Writer/director Woody Allen explains that when he was asked to supervise the making of the definitive spy thriller, what he decided to do was acquire the rights to a B-grade Japanese spy caper (Key of Keys (1965)) filmed with Japanese actors in Japanese, delete the existing soundtrack, and redub into English and reorder select scenes to create an entirely new movie, a comedy, having nothing to do with the original story-line. The result... International spy Phil Moscowitz, working out of the Asia bureau, is a self-professed lovable rogue with sex always on his mind. He inadvertently gets involved in a mission, the client the Grand Exalted High Majah of Raspur. The success of the mission will determine if Raspur, a non-existent country that nonetheless sounds real, will indeed become real. Moscowitz is to retrieve something stolen from the Majah by criminal Shepherd Wong: the best ever egg salad recipe. Phil is to be assisted by two of the Majah's own agents, sisters Teri and Suki Yaki...Written by
American International Pictures bought the 1965 Japanese film "Key of Keys" for $66,000. However, the studio quickly realized that it was far too confusing for Western audiences. AIP president Henry G. Saperstein came up with the idea of turning the original inscrutable thriller into a comedy by dubbing it with different dialogue. As Woody Allen had just scored an unexpected hit with his screenplay for What's New Pussycat (1965), Saperstein hired him. See more »
A glass filter is clearly seen being pulled away from the lens as Phil wakes up in the Sheik's palace. See more »
Saracen pig! Spartan dog! Take this! And this! Roman cow! Russian snake! Spanish fly! Anglo-Saxon Hun!
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In the closing credits, Woody Allen watches a striptease. The credits appear on the right side of the screen as the striptease goes on and at the end there is a statement: "And if you have been reading this instead of looking at the girl, then see your psychiatrist, or go to a good eye doctor." And then an eye chart appears. See more »
Originally released in Japan as Kagi No Kagi (1964). The USA version features a completely new comedy storyline and dialogues by Woody Allen, with voices supplied by Allen and Louise Lasser among others. See more »
One of the few Woody Allen films that doesn't work for me
Woody Allen gives a Japanese-directed James Bond-styled actioner a new soundtrack, including different dialogue telling a new story. Allen's changes turn the film into a spy versus spy quest for the recipe of the world's best egg salad.
I'm a huge Woody Allen fan. The idea behind this film is promising and the basic premise of Allen's story, grafted on to a pre-existing film, International Secret Police: Key of Keys (Kokusai himitsu keisatsu: Kagi no kagi), from 1965, by Senkichi Taniguchi, is funny, if silly. However, this is one of the very few Allen films that just doesn't work for me. The Taniguchi film seems chopped up to a point of incoherence (maybe it's presented here in its entirety and in the same order, but that would mean that its running time is around 60 minutes or less), although that could be a factor of the changed dialogue. I found myself wishing there was an alternate soundtrack that was a legitimate dubbing of the original film.
Although there are a few very funny scenes, one-liners and ideas in Allen's new story, most of it isn't very funny. Too many scenes seem like they may be serious translations of the Japanese dialogue. There are too many occurrences of silly vocal noises, but not enough to make that a motif so that it's funny. There are too many long sections where the film is mostly boring. The untranslated beginning goes on far too long. The mini-interview with Allen that explains the film's premise would only be funny if it weren't true. The Lovin' Spoonful scenes aren't funny, and perhaps weren't intended to be--they seem like a studio attempt to try to put more butts in theater seats upon the film's release by featuring a popular rock group. It doesn't seem like Allen spent much time on thisthe dialogue seems largely improvised and mostly disjointed. In short, the film is basically a mess, and only worth viewing for Woody Allen completist, and men with a serious Asian woman fetish (it's also worth noting that Taniguchi seems to share a foot fetish).
What would have worked better, and probably would have made the film much funnier, is if Allen would have written and directed both the film that we're seeing visually and a completely different story for the soundtrack. Much more time would have to be spent crafting each component to make them seem unrelated but coherent and funny. That's an experiment that remains to be done, to my knowledge.
There are enough positive aspects that the film doesn't deserve a 1--as I noted, there are times that What's Up, Tiger Lily is funny--but the best I can do is a 5 out of 10.
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