Woody Allan wrote DON'T DRINK THE WATER in the late 1960s, and it had a nice run on Broadway. It became the first of his plays to make it to the big screen, though the second (PLAY IT AGAIN SAM) was a better work. A later tragic-comic piece, THE FLOATING LIGHT BULB, has not made it as yet. The story is set in the mythical Eastern European country of "Vulgaria". This is not the only film set in this land. The musical CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG was also set in "Vulgaria", when it was a pre-World War I principality run by Gert Frobe. History swept little "Vulgaria" up with it's neighbors. In the late 1960s it is a communist state. A plane is hijacked to Vulgaria by a lone gunman, fleeing impending arrest after a Vulgarian spy known as "the Grey Fox" was arrested in the U.S. On the plane is the Hollander family from Newark, New Jersey: Walter (Jackie Gleason), his wife Marion (Estelle Parsons) and their daughter Susan (Joan Delaney). Walter is a very successful caterer, who really wanted to take his annual vacation in Miami, but was talked (much against his will) by Marion into a European trip to London, Paris, Barcelona, Rome, and Athens. It was to Athens that their plane was headed when hijacked. Parsons is the enthusiast in the couple, and when she hears that the passengers can stretch their legs outside the plane for about twenty minutes, she pushes a dubious Walter to take photos of the guards surrounding the plane, and of the surrounding buildings of the airport. Unfortunately, Walter has noted that there is barbed wire in the areas that Marion suggests he photographed, and figures it must be restricted. But the local secret police man Krojack (Michael Constantine), sees Walter taking movies, jumps to the conclusion that Walter is a spy and orders his men to arrest the Hollanders. Fortunately for the Hollanders just before they had their adventure the American Ambassador McGee (Howard St. John) left for a conference in Washington. His son Axel (Ted Bessell) had driven him to the airport, and is on hand with the embassy's limousine to drive the Hollanders to the sanctuary of the embassy. The play follows the topsy turvy situation the Hollanders find themselves in, worsened by the well-intentioned, but somewhat stupid, Axel. Axel, confronting Krojack, makes a common-sensical comment that both countries are always spying on each other. Yes, it's common-sensical, but it is something no diplomat every mouths, and Krojack tape records the message to use when later talking with Ambassador McGee. Axel and Susan soon are falling in love, which does not meet with the approval of Walter. Nor is Walter (who has to get back for a special catering job in four days) happy to hear that the other political refugee in the embassy, Father Drobney (Richard Libertini) has been there for six years! Nor is Walter really thrilled that Drobney has picked up a new hobby - he's a magician now. There are nice touches in the film, jabbing at both sides. Krojack is talking to Ambassador Magee on the phone, when one of his assistants asks to know how the Stock Market did (he has some mutual shares). Krojack puts down the phone and orders someone to break the idiot's legs (this is, after all, a communist "paradise"). Later it is the Americans who get the jab: the Ambassador is ferociously looking for a way of winning a governorship at home, and is willing to sell out anyone he can to get it. A good cast is aided by the director, Howard Morris (WHO'S MINDING THE MINT?) and turns out a better than average comedy. Not as good as most of Woody's later films, but it was a promising start.
Don't Drink the Water
Don't Drink the Water
The Hollander family's European vacation is interrupted when their plane is forced to land in Vulgaria. The Hollanders leave the plane to take pictures which results in accusations of ...
June 15, 2020