After watching Midnight in Paris I decided to go through Woody’s filmography from the beginning. I want to give all of his movies another viewing and to see how he has progressed through his career. First up on IMDb was, of course, What’s Up, Tiger Lily. This is a film I knew absolutely nothing about. That is strange because you can usually find something on a Woody Allen film either good, bad, or indifferent.
Tiger Lily is to be fair, not really a film “directed” by Woody. It is actually a Japanese spy action film whose rights were bought up by Allen and the original actor’s voices are dubbed over by comedy dialog. This is not all that uncommon nowadays. Probably the closest example from recent memory is Kung Pow except that had some new footage spliced into an already existing product. You also see it to some extent on improv shows and probably the best evolution of the idea is MST3K. The guys don’t dub over the lines, but I feel it is the same spirit by mocking a schlocky movie as it is playing.
So I guess you could say Woody was being innovative for the time. Although you might also say this movie has not aged as well as it should have since others have come since then and has done it better. I’m not necessarily saying that is the case, but that might be my guess as to why this doesn’t really get any recognition nowadays.
Woody does a good job by picking a suitably nutty movie to riff on. This is the kind of movie where even if there were no dubbing you would still wonder what the filmmakers were smoking when they made it.
There are a few problems with the dubbing and the film as a whole. The biggest issue is that while Woody is riffing on the movie with these goofy lines, he still has to try to present some kind of coherent plot. Sometimes Woody can’t riff because he has to explain some plot point or the movie is just not doing much. Because of that, there are some stretches where nothing is really happening and it is a little dull. This is where MST3K really shines where this movie doesn’t. You still have the crappy movie, but you don’t have long pauses between jokes. There are also some musical interludes by the Lovin Spoonful which serve no purpose but to lengthen the movie to feature length. Now I’m not blaming Allen (since it was added without his permission after the fact) but it still doesn’t help the movie.
That being said, there were moments I thought were absolutely hilarious. Of the times Woody was able to play around with the dialog he was able to deliver some really funny lines. Overall, Tiger Lily is something of a mixed bag. As mentioned earlier there is a flaw with this dubbing process and having long stretches of nothing happening but there were many parts that were very funny. This was an interesting experiment by Allen which I think is good overall but I hesitate to necessarily recommend to anyone else. The movie is only 80 minutes so if you are curious it won’t take up too much of your time.