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Film / What's New Pussycat?

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Poster art by Frank Frazetta

What's New Pussycat? is a 1965 comedy film directed by Clive Donner, starring Peter Sellers, Peter O'Toole, Romy Schneider, Capucine, Paula Prentiss, Woody Allen, and Ursula Andress. It was Woody Allen's film debut, as well as his first produced screenplay. The title song is by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

Michael James (O'Toole) is a Parisian fashion editor and notorious playboy who wants to be faithful to his fiancée, Carole Werner (Schneider), but every woman he meets seems to fall in love with him, including Liz Bien (Prentiss), a neurotic American stripper, and Rita (Andress), a parachutist who accidentally lands in his car. His psychoanalyst, Dr. Fassbender (Sellers), is preoccupied with stalking one of his patients, Renée Lefebvre (Capucine), who in turn longs for Michael. Meanwhile, Carole concocts a plan to make Michael jealous by letting his friend Victor Shakapopulis (Allen) try to seduce her. Hilarity Ensues when all of these characters check into a quaint hideaway hotel in the French countryside for the weekend, unaware of one another's presence.

What's New Pussycat? contains examples of:

  • Actor Allusion:
  • And Starring: "And Introducing Woody Allen" / "Guest Star Ursula Andress"
  • Animated Credits Opening: Done by Richard Williams. Can be seen here.
  • Black Comedy Rape: Dr. Fassbender's pursuit of his patient is portrayed as hilarious, even though he repeatedly tries to tear her clothes off, and presumably, to rape her.
  • Brawn Hilda: Such a woman is married to Viennese psychiatrist Fritz Fassbender. She tracks him down to a hotel in full Wagnerian dress to stop his philandering, and appears to be a Freudian nightmare to Victor.
  • The Cameo: Early in the film, Michael enters a bar/nightclub, and a man walks past with his back to the camera and asks him, "Excuse me, but haven't you seen me somewhere before?" Michael replies, "Well, the name is familiar, but I can't place the face." The man in question is Peter O'Toole's friend and drinking buddy Richard Burton, who is uncredited; Michael bids him farewell by asking him to give his love to "What's-her-name".
  • Car Cushion: Very soon after Michael vows to give up womanizing for his impending marriage, skydiver Rita lands next to him in his open roadster.
  • Closet Shuffle: Taken to absurd levels, climaxing in a hotel where all the guests (except the protagonist, he hopes) are hiding an illicit affair with someone else. At one point, in fact, Victor lets a woman hide in the closet of the room he's in with his date... then does the same with the man chasing her.
  • Crazy People Play Chess: Victor plays strip-chess but ends up fainting from tension.
  • Credits Gag: The opening credits feature animated titles of the main seven cast members. Peter Sellers's credit appears backwards, so the film stops briefly to correct this.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady:
    • The film opens with Dr. Fassbender, in a velvet suit and shoulder-length hair, arguing with his wife who accuses him of seeing another woman. She demands "Is she prettier than me?" He shouts "Is she prettier than you?! ...I'm prettier than you!"
    • Michael later mistakes him for a girl he had been pursuing.
  • Elevator Going Down: Michael and Renée agree the proper setting is essential, then promptly make use of an elevator. In the throes of ecstasy he assures her it's perfectly safe, so long as the combined weight of the two people does not exceed 1400 pounds.
  • Gainax Ending: The drawn-out climactic sequence during which the entire cast ends up staying at the same resort, with a bomb and a bunch of perverts looking for an orgy in their midst. After all ending up in one hotel suite, in various compromising situations, they join forces to charge down the police officers that try to apprehend them, and all of the major conflicts created throughout the film are immediately resolved simply by their escape. Also, Rita somehow becomes fully clothed during the sequence.
  • Head-Tiltingly Kinky: At the rendezvous hotel where the suites are named for famous lovers, the concierge gets a call and tells her husband "The gentleman in 'Marquis de Sade' asks for twelve loaves of bread and a Boy Scout uniform!"
  • Here We Go Again!: When he sees Michael and Carole arguing again after apparently sorting everything out, Fritz's last line is "Perhaps I haven't lost a son. Maybe I've gained another patient."
  • Homage: The harbour scene in which the lovelorn Dr. Fritz plans to commit suicide and Victor's intrusion inhibits him from doing so pays tribute to City Lights, in which the Little Tramp saves a dipsomaniacal millionaire bent on self-destruction.
  • Kavorka Man: "When the light hits me in a certain angle, I'm actually...handsome!" In-universe, Michael is this. But all you have to do is take one look at Peter O'Toole and get the joke.
  • Sauna of Death: Victor tries to do in friend/romantic rival Michael by cranking up the heat in the steam room they're in. Michael thrives on the steam, and Victor nearly passes out (doesn't help that he's fully dressed, sportcoat, glasses and all).
  • Shaped Like Itself
    Anna Fassbender: Lascivious adulterer!
    Fritz Fassbender: Don't you dare call me that again until I have looked it up!
    Anna Fassbender: Adulterer! Adulterer! Lascivious adulterer!
    Fritz Fassbender: Silence when you're shouting at me! [He looks it up] Lascivious adulterer... Lasci... "Lascivious adulterer is a man that is a lascivious adulterer"! What kind of book is that?
  • Shout-Out: Many. Vincent van Gogh and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec are shown at a sidewalk cafe, and Michael makes a James Bond comment about Rita (played by Ursula Andress, AKA Honey Ryder in Dr. No).
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Victor goes down to the harbor by night to celebrate his birthday with a dinner every year. This year Fassbender has come down on exactly the same night to commit suicide, which puts them in competition. In the end it works out well, as they end up talking through each other's problems.
  • Technical Virgin: The neurotic Liz owns up to being a 'semi-virgin', explaining "Here [in Paris] I'm a virgin; in America I'm not" without further elaboration.
  • Title Theme Tune: Written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and sung by Tom Jones, it became a big hit on both sides of the Atlantic.