What's New Pussycat?

What's New Pussycat? was released in 1965 by United Artists. Peter O'Toole's character, Michael James, is a "Don Juan" type who has no trouble finding women, he's just not for sure what to do with the ones who want commitment. He's especially attracted to Carol Werner (played by Romy Shneider), who Victor (Woody Allen) is also in love with.

CAROL: Hey- you got name tags on all your underwear.

VICTOR: This is my first time away from home. My mother went crazy with name tags. They're on all my shirts and pants.

CAROL: She shouldn't have sewn them on the outside though.

Victor makes ends meet by helping strippers into odd costumes such as midieval body armor. Michael decides to visit a psychiatrist, Dr. Fritz Fassbender (played by Peter Sellers in a ghastly black wig). Fassbender lusts after one of his patients, Miss Lefebvre (played by the sexy Capucine), who in turn falls in love with guess who, Michael James. The rest of the film plays off of this setup, with various gags and a crop of other beautiful women thrown in along the way to keep the viewer awake.

The film became the highest grossing comedy at the time, but was a failure in the opinion of the critics and Woody Allen. Allen was completely upset during the making of the film and after its release, especially since he was responsible for the script. "They made it into a film that I was very unhappy with. I didn't like it at all. And I vowed at the time that I would never write another film script, unless I could be the director of the film." (Bjorkman 10) Halfway through filming, Woody wanted Feldman to take his name off the film, which never happened.

The negative reviews never stopped rolling in once the film was released, and only a handful of critics enjoyed the film. Talking to Boston After Dark, Woody said of the film, "I loathe everyone and everything concerned with it and they all loathe me. They butchered my script. They wrenched it into a commercial package." (Brode 31) A commercial package it became, making $17 million at the box office and making a star of Woody Allen. Even though most critics hated it, audiences loved it and the Village Voice called it the "best comedy of the year."

The film really does lack a lot of key elements and falls through the cracks towards the middle in my opinion. All the characters are extremely unbelievable, and it's a challenge at times watching Peter Sellers in the horrible black wig he wore in the film. The ending is just absurd, and the only humorous part in the film for me was trying to spot Richard Burton's five second cameo in a bar scene. Even Woody Allen's character Victor had no real animation to him, and you can almost sense the frustration of Woody having to be in the picture. Even though this film was a failure, it was a catapult for Woody's career even though he probably hates to admit it.

Bjorkman, Stig. Woody Allen on Woody Allen. New York: Grove Press, 1993.

Brode, Douglas. The Films of Woody Allen. New York: Citadel Press Book, 1991.