions, and has an infectious naughty laugh.  The movie would be less enjoyable without him.

All in all, I’d say this is my favorite of the ’81 movies I’ve watched this year.  If it had taken itself even the slightest bit seriously, I think I might have hated it.

The Final Word: Recommended?  Absolutely.  The jokes are lame and the plot is predictable, but I found it entertaining from start to finish.

Standout Scene: There’s an improbable pie fight on an airplane. For some reason, the flight attendants serve whole, cream-filled pies during the flight.  If you think this setup won’t lead to a pie fight, you don’t know your early eighties Australian milquetoast sex romps.

Hey!  I know that guy!:
Graeme Blundell looked familiar to me, and his name sounded even more familiar than his face looked.  I finally decided the reason he looked familiar to me is that he is a dead ringer for a young, mop-topped Bob Newhart.  (His resemblance to Newhart is strong enough that the idea of many women wanting to bed him seemed a little preposterous.)  When I went to IMDb, I discovered his name sounded familiar because he plays Padmé’s dad in the Star Wars prequels. Turns out Luan Peters appeared on an episode of Fawlty Towers, but I didn’t recognize her when I saw her.  The actor who plays Paul looks and sounds like an Australian Roddy McDowall.

Nostalgia Score:
0/10.  I had no connection to this movie before this column started, and early eighties Australia (and nearby islands) is pretty foreign to me.

Movie Score: 75/100

 

Review Score: 75 / 100

Thurston McQ
Location: Germany
Posts: 142
Posted: 8 years 44 weeks ago

Incomplete List of Pacific Banana's Lame Puns:

"I might lose my job, you know," he says. "Don't worry," she says, "I've got the perfect opening for you!"

"Of course other people have his problem. He's not eunuch.... "

"Nothing hard about our Martin!"

"Something came up!"

"Stiff southerly coming up?"

"I banged into an old friend."

"I take in boarders to make ends meet."

"Paul! Are you coming?"

"Those aren't the only leis you're going to get here, Mate!" (Said after islanders put leis on Martin's neck.)

At one point, our hero is seen reading Jerzy Kosinski's Cockpit (1975) gag. I'm pretty sure this was a visual gag, but Blundell never held the book still enough for me to see the title clearly. I recognized Kosinski from the cover, then did a Google image search with the terms "Kosinski" and "paperback." I scrolled until I found the image I had seen in the movie.

"Tell them I've gone for a good stiff walk."

"I had to lubricate the moving parts."

"You must come up and look at my log."

"I can feel the temperature rising already. And that's not all!"

"Will you take over for a bit?" Paul asked. "You mean take over for a bit while you have a bit?" Martin answers.

"Donate your talents into raising this boy's flagging spirit!"

"You like a bit of pussy! Let yourself go boy, grab a bit of the pussy." (The narrator says this while a woman in a cat costume is rubbing on Martin.)

"Here comes that cock again!" (Said immediately after coitus had among roaming hens and roosters.)

 

Jack S. Pharaoh
Location:
Posts: 2231
Posted: 8 years 44 weeks ago

Thurston McQ wrote:

"Of course other people have his problem. He's not eunuch.... "

Seriously, the character said "eunuch," and it's supposed to be perceived that they accidentally said that instead of "unique"? I wonder how long the script writer wrestled with that one before he decided to leave it in.

Thurston McQ
Location: Germany
Posts: 142
Posted: 8 years 44 weeks ago

The Australian accent makes it a little more passable, I guess.  All right.  Not really.