Saturday, February 27, 2021

Banana Joe (1982), Buddy Goes West (1981), and Bomber (1982)

Banana Joe

Banana Joe is a simple trader from the tropical South American island of Amantido. One day his peaceful routine is broken by the arrival of some prospectors, who question his authority to trade without a license, causing Joe to get in trouble. In order to get a license and secure his village's safety, Joe ventures to the mainland, further than ever before, and discovers all the chaos and confusion of the 'civilised world', as well as new love. But will he be able to succeed before his town is taken over?...

Banana Joe is a quintessential Italian comedy. It's got the lot, a lovely tropical setting, wacky comedy, neat action, plenty of heart, and of course Bud Spencer punching bad guys, in this great solo outing.

The plot is pretty basic, really only an excuse for the comedy setpieces. This might annoy those who want to see Joe hurry up and get the license already, and they will probably be dismayed that it takes over an hour, but that's not really what the movie is 'about', if that makes any sense. Thankfully the movie is upfront about this, it never lingers on one thing for too long, and there's always a good reason for everything to be happening (not that a silly comedy really needs one, but still, it's the thought that counts).

A big message of the movie is the insane bureaucracy of the modern world. It's delivered in a satisfyingly matter-of-fact and non-preachy way. It's never jamming the message in your face, but instead just presenting the dilemma as is, and letting things speak for themselves. Your blood is bound to boil thinking of all the horrible red tape  But not too much of course, as this is still a fun comedy, and doesn't let such things distract you too much.

The titular Banana Joe is a great lead. Friendly and helpful to all, he's never short of compassion for the good, or walloping for the bad. This naturally pits him against the mobster Torsillo, whose operations keep getting foiled, like a race that Joe 'dares' to win ('How dare you give the prize to the winner, don't you know who I am?' is pretty much what the baddies say!), or when he gets a brief job as a bouncer and throws the mobster out of his own bar.

Torsillo is a funny villain. Interestingly, we see him getting into more trouble than giving it. This makes for an amusing dynamic, with a villain who's constantly scared and on his toes, growing crazier as the movie goes on, with often hilarious and unexpected results! Bud rarely seeks him out intentionally, which makes it all the funnier when their paths inevitable cross again and again.

The film's romance is sweet and funny, with Joe being insanely blunt and direct. Dorianne is a down-to-earth gal as far as nightclub singers go, and their interactions are believable enough, with good chemistry. Though I question her taking the villain's singing gig in the climax! The movie doesn't really make a big deal out of it, and she's always on the side of Joe of course, but I treat it as a major transgression!

The fights here are plenty of fun, especially the hilarious offscreen battle, and the church fight, which gets amusingly creative, as well as jaw-dropping at times, like the 'rosary bead' moment! The final battle is interesting, in that it's not Bud versus the gang members per se, but Bud against the actual casino! He's a one man demolition squad, and after a whole movie of being pissed off, he takes out all his frustration by absolutely leveling this building, while the baddies can only look on like day-old kittens.

The direction by Steno (Stefano Vanzina) is really good, with many shots arranged well. He has a great eye for mise en scene, and colour. Ordinarily I am against directors who pretentiously label themselves with just one name, but with all this in mind, I'll allow it this once.

The soundtrack to Banana Joe is fun! The main theme is a Spanish tune, sung well, with lots of innocent Latin charm. There are several rescorings throughout, each very nice and fitting the scenes perfectly. Interestingly, the theme to Odds and Evens is sung too at one point in the nightclub. The theme to Crimebusters shows up as well, which feels a bit lazy, like the composers decided to recycle some tunes. But at least it's all good music!

Banana Joe is a great solo vehicle for Bud, and well worth checking out. It's chockablock full of more funny scenes than you can count...

Buddy Goes West

Buddy is a quiet and hungry cowboy going from one town to the next, often dogged by the clumsy native Eagle Eye, who holds up a train under the mistaken belief that a doctor's suitcase is full of gold. This leads Buddy to have to flee to a small town, where he immediately finds trouble, and gratitude. The locals are being tormented by a ruthless bandit trying to drive everyone away, but the arrival of a new doctor gives them faith. But can Buddy keep up the ruse and save the day?...

Buddy Goes West is another cowboy adventure for Bud to enjoy. Which is surprising, considering the date, getting a western as late as 1981. Even in Italy the genre had well and truly wound down by this point. But does this mean the movie has nothing to offer? We'll see.

Buddy is a fairly amusing movie. It doesn't do much special, and it was perhaps a bit hoary and cliched by the time it was released, but it's never bad, and rolls along at a brisk enough pace. The idea is a tried and true one, a typical case of mistaken identity. Where it gets more unique is Bud being mistaken for a doctor, and the crazy concoctions he makes to cure the townspeople. This does end up taking a backseat to more traditional antics, but it still makes for a great addition.

As expected, much of the movie is made up of raucous fight scenes, and abundant eating. There was no-one in Italy who could eat as much as Bud Spencer! And one of the film's villains learns it the hard way in an eating contest. Another highlight of the film is Bud 'diagnosing' problems with the goons while beating them up.

The big bar fight is great fun (even if the worrywart in me was worrying about all the damage caused to the place), although I did wonder how the movie would give a satisfying climax afterwards, because this fight felt like the major action setpiece of the whole movie. It was as if the climax had come early, and the film was doomed to amble on a bit longer before ending with another big brawl. Thankfully this didn't end up being the case, as the climax has a different take.

I wasn't a big fan of the ending in a few ways, but at least it wrapped everything up completely, which I give credit for.

The acting is all fine. Bud Spencer is a fine lead, throwing punches, and expressing all he needs to with his famous impassive face. Amidou may be annoying to some, and fun to others. Somewhere in the middle for me. Also of note is that Bud Spencer's usual dub voice is here as another character, putting on an Irish accent for the role of Popsy.

The score here is by none other than Ennio Morricone, and it's very good. A little serious and dramatic at times, perhaps too much for such a film, but at least it gives a certain gravitas. There are lighter tracks here too, and they are nice to listen to.

Buddy Goes West isn't the greatest example of Bud's filmography, or the spaghetti westerns, but it's a perfectly serviceable entry, and you can't go too wrong with it.


Former boxer Bud Graziano, aka Bomber, returns to Italy after some time away on sea, and after seeing the unfair treatment a local gym gives to others, he decides to open up his own. He's quick to build up a stable of growing talent, including prize boxer Giorgo. The boy is worried he may not be able to make it against these tough fighters but with Bomber on his side, there's nowhere to go but up...

One of Bud's most beloved solo films, Bomber is a boxing flick that delivers plenty of fun! It breezes by, feeling much shorter than its 100 minute runtime, and there's always something going on, whether funny, action-packed, or dramatic. The movie is also accessible enough for those who dislike boxing. If the sport doesn't appeal to you but Bud Spencer does, then have no worries. It's the main focus without every waking second being inside the ring.

One thing to note is that I watched the entire movie in Italian, without subtitles. With this in mind, the plot holds up very well even if you don't understand the language. Naturally Bud speaks in punches more than he does words, but beyond that the story is still clear, the visuals help a lot, and the actions of the characters are often universal. Just about everything else you can infer.

I liked the story plenty, and the characters therein. Bud is a great lead, and it's endearing to watch how he defies this gym of musclebound thugs and gives all the amateurs and 'weaklings' of the area a chance to shine and shape up.

Jerry is the comic relief, and he's a little overdone at times, and his cries of "ARRRIVAAAA!!!" may drive some to madness, but he's a fun presence for the most part. Bud's friend/love interest Susanna is absolutely adorable, and a nice addition.The up-and-coming boxer Giorgio is a likeable and charismatic dude, and you naturally side with him and his struggles throughout the film.

The climax is an important boxing match,   The only thing I wasn't as much a fan of is Giorgi's's role. It's a little disappointing how his thunder can't help but be stolen a bit at the end. The movie was building up to him regaining his confidence and winning the day, and yet it's Bud Spencer's film, so of course he's gotta be the one to get the final fight. Maybe it makes more sense if you actually understand the dialogue though.

The villains are a satisfyingly nefarious bunch, and it's enjoyable seeing them get their just desserts, especially after some of the crap they pull.

The ending is pretty abrupt, but I'm not sure I can fault it too much. Yeah, it's over a little too quickly, but at least we do get conclusions and last look-ins for all the characters, no matter how short. And the final shot is a great one.

The actors here all do fine jobs. Much of what I said about their characters apply the same to the actors. Bud can carry a film with his presence alone, no matter how little he says, while Jerry Cala could be amusing or annoying in equal measure. Stefani Mingardo does very well as Giorgo, and Kallie Knoetze is an effective villain. The movie has some lovely ladies too! Gegia is a bit shrill and over-the-top as the cackling Susanna, but is otherwise neat, while Valeria Cavalli is also nice as Giorgio's girlfriend.

The soundtrack to Bomber is wonderful! The main theme Fantasy is another gem for Oliver Onions,  The movie does get a liiitle bit carried away though, playing the song at every chance it can get. It never gets tiring, and it is only background music half the time, but still they could have cut down a little. The rest of the soundtrack is neat, from the rescorings of the theme, to the couple of training songs. Both have a little bit of Rocky in their DNA, while also being unique, and very nice to listen to.

To finish, Bomber is a great watch, in whatever language you see it in. A perfect highlight of its star, and plenty of fun!...

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