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Thursday, October 27, 2011

What's New Pussycat? 1965

This is one hell of a movie.  And for modern audiences, it is one of the more watchable old films.  What's New Pussycat? is part of a genre of sex comedies, which pushed the boundaries of the production code, which by 1968 was completely abandoned in favor of the MPAA rating system that we all know and love.

Its the story of Michael James, womanizer.  (Peter O'Toole)  He is trying to be faithful to his fiance, Carole, so he goes to see analyst Dr. Fritz Fassbender (Peter Sellers) to help him stop cheating on his girlfriend.

It's perfectly clear from the beginning of the movie that Dr. Fassbender is completely insane.  He cuts the session short because he can't bear to hear about Michael's sex life.  So then we meet Victor, Woody Allen, who is completely to blame for the existence of this film in the first place. 

Allen doesn't act so much as he plays the character of a short, insecure, neurotic Jewish man whenever one is required for a film.  So then we meet Carole Werner, Michael's fiance, played by the lovely Romy Schneider...

Carole is a sweet, beautiful idiot.  Michael does a very poor job of concealing his philandering from her.  She must be blind not to see it as a huge red flag, but she's set on marrying Michael.  They fight about it a lot.

The story is told as a series of interrelated vignettes.  Michael walks out on a fight with Carole and then we cut to Michael in a strip club.  There, he has an awkward encounter with Dr. Fritz Fassbender and then he picks up a stripper.  An American expatriate named Liz Bien (Paula Prentiss), an armchair activist hippie prone to nervous breakdowns and suicide attempts.  Also, she's bat-shit-crazy.

Cut to Carole who is out on the town with Victor.  If Michael can fool around with other women, she can fool around with other men.  She could do better than Victor, but she's just bluffing.  They meet a crazed ranting drunk man in the bar and she comforts him.

...and weeps with him.  "Why does everyone have so much trouble with being in love, Victor?  It never seems to work out.  You love me and I love Michael and....*sobsob*......Oh, Victor I'm so mixed up!"

And so she decides to get drunk and go over to Victor's place....and get drunker.  The scene ends with her passed out on the bed, falling on the floor and Victor awkwardly sleeping alone.

Back to Michael and his Crazy Stripper.......

Sorry, Michael.  You pretty much had that coming.
These kinds of scenes go on for a while.  At some point, it's fairly obvious that the script became irrevocably lost and a great deal of the film was improvised.  Actually, it's been rumored that, since Woody Allen was so unknown at the time, the film was actually an excuse for an international group of actors to have a good time in Paris with United Artist's money.  Somehow they managed to put together a pretty good movie, thanks in part to the talented actors involved. 

This man is a genius.
So anyway.....Michael joins Dr. Fassbender's group therapy sessions, where we meet a whole new group of crazies, particularly Madame Lefebvre (Cappucine), a nymphomaniac who cheats on her husband with pretty much everyone except Dr. Fassbender, who is in love with her.  She and Michael are pretty much perfect for each other.  (Cappucine is more famous for playing Inspector Clouseau's first wife.)

It's only a matter of time before Carole catches them at it.....

And so Carole finally leaves him.  Not that that is any problem for Michael.  His bed is never empty.  But then, one evening, as Michael is savoring his bachelorhood with a glass of scotch, Carole's parents arrive.  They are under the impression that their daughter is still engaged to him.

And so they pretend to be the happy couple to please her parents.  Meanwhile, Victor interrupts Dr. Fassbender's suicide/viking funeral in the Seine by asking for psychological advice. 

don't worry about it.  just go with it.  you'll love the movie more if you do.
Since Michael and Carole had such a great time entertaining her parents, they decide to get married after all.  God she's dumb.

whatever makes her happy.
From there, Michael begins breaking things off with his other girlfriends.  He calls Madame Lefebvre first to cancel their planned weekend rendezvous to Chateau Chantal.  But in the next scene, she calls another one of her lovers and asks him to meet her there in Michael's stead. 

The next few scenes involve everyone in the film deciding to go to Chateau Chantal for the weekend.  Michael believes that he will be having a quiet, relaxing weekend away from all his problems, (ok, "problems") but he is gravely mistaken.  A female skydiver, Ursula Andress, falls out of the sky and lands in Michael's car.  What horrible luck.

She's a nymphomaniac too.
Back in Paris, the Crazy Stripper shows up at Michael's apartment calling herself his Fiance, to Carole whom she believes to be the maid.  Carole is pissed, so she goes off to Chateau Chantal to confront Michael.  To Michael's credit, he does a pretty good job resisting temptation and staying true to Carole, until he meets Madame Lefebvre in the hotel bar.  They go to her room, where they find themselves being attacked by her jealous husband, the drunk guy from earlier.  Michael makes his escape, but then narrowly avoids a run-in with Carole's parents.  Suddenly he can't find a room that DOESN'T contain a beautiful woman who wants to have sex with him.  And you thought you had problems.

And then Carole shows up and things get ugly.  And then everyone shows up for an orgy. 

And then there is a guy with a bomb.  And the police get called. 

Suddenly the orgy is abandoned so that they can have a face off with the cops.

Seriously, don't even worry about the rest of the movie.  If you made it this far, you're probably having a good time.

Vital Statistics

What's New Pussycat 1965
Directed By:  Clive Donner
Written By:  Woody Allen
Starring:  Peter Sellers, Peter O'Toole, Romy Schneider, Cappucine, Paula Prentiss, Woody Allen
Music by:  Burt Bacharach
Running Time:  108 minutes

Special thanks to the people at for providing the amazing photographs.

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