Woody Allen’s goofball rewrite of an already silly Japanese Spy vs Spy film (reportedly something called KEY OF KEYS/’65) redubs all the dialogue as bespoke sketch-comedy (in English) to mild, if slightly overextended, comic effect. The main gag makes the film’s ‘McGuffin,’ the top-secret item everyone’s dying to get their hands on, a recipe for egg salad. But really good egg salad. A precursor of sorts to the MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 formula (take a bad film and record voice-over snark), the jokes are few & far-between for the first couple of reels, but eventually, Allen’s wisenheimer voice & silly sounding non-sequiturs begin to hit their mark. And, as a bonus, the Image DVD has sourced an excellent print which reveals the Japanese original as a knowing bit of bright, trashy fun in its own right. Then there’s that comma, variously there or not there in the film publicity. WHAT’S UP, TIGER LILY? is a salutation. While WHAT’S UP TIGER LILY?, sans comma, is smutty, suggestive, salacious. So too this Image DVD with a soundtrack that comes two ways. The ever so slightly more risqué theatrical release; or the slightly bowdlerized version presumably prepared for tv sales. Fifty years on, both coming off as harmless.
DOUBLE-BILL: Allen’s real film debut as a triple-threat (writer/director/actor) came three years later in TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN/’69, still decidedly funny stuff.