Since announcing my Woody Allen Blogathon, I have watched the first 8 films, and I haven't had a moment to write about them. I shouldn't have watched so many, because the exemplary quality of the other 7 really interfered with my revisit of What's New Pussycat, which has to be one of the worst films I've ever seen. I take consolation that in this case it's not Allen's fault, as it will be in many films to come.
What's New Pussycat is a total mess that somehow became a box office hit. Originally starring Warren Beatty, the title refers to how Beatty used to answer the phone. Woody Allen was called in to punch up the script. His jokes were such a hit that the producers asked him to rewrite the entire script.
As it turns out, in the rewrite, Allen gave most of the best jokes to himself, and Warren Beatty quit in a fit of pique, to be replaced by Peter O'Toole. According to sources who have seen this script, it has well-defined roles for the women in the film and a much neater parallel between Woody Allen's nebbish character who can't get a date and O'Toole's manwhore. I would love to see this script (and this film). But sadly it was not to be.
Peter Sellers agreed to play the small role of the psychiatrist as a way to ease back into acting after a heart attack. The star power of Peter Sellers was not in doubt, as this film sits in between Dr. Strangelove and Casino Royale. Sellers, naturally, demanded that all the best jokes be given to his character, and also demanded a bigger role. And then he started improvising on set. Tensions ran high, until producers reduced Allen's role and made Sellers the star of the film.
Then, as these things go, the producer forced them to cast his supermodel girlfriend in a minor role, then demanded that they enlarge her role. As you can imagine, this pissed off all the other women in the film, especially established stars like Ursula Andress.
Basically, man-about-town Peter O'Toole consults Sellers' deranged psychiatrist to help cure him of his sex addiction. Instead. Dr. Fassbender merely serves as a sidekick on O'Toole's strip club visits and 60s twisting. This movie made me long for Austin Powers. That's never a good sign. At least Austin Powers is occasionally funny.
Only one good thing came out of this project. Okay, two.
The first is the theme song, "What's New Pussycat," which was a number one hit for Burt Bacharach and Tom Jones, and is way classier than this movie deserves.
The second is that What's New Pussycat was a big enough hit that Woody Allen could demand total control of his films henceforth.
Have you seen this movie? Am I being too harsh? If you haven't seen it, here's the trailer, which perfectly encapsulates the manic silliness of the movie.