What’s Up, Tiger Lilly?

What's Up, Tiger Lilly? Benedict Pictures 1966.

Before watching the movie:

Every summary I’ve seen of this movie is quick to note that when Woody Allen dubbed this Japanese movie he did so without regard to the plot, but if that’s the case, wouldn’t it be better to refer to it as recycling video for an entirely new plot? It’s not like that’s very uncommon, as evidenced by early anime imports and the first several seasons of Power Rangers.

The fact that it’s not trying to make much sense indicates that it’s even less like those and more like a more rehearsed, long-form version of Whose Line is it Anyway‘s “film dubs” game. Would anything on the cover, or perhaps anything at all suggest that the movie is concerned with finding the perfect egg salad recipe? That sounds like an adlibbed joke that comes back so much it’s the closest thing to a plot.

I hope to enjoy it, but I wonder if I’d more enjoy a couple hours of standup comedy.

After watching the movie:

A woman escaping from prison gets into the wrong getaway car. For some reason, secret agent Phil Moscowitz, loveable rogue, was on the scene and is mistaken for her ride. In a series of events that don’t really matter, Moscowitz ends up working with the woman, Teri Yaki, and her sister Suki on a mission from the Majah of Raspur (a real-sounding country that doesn’t exist, but hopes to soon) to retrieve the secret of Raspur’s famous egg salad recipe, which is vital to Raspur getting a space on the globe. The recipe is currently in the hands of Shepherd Wong, an egg salad-addicted mob boss. Moscowitz and the Taki sisters team up with Wing Fat, another mob boss, to steal it away from Wong, but Wing Fat wants the recipe for his own reasons. Meanwhile, ladies and gentlemen: Lovin’ Spoonful.

I think this is the most plotless film I’ve ever reviewed, and I once reviewed a documentary. I’d seen some comparisons to Mystery Science Theater 3000, but I expected something slightly more focused. The ultimate effect is almost exactly what you’d get if you watched an episode of MST3K with the movie muted. The voices riff off of whatever’s on screen without much concern for relevance. Not to say that the randomness is entirely bad, since that’s what the film relies upon for laughs. Many of them even work. When Phil has his truly insane moments, it’s usually a good joke.

When I read that Lovin’ Spoonful did incongruous music for the film, I was expecting the sort of vibe that one gets from the chase scenes in the original Scooby Doo cartoons, when a bouncy flower child song accompanies screams and sight gags. I got that sense in exactly one scene, when the heroes have a cobra set upon them.  However, that moment is quickly cut into by some fooling around with “the projectionist.” The biggest contribution Lovin’ Spoonful provide is in two music videos randomly spliced into the film which do nothing but hinder the storytelling. The first one is placed immediately after the story finally gets going, after four minutes of undubbed Japanese and a short introduction from Woody Allen about what the deal with the movie is. I’m glad to hear that these music videos were placed in the film by the executives over Allen’s objections.

Of course, since the script doesn’t bother to match the original plot, it doesn’t bother to match lip movements. This was passed off as a decent joke once, when the video has one character speaking on the phone and then says that his associate will continue the conversation with ventriloquy. Neither does the sound quality try to hide that it’s dubbed. If it wasn’t in a time when every dubbed line sounded dubbed, even if it wasn’t supposed to be, I’d suspect the filmmakers of intentionally ignoring the (very simple) methods of making recorded voices sound natural.

A hit and miss enjoyable experience, with little content and little to comment upon. It could be improved by either being less or more spontaneous.


Watch this movie: once. Then again to understand it.

Don’t watch this movie: with egg salad in your mouth.

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