WHAT’S UP, TIGER LILY?
(director/writer: Woody Allen; screenwriters: Julie Bennett/Frank Buxton/Louise Lasser/Mickey Rose/Bryan Wilson; cinematographer: Kazuo Yamada; editor: Richard Krown; music: Jack Lewis/The Lovin’ Spoonful; cast: Woody Allen (Narrator/Host/Voice), Tatsuya Mihashi (Phil Moskowitz), Mie Hama (Terri Yaki), Akiko Wakabayashi (Suki Yaki), Tadao Nakamaru (Shepherd Wong), Susumu Kurobe (Wing Fat), China Lee (stripteaser), Tetsu Nakamura (Grand Exalted High Macher of Graspar); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Woody Allen/Henry G. Saperstein; Image Entertainment; 1966)
“It’s so crazy that it works until halfway through, as that’s when the gimmick becomes tiresome and the sophomoric one-liners lose their zip.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An early Woody Allen (“Annie Hall”/”Bananas”/”Match Point”) directed and written low-budget spy-spoof comedy. John Sebastian’s folk-rock group The Lovin’ Spoonful has a sweet spot in this oddball film (performing “Fishin’ Blues,” “Respoken,” “Pow,” and other tunes). Woody got hold of a 1965 Japanese exploitation thriller Kagi No Kagi (Key of Keys), directed by Senkichi Taniguchi, and has the same Japanese cast use Woody’s re-dubbed comical dialogue while keeping the same sleazy James Bond type of spy story. It’s so crazy that it works until halfway through, as that’s when the gimmick becomes tiresome and the sophomoric one-liners lose their zip.
Japanese superspy Phil Moskowitz (Tatsuya Mihashi) gets hired by the Grand Exalted High Macher of Graspar (Tetsu Nakamura) to locate a special egg salad recipe stolen by the evil shipping boat gambler Shepherd Wong (Tadao Nakamaru). The High Macher (Yiddish for big shot) believes “he who can make the best egg salad shall rule the world,” and the Macher has a newly-formed country waiting to get a place on the map and in the meantime the population is packed away in crates. The recipe is also sought by Shepherd’s rival, Wing Fat (Susumu Kurobe), who is prepared to kill for the recipe and hires Phil to steal it from Shepherd. Phil, in his attempt to get the recipe from Shepherd’s vault in his boat, is assisted by two Japanese agent beauties, Suki Yaki (Akiko Wakabayashi) and Terri Yaki (Mie Hama). The superspy deems the recipe as something so vital, he works to make sure it doesn’t end up in the wrong hands. In the end, the hero believes he’s a Pan American commercialairplane and is last spotted babbling away like a madman, as he’s transformed into the plane that takes off from the airport.
There’s lots of youthful energy, some fun in following the deliberately mismatched dialogue and enough snappy one-liners to keep the oddity from getting too childish. If it’s inspired lunacy you’re looking for rather than a well-developed film, this Woody spoof is right on the yen.
Woody appears to introduce the film, and does his usual nerdy shtick.
REVIEWED ON 5/27/2010 GRADE: B