What’s New Pussycat

Review No. 450

If I had just watched it, I wouldn’t be drawing such a blank on “What’s New”.


Directed by: Clive Donner
Written by: Woody Allen
Dr. Fritz Fassbender: Peter Sellers
Michael James: Peter O’Toole
Carol Werner: Romy Schneider
Renée Lefebvre: Capucine
Liz Bien: Paula Prentiss
Victor Shakapopulis: Woody Allen
Rita: Ursula Andress
Also Starring: Annette Poivre, Barbara Somers, Daniel Emilfork, Edra Gale, Eléonore Hirt, Françoise Hardy, Howard Vernon, Jacqueline Fogt, Jacques Balutin, Jean Parédès, Jess Hahn, Katrin Schaake, Michel Subor, Nicole Karen, Robert Rollis, Sabine Sun, Tanya Lopert

Distributed by United Artists on June 2, 1965. Produced in English by France and the United States. Runs 108 mins. Not rated by the MPAA.

What’s New Pussycat was watched on March 9, 2013.

“I’ll be back tomorrow. If I’m not back tomorrow, send for the police. If they’re not back tomorrow, send my clothes.” –Michael James (Peter O’Toole)

With the notable exceptions of Dr. Strangelove and the Inspector Clouseau canon, Peter Sellers is the “disposable comic.” His films never show marks of brilliance, and they’re difficult to remember by name, but they’re all fairly decent farces.

You might think otherwise about What’s New Pussycat, knowing of its writer. Woody Allen made his writing debut here. Yes, the same Woody Allen who wrote directed the more dramatic comedies Annie Hall and Manhattan. It wasn’t until around the mid-1970s that Allen departed from his initial style: slapstick. And yes, some of these era flicks are, nonetheless, brilliant fun. Watch Sleeper or Bananas for immediate proof. Allen’s writing makes no change to a typical Sellers comedy, shallow but adequately humorous.

What’s New Pussycat is a grab bag of jokes that disguises itself amid no true plot. The film begins with the outlook for a tale that intertwines two similar stories connected by one character (Sellers), both tales of a man (O’Toole and Allen) and his respective search for love. The story quickly fades away, unless you can possibly follow its wild, ADHD pacing. Certain events could be highlighted, but how they come to be is practically a mystery.

Contrary to what you might expect, What’s New Pussycat does offer one genuine surprise. A film like this isn’t one that would be marked with superior acting–no matter who is in it–but Peter O’Toole and Woody Allen both perform solidly, the latter in his onscreen debut. The film may not having been quite as amusing without them, because we have seen it all before. I enjoyed this wild, nonsensical romp while it lasted. I guarantee you will too, so long as you enjoy the lighthearted, giddy humor. If you’re looking for something that will stick with you, though, you may as well pass on What’s New Pussycat.



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