What's Up, Tiger Lily?

1966, Movie, PG, 80 mins

Review

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Woody Allen took a low-grade Japanese spy film called KAGI NO KAGI (Key of Keys) and dubbed in new dialogue (improvised with Buxton, Maxwell, Lasser, Rose, Wilson, and Bennett) to create this wonderfully cockeyed movie. The story describes the adventures of Phil Moscowitz, a Japanese James Bond who is searching for the world's greatest egg salad recipe. The balance of world power hangs on whether or not Moscowitz can keep this recipe--"so delicious you could plotz"--from falling into the wrong hands. After many plucky escapades, Moscowitz confronts Shepherd Wong, the evil mastermind trying to get the recipe for his own nefarious doings. Moscowitz defeats Wong's henchmen and then returns to his loves, Suki and Terri Yaki. They are eager for him to arrive, "bringing with him the constant promise of joy and fulfillment in its most primitive form." But alas, Moscowitz is now under the delusion that he is a Pan Am jet!

WHAT'S UP, TIGER LILY? is cleverly devised, hinging on a well-developed sense of the absurd. Allen and his cohorts make good use of the source movie's situations, turning its obvious cliches into some wonderful parodic gems. The one-liners spew out like popcorn, an effect that wears a little thin towards the end. Footage of the pop group the Lovin' Spoonful edited into the story also detracts from the pell-mell pacing. Though Allen had limited control over the visual content, many of the themes and ideas he would later develop in such films as LOVE AND DEATH and HANNAH AND HER SISTERS are evident in the dialogue--themes of sexual frustration, psychiatry and neurosis, Judaism, and the influence of movies. Executive producer Saperstein paid only $66,000 for the rights to KEY OF KEYS and certainly got more than his money's worth when he turned it over to the rising comedian. Heard on the soundtrack are Lasser, Allen's second wife, and Rose, cowriter with Allen of TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN and BANANAS. leave a comment

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