Tra-La-La-Terror: The Banana Splits Movie

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The robots of a popular children’s show go on a murderous, but sometimes cute, rampage when their show is cancelled. Starring Dani Kind, Steve Lund, Finlay Wojtak-Hissong, Romeo Carere, and Maria Nash. Directed by Danishka Esterhazy. Filmed in Canada and South Africa. 2019. On DVD.

The Banana Splits Adventure Hour.

The Originals

 

For those not from the late 1960s, it was a staple of Saturday Morning television. It was an hour of adventure, mayhem and music, and four people in giant animal outfits. Fleegel, a dog, was the leader of the group. Often, he was voice by Paul Winchell, the ventriloquist and co-developer of an artificial heart with Dr. Henry Heimlich (yes, that Heimlich). Other bandmates were: Bingo, an orangutan; Drooper, a lion; and Snorky, an elephant. Aside from Winchell, other voices were supplied by Daws (Huckleberry Hound) Butler and Allan (Sam the Butcher) Melvin. The live action portions were bumpers for serials like “Danger Island”, a live action pirate drama, and cartoons like “The Three Musketeers” & “The Arabian Knights.” The show had other characters, such as the “evil” Sour Grapes Bunch, a group of girls in go-go boots and a boy and a girl who played guitar and sang in Spanish.

The show ran for two seasons (1968-1970), then in syndication into the 1980s, where it was revived for a couple of years. The costumes and sets were designed by the two and only Sid and Marty Krofft, who created “Land of the Lost”, “Lidsville”, “H.R. Pufnstuf” and a myriad of others. The first season was directed by Richard Donner. (Thank you, Wikipedia…I didn’t know that one)

The Banana Splits Movie

 

The New Crew

Our story begins with a boy named Harley, who probably should have grown out of his love for the show, as well as fairy wings and magic wands, but hasn’t. It’s his birthday and Mom has procured five tickets to see a taping of his favorite show. So, the tickets are for Harley, Mom, Stepdad (who takes credit for getting the passes), his brother Austin, and someone that Harley knows from school but isn’t really a friend, but will become one. Her name is Zoe.

The biggest change to the original show is that the Splits are robots, not humans in costume.

PG-13 Warning.

Because it is so evident throughout the film, I will be using a derogatory, but quite necessary, term to describe certain male characters in the film.

As I have already mentioned, the Stepdad, Mitch, has taken credit for getting the tickets for the show, even though his wife, Beth, got them. Mitch is a selfish dick.

While standing in line to get into Studio One, we meet a young couple who are excited to get in. The young man is planning to live feed the experience on his phone. All phones are confiscated before entrance. He hides his girlfriend’s phone so he can do the life feed. He is a dick. Later, we find he is also a know-it-all dick.

Also in line is a Stage Father who will do anything to get his daughter an audition to make her a star. He is a dick.

Let’s not forget the new Program Director, who cancels the show right before the taping. He hates the show and has ideas for a new, edgier show. He just doesn’t care how popular the Banana Splits are. They are gone.  He is a dick.

The actor who plays second fiddle to the robots is Stevie. He spends his time getting drunk in his dressing room (which doubles as the janitor’s closet), and nearly missing his cues. He is also a dick.

Folks, it’s a sausage festival out there. But it makes the murders by the robot Banana Splits all that more satisfying.

The robots are given an upgrade by their creator, which doesn’t take. Their programming says that the show must go on. Finding out that the show is canceled does not sit well with them and the bloodletting begins.

Blood flows easily in the film. Among the deaths are the usual sawing a person in half, hitting someone in the head with a hammer, strangulation, running people over and burning someone’s face. Which brings me to a question…the man who had his face burned…how come his beard and mustache were unscathed? Did I leave out using drumsticks as eye gouges? Well, that later in the film anyway.

 

Harley is our hero, of course. His sweetness and innocence saves the day. The closing scenes are done in a place that Art the Clown would love. I really expected him to jump out. He didn’t.

The film includes elements like jump scares, male toxicity, guts, blood spurts and bubble gum rock’n’roll (Speaking of which, the Banana Splits Theme Song is sung by Jason Nesmith, who is the son of the Monkees Mike Nesmith). Fair warning, any character over the age of eight will like be killed. Under eight…well, remember, “The Show Must Go On”.

For those of us from that era, The Banana Splits Movie is a body-strewn walk back to our childhood. For those of younger age, it is further proof that Baby Boomers were really messed up and likely did too many drugs in their day. Either way, the film is cheesy fun with a good body count, buckets of fake and slippery blood, and some laughs. You can rent it for $2.99 online or wait for it to show up on SYFY in October, at least that what one of my sources says. I really wouldn’t pay much more.

I got my copy as a Father’s Day gift. Does my son know me or what? And he got it for 20% off. Win-win.

 

Musical Extra… One of my favorite bits from the show!!

My Beautiful Calliopasaxaviatrumparimbaclaribasotrombaphone!

 

 

 

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About Ernie Fink

Ernie Fink has been a fan of film, mainly in the genres of horror and mystery, in equal parts, for over fifty years. His love of horror in the cinema begins with "King Kong" and in literature with Edgar Allan Poe and Bernhardt J. Hurwood.  With mysteries, he skipped from the Hardy Boys right to Hercules Poirot, only to find John Rebus and Harry Hole waiting in the wings. He has been known to read subtitles extensively, and rarely leaves a theater until the lights come up.
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One Comment

  1. So glad you mentioned the voice acting on the original show (and that Paul Winchell invented the first artificial heart). Professional voice actors don’t get the recognition they deserve.

    Nice review. It doesn’t sound like a lot of thought went into the plot but I’ll cough up the $2.99 for the cheese.

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