Billy Connolly: Big Banana Feet [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - British Film Institute
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (29th May 2024).
The Film

"Billy Connolly: Big Banana Feet" (1977)

In October of 1975, comedian and musician Billy Connolly extended his successful tour of Britain westward. Not across the ocean to America, but across the sea to the Emerald Isle, where he would perform one night in Belfast and one night in Dublin on a single weekend. At this time in his career, he had recorded six albums, had sold out live shows, made his acting debut in an episode of “Play for Today” with “Just Another Saturday”, and had become a frequent guest on BBC’s talk show “Parkinson” making him a household name. Though some of his comedy was considered raunchy and vulgar to conservatives, the 32 year old’s popularity was soaring.

But this was not a safe time for Ireland. Religious tensions within the country were at a heightened peak with The Troubles, and just three months earlier, the Irish pop group The Miami Showband were attacked by members of the paramilitary group the Ulster Volunteer Force, which killed three of the bandmembers and injured two others while they were driving home from a show in Northern Ireland. There was massive public outcry and concerns from the entertainment industry, but Connolly decided not to cancel his appearances, instead stating straightforwardly that he sold records there and he wasn't about to disappoint his fans. While there was concern for safety, Connolly and his team headed by air to greet his Irish fans.

Travelling with Connolly were staff members such as his managers Billy Johnson and Frank Lynch, Time Out magazine’s Duncan Campbell, as well as filmmakers Murray Grigor and Patrick Higson with their film crew to document the weekend’s shows and behind the scenes on 16mm film. As soon as Connolly’s crew lands at the airport, there are a lot of meet-and-greets with organizers and the press, and the cameras capture the interactions which have Connolly making fun comments and having friendly banter with everyone. He does express some frustration with the press, who insist on wanting to meet with Connolly before the show for interviews while he would rather have them watch the show first and then ask questions. Connolly is able to find humor throughout his short time getting from place to place, while in radio interviews and in hotel rooms with a very slow dripping teapot, but he is able to shine at his best when he is on stage to roaring crowds cheering him on.

The documentary cuts back and forth between Connolly and his team before and after shows and travelling and the on stage performances where he is able to bring loud amounts of laughter from the crowd. As with any stage performance there are rehearsed numbers with his songs and his jokes, but there are some absolutely hilarious bits in between as he responds to the crowds with great comebacks and shutdowns. Also memorable are the oversized boots he wears on stage that are shaped like bananas, hence the documentary’s title which were designed by Scottish artist Edmund Smith. Originally the documentary was made in hopes of being broadcast on BBC, it was instead extended for a theatrical release and included some moments that were not particularly TV friends, including Connolly's bits on swearing and some toilet humor. Connolly’s strong Scottish accent and local based humor were concerns that he would be unintelligible to audiences outside of Scotland, but he was embraced outside his home turf and would continue to be popular and influential with his brand of comedy. Even within the unrest in Ireland that would continue for two more decades, he was able to place smiles and give laughter to audiences for two shows, and they have been captured in this fine documentary, “Big Banana Feet”.

The film was picked up for theatrical distribution by Brent Walker, who made two censorship changes which were not approved by the directors. It opened in Britain on August 24th, 1977 and was fairly successful, but has been hard to see officially as the distributor declared bankruptcy and the original film materials and prints were lost. Director Murray Grigor's gave his personal copy of the film to Lynda Myles of the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, California when he was visiting and couldn't bring it back to Scotland due to excess baggage. For years it was the only known copy of the film in existence, and was the censored version. Many years later, luck would strike with the existence of an uncut version, and a full restoration was undertaken by the BFI. This BFI dual format release marks the first time the documentary has been restored and transferred from original film materials, with a new reconstruction using two surviving film prints, giving the film a new life to audiences new and old showcasing a comedy legend in his prime.

Note this is a region B Blu-ray / region 2 PAL DVD set


The BFI presents the film in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. The film was shot on 16mm film, though the original negative is considered lost. Due to the original distributor declaring bankruptcy and the rights being in legal limbo for many years, it was unseen and out of circulation for decades. There was one surviving film print, which was the director's personal 16mm print which was held at the Pacific Film Archive at the University of Southern California. After years of searching for better materials and coming up unsuccessful, Douglas Weir of the BFI was alerted that a print of the film was up for auction on eBay for a print of the film. The listing had "Banana" and "Connolly" spelled wrong, but he took a chance and acquired the reels for a measly sum of £50. The two prints were slightly different. The director's print had some censorship applied removing two jokes - one about urinals and one about blasphemy by the original distributor Brent Walker, but miraculously the eBay print had them intact. Using the two 16mm prints, the original version was reconstructed and restored in 2K resolution by the BFI. Scratches, speckles, tears, warps, and many other instances of wear and damage were removed for a new clean looking image. Colors which were faded and losing their depth were restored. There are some instances where sharpness is not up to high standards though it is due to the documentary nature and it coming from theatrical print sources in 16mm. A lot has been done to restore the film to its new state (which can be sampled in the restoration featurette on the disc), and it is a wonder that it survives at all. The restoration process took five years from finding suitable elements to its current state of being restored, and the BFI have done an absolutely stellar job with the reconstruction and restoration.

The film's runtime is 77:42.


English LPCM 2.0 mono
The original mono track is presented in uncompressed form. It was mastered from the original film prints, and a lot of effort was put to cleaning the audio track, removing hiss, pops, crackle, and other damage. Depending on the scenes it can be hard to hear some of the dialogue though it is due to the conditions of how it was filmed. Voices are usually clear and music is also very good, though it can be a little flat due to the original sound. Thankfully there are no major issues to be had and it is a good sounding audio track and a great restoration.

There are optional English HoH subtitles for the film in a white font which are well timed, easy to read and without errors. There are some instances where it is very hard to catch what the speaker might be saying and thankfully the subtitles here help with those instances as well as for people who may not be used to some of the thicker accents that can be heard at times.


This is a dual format release, with the film and extras on the Blu-ray in HD and repeated in standard definition PAL on the DVD.

DISC ONE (Blu-ray)

Murray Grigor and Billy Johnson in Conversation (2024) (17:47)
This Q&A from the 2024 Glasgow Film Festival has the BFI's Douglas Weir as moderator with Grigor on stage discussing the film and its restoration. Later, Johnson who was in the audience was invited on stage and his comments are also heard. Talked about were the dangerous situation of filming in Ireland, how the production came about, shooting the entire documentary on one weekend, how the banana boots were once lost and found and more. Johnson's microphone seems to not be working properly so his portions are very hard to hear. Thankfully there are optional English HoH subtitles available for this extra.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, 1.78:1, in English LPCM 2.0 with optional English HoH subtitles

"Clydescope" 1974 short (30:42)
This short film was directed by Grigor and starred Connolly and was sponsored by Films of Scotland and the Clyde Tourist Association as a comedic yet informative look at the river Clyde and its surrounding areas in Scotland. Connolly cycles, gives not-so-good directions to tourists in scripted segments as well as playing some music on the river itself aboard a ferry. The short has not been fully restored, so there are instances of scratches and speckles that can be found, though colors are fairly well balanced and the sound is fairly good without issues of hiss or crackle.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English LPCM 2.0 without subtitles

"BLAST" 1975 short (23:57)
This short also directed by Grigor was sponsored by the Arts Council of Great Britain is a look at Vorticism, the art movement from the early twentieth century centering in London, with the short being named after the 1914 magazine that gave the movement its first mention. Made up of archival footage with shots of various surviving artwork and narration to provide context, the short is quite different from the previous with its tone and its approach. The short has some instances of scratches and speckles, though colors are fairly stable and the image is fair. Sound can be a little on the muffled side, though the narration is intelligible.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English LPCM 2.0 without subtitles

"Restoration Demo" featurette (1:39)
This featurette shows side by side comparisons of the restored and unrestored versions of the scene of Connolly meeting and talking to some soldiers at the airport. The unrestored version on the right has washed out colors, scratches, and debris, while the restored version is on the left.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in English LPCM 2.0 without subtitles

Re-release Trailer (1:00)
Presented here is the newly created trailer for the film by the BFI, which has the film segments in the original 1.33:1 ratio while text screens are in the 1.78:1 ratio. Interestingly it is offered in 5.1 surround, with the surrounding channels spreading out the music while the center channel keeps the original mono audio. It has also been embedded below, courtesy of the BFI's YouTube channel
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1 / 1.78:1, in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 without subtitles

The film and extras are repeated in standard definition PAL.

A 24 page booklet is included with the first pressing. First is a statement by Murray Grigor on the film, its making, its release, and its new restoration. Next is the essay "These Boots Are Made for Talking" by journalist Claire Buchanan on the film and Connolly's career at the time. This is followed by "Clydebuilt: Ships, Masculinities and Movies" by David Archibald, teacher of film studies at the University of Glasgow which looks at the careers of Connolly and Grigor. In addition, there is "Preserving Bananas Through Distribution" by the BFI's Douglas Weir on the film's fate and its new restoration. And there is also a review of the film by Tom Milne from the December 1977 issue of Monthly Film Bulletin reprinted. Finally there are film credits, special features information, transfer information, acknowledgements, and stills.

Clips from the live performances seen in the film, from Billy Connolly's YouTube page:

Murray Grigor and cinematographer David Peat on "Big Banana Feet" at the Edinburgh Film Festival

An excerpt of "Sean Connery's Edinburgh" (1982) directed by Murray Grigor

(The full version is available on the BFI Player for free and also on the BFI's Blu-ray of "Long Shot" (1978)


"Billy Connolly: Big Banana Feet" is a fun and fascinating look at a comedy legend in a dangerous time and place giving laughter and humor to a place where it was needed most. The BFI's restoration is a miraculous one, breathing new life into the once thought lost film, with a good amount of extras included. Highly recommended.

Amazon UK Link

BFI Shop link

The Film: B+ Video: B+ Audio: B+ Extras: B+ Overall: B+


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