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With: Peter Sellers, Peter O'Toole, Romy Schneider, Capucine, Paula Prentiss, Woody Allen, Ursula Andress
Written by: Woody Allen
Directed by: Clive Donner
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 108
Date: 06/22/1965

What's New Pussycat? (1965)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Salmon Salad

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

My friend, the excellent former film critic Rob Blackwelder, claims What's New Pussycat? as one of his three favorite films. In a huge lapse of friendship, I had never seen it until today, in 2014, when Kino Lorber released a new Blu-ray edition. I do wish I could join my friend in his enthusiasm, but I found the film to be only occasionally funny, and an uneasy mix of flabby and frantic. However, the excellent cast always seems to have been working extra hard, and their combined efforts result in a kind of amiable quality. They can make you smile, even if laughter is a bit much to ask.

Peter O'Toole, who did not get to do comedy often enough -- and is really very funny in My Favorite Year (1982) --stars as womanizer Michael James. Like many womanizers, he finds himself on the verge of being married, to Carole (Romy Schneider), but can't quite give up the company of the many lovely young ladies who always seem to be around. Paula Prentiss, also in Howard Hawks's Man's Favorite Sport? (1964), is one of them, a very sensitive soul who charges into the bathroom to kill herself with sleeping pills anytime Michael doesn't respond to her charms. Another is an unbearably sexy Ursula Andress, who parachutes into his car.

Michael sees a shrink for his condition, Dr. Fritz Fassbender (Peter Sellers, in a wig and a German accent), which doesn't bode well. Fassbender also has his problems and is in love with one of his own patients, Renée (Capucine), who is also attracted to Michael. In one of the movie's best scenes, the two men drunkenly try to woo her from her bedroom window, Cyrano-style. In another scene, O'Toole has a dream that parodies Fellini's .

Woody Allen also stars in a supporting role that doesn't quite seem connected to the rest of the movie, but since this was his first produced movie screenplay after a career in television, it was certainly his right to give himself a part. The bulk of the script doesn't sound like him at all, though he gets in some good, early Woody Allen lines for himself, including one about salmon salad.

Everything ends in one of those old-time French drawing room things in which all the characters converge in a hotel and spend about 20 minutes dashing in and out of each other's rooms, forever shocked to be running into one another. This is followed by a go-cart chase that, at the very least, looks like it must have been fun.

My friend calls these kinds of movies "speed comedies," and I think I know what he means, but I'm not sure it applies in this case. What's New Pussycat? reminded me more of an awkward puppy who likes to run but whose body parts seem to be moving at different speeds; his ears lag behind while his back feet plunge ahead. Parts of the movie feature zippy dialogue for scenes in which nothing happens and no one goes anywhere. Yet, it's all so stupidly cheerful that it's impossible to hate, especially when Tom Jones's famous (Oscar-nominated) song kicks in.

Kino Lorber's Blu-ray comes with a trailer.

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