| Dir: Woody Allen
“Would you like to see my collection of off-colour Italian hand gestures?”
Akin to the dependably amusing ‘Newsreel’ section of Mock the Week, the enjoyment within Allen’s utterly bizarre and goofy reconstruction of the 1960’s Japanese B-list spy thriller International Secret Police: Key of Keys comes from absurd context of the re-dubbed dialogue to the visual accompaniment. That’s all that Woody Allen’s directorial debut is really – a serious (if corny) foreign film edited to resemble a satirical comedy spoof about the theft of an egg salad recipe. Each joke is shaped around this context and relies on it – and they largely work. There’s some fantastic examples: a bunch of criminals jumping on a boat from a dock, then the film rewinding so that they’re jumping of while overdubbing in high-pitched voices ‘There’s a mouse on board!’; someone peeking up from hatch and overdubbed saying ‘You’ll never guess I have no pants on’; a recurring joke about a woman needing to pee at inopportune times. Such is the manipulation of the films original context and culture (at their expense), this is perhaps something of a 1966 The Interview. It is promoted as being ‘aided and abetted by Woody Allen’, after all. Although even more bizarrely, it was Allen who actually tried to sue to stop the film being released, dubbing it an ‘insipid…sophomoric exercise’.
While you could only loosely call this Allen’s first piece of work as a filmmaker (hence why I chose to include it in this retrospective), this is paradoxically an appropriate yet surprising commencement to his canon. Appropriate in that it imbues with it the familiar theme of a hapless lover and sexualised relationships that Allen has become known for, yet surprising because he has truly never produced anything like this in the next 50 years. One character states that ‘I never saw someone who thought of sex so much’, who can’t be the only person to have said this to Allen in his lifetime. The credits even feature a woman stripteasing as Woody nonchalantly eats an apple lying on a couch. But the payoff is clever because Allen has always had a natural aptitude for writing cracking jokes. This is all oddly enjoyable, although it’s only as fun as it is limited and juvenile.
Part of Woody Wednesday. First viewing.