[box cover]

What's Up, Tiger Lily?

Back before there was Steve Oedekerk's dubbed chop-socky comedy Kung Pow: Enter the Fist — and way before Mystery Science Theater 3000 or the movie-dialogue improv game on Whose Line Is It Anyway? — there was Woody Allen's hilarious What's Up, Tiger Lily? (1966). After the surprise success of What's New, Pussycat? in 1965, comic-turned-screenwriter Allen was offered a shot at an unusual project. American International Pictures had acquired distribution rights to a Japanese spy thriller called Key of Keys, but in early screenings audiences responded by laughing at the movie. So producer Henry G. Saperstein thought that it might be amusing to dub a deliberately comic English-language soundtrack onto the film, and offered the project — including a whopping budget of $75,000 — to Allen. Working out of a New York City hotel room, the comedian screened the film several times for a handful of actors and writers who helped make up jokes for the script. The result is an almost entirely plotless spy-film parody focusing on secret agent Phil Moscowitz, who must save the recipe for the world's greatest egg salad before it falls into enemy hands. After inserting a few newly shot scenes featuring himself, Allen's running time for the film was still less than an hour — so Saperstein inserted some completely incongruous musical numbers by the Lovin' Spoonful, which made Allen so angry that he threatened to sue the studio (he dropped all talk of suing when the film was released to good reviews, though.) With the end result mainly just a collection of goofy one-liners, one can't help but wonder what the original plot of the movie was, what with all it's Middle Eastern thugs, sexy dames, poisonous snakes and the like — especially since Allen's version makes no sense whatsoever (in one of the specially filmed segments, an interviewer asks Allen if he'll explain the plot to the audience. "No," says Woody — and it's back to the action). The jokes are entirely silly, in the same throwaway style that would later serve MST3K so well — Moscowitz yells out "Saracen pig! Spartan dog!" whenever he pounds his enemies, a femme fatale drops her towel and says, "Quick — name three presidents!" and our hero invites a sexy dame to view his collection of "off-color Italian hand gestures." The humor is very sophomoric and mostly made up of ludicrous non sequiturs — in other words, the perfect movie for anyone who enjoys such entertainments while under the influence of various mood-altering substances. Image Entertainment's DVD release is a solid, bare-bones disc. The anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) of the cheesy, original Japanese film isn't bad — generally pretty clean, and altogether much better looking than this reviewer recalls from having seen the movie in bargain repertory cinemas back in high school. The monaural Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is very good, with every joke and groan-inducing wisecrack coming through crystal clear. Included is the theatrical trailer and — more importantly — both the theatrical and sanitized-for-television audio tracks. If you've only previously seen What's Up, Tiger Lily? on broadcast television, then you're in for a treat — the original soundtrack is much more adult and much, much funnier. Twenty-one scenes are showcased in an "audio comparison" feature to contrast the differences. Also on board is a bio on Allen and a fun Easter egg on the main menu — highlight Allen's glasses, press "enter," and you get egg salad recipes. Keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor



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