This Week in 1971: 'Bananas' Slips Into Theaters

These days, it's a surprise and a relief when Woody Allen turns out a gem of a picture (like 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona' or 'Match Point') that's as full of raw, messy life as the movies he made at the dawn of his career. Back then, moviegoers took comic grab-bags like 'Bananas' for granted, as he managed to crank them out regularly, one per year. Today, 40 years after its release (on April 28, 1971), he's still cranking out a film a year, but Allen fans would be thrilled if he made another movie with half of 'Bananas' appeal.

'Bananas' was a supremely silly, slapdash film that, by all rights, shouldn't have worked. It barely had a script and was largely improvised. Allen's leading lady was the woman he'd divorced a year earlier. While filming in remote Central American locations, key props failed to materialize. A throwaway joke earned the film a "Condemned" rating from the Catholic Church. Allen's original ending was to be a cringeworthy scene involving a blackface gag. Yet somehow, all the pieces came together to create a comedy now regarded as a classic.