Given the fact that most of us have experienced “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” TV series, and YouTube re-edits of movie trailers (my favorite is the one that turns “The Shining” into a feel-good film), “What’s Up Tiger Lily?” may seem quaint. However, dismissing it that way would be a shame, because this film still holds up as one of Woody Allen’s funniest efforts.
Yes, Allen went for broad humor here, as opposed to the sharp wit he’s known for, but the way he reassembled footage from two existing Japanese spy films and then inserted his own dialogue is really quite brilliant. The storyline is scattershot, but the main thrust involves a search for the world’s greatest egg salad recipe, which was stolen from the Grand Exalted High Majah of Raspur. He hires lovable rogue Phil Moskowitz to find it, but Phil has to contend with Shepherd Wong and Wing Fat, rival gangsters who want the receipe for themselves. Along the way, we learn that Moskowitz is a ladies’ man.
The film careens from one goofy scene to the next, with an unbilled cast providing lines that perfectly fit the new context of the storyline and characters. Moskowitz in particular sounds just right, and I love the way Allen timed the new dialogue so it matched the movements onscreen, sometimes even circling around to reference previous events. Unfortunately, the producers insisted on sticking The Lovin’ Spoonful into the movie, so you’ll have to sit through a pair of musical numbers that serve no purpose.
This DVD is the same as the one issued in 2003, except it includes both the original theatrical soundtrack and an alternate one that was created for home video and TV airings back in the 80s. The differences between the two are minor, but if you want to peruse them easily, there’s an option in the Special Features section that lets you do that.
Finally, the disc includes a text filmography for Allen that wasn’t updated for the movies he’s released since 2003. As is typically the case with his movies on DVD, Allen doesn’t provide a commentary or any interviews, so I wouldn’t hold out for a jam-packed Special Edition. His films always receive this kind of bare-bones treatment.