What's Up, Tiger Lily? (1966):

"Aided and abetted by" Woody Allen, the credits go-go, a debut of sorts, but who's the auteur here? The raw material is a mock-Bondian smarmfest from Japan, Kagi no Kagi, released by American International and, with exotic detours, archvillains, torture by cobra and bikinied cheesecake, very much its own send-up. Unable to alter the visual, Allen intrudes into the work aurally, a parallel soundtrack laid atop the original -- a towel-wrapped Asian babe approaches the leering secret-agent hero in a hotel room, but "Name three presidents," in American tones, parts her lips. Later, amid spy-to-spy necking: "Would you like to see my collection of off-color Italian hand gestures?" Later still, as a criminal mastermind surveys a line of hostesses aboard a ship: "Mom!" The genre spoof is redundant after Seijun Suzuki razed it to ashes, though parody here is less of pseudo-007 shenanigans than of the inherent absurdity of dubbing, to say nothing of image-sound seamlessness, impostor voices (Louise Lasser among them) deflating and altering meaning, orgasmic moans emanating instead from a woman's horrified cries. From the narrative emerges a journey for eggplant salad, the first manifestation of Allen's aperitif-motif, but also the plot's Macguffin, essential for the genesis of a "nonexistent but real-sounding country," battled over by rival, evilly-mustached factions. Since dismissed as juvenile doodling by its author, the picture is actually an exercise in disjunctive radicalism, the word defeating the image, as is Allen's wont, the projectionist taking over the screen for shadow puppetry on stalled celluloid, like Bergman with Persona that same year. (The Lovin' Spoonful are, similarly, nothing if not self-reflexive in their gratuitous padding.) The linchpin of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Kung Pow: Enter the Fist, Most Extreme Elimination Challenge? Woody still has the last word, munching on an apple as a playmate slinks out of a black dress next to scrolling credits: "I promised I'd put her in the film... somewhere."

--- Fernando F. Croce

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