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What's Up, Tiger Lily?


What’s Up, Tiger Lily?

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Before becoming an internationally revered auteur, Woody Allen was simply a hot young comedian and a film novice not above acting as a hired gun. Consequently, comedies like 1965's What's New Pussycat?, 1966's What's Up, Tiger Lily?, and 1967's Casino Royale are noteworthy largely for the way they integrate Allen's fully formed comic persona into a slapdash international stew of disparate, sometimes conflicting elements. Tiger Lily, a Japanese spy movie re-dubbed by Allen and cohorts into a spoof about the search for an egg-salad recipe, marks an unlikely mixture of Allen, a foreign James Bond knock-off, B-movie powerhouse American International Pictures, and The Lovin' Spoonful (which provided the title song, and also performed in and scored the film), all brought together in a shotgun wedding as ill-conceived in practice as it is in theory. Early in the film–which recently appeared on DVD–Allen is introduced as Tiger Lily's author, but the credits equivocate. He's actually one of seven listed writers and voice artists, including his onetime paramour Louise Lasser, Mickey Rose (who co-wrote Bananas and Take The Money And Run), and several future Happy Days scribes. Tiger Lily shares a certain strained wackiness with Pussycat and Royale: a pseudo-groovy, swinging-'60s tone far removed from Allen's own infinitely squarer (and therefore less dated) sensibility. Projects like this are invariably hit-or-miss, and Tiger Lily misses more often than it hits. Flashes of Allen's wit surface occasionally, particularly during bits in which he appears as himself, but they're few and far between, and generally drowned out by silly voices, a surprising amount of awkward silence, and pacing that makes the film seem much longer than its 80 padded minutes. What's Up, Tiger Lily? is widely considered the gold standard for the little-loved re-dubbing school of comedy, but that says more about the likes of Kung Pow: Enter The Fist and J-Men Forever than it does about the film's own merits.