Manhattan, 1940. CW Briggs (Allen), an insurance agent, finds his cosy position under threat when Betty Fitzgerald arrives on the scene as a new broom employed to streamline office practice. When company employees attend a nightclub birthday bash, Briggs and Fitzgerald - already sworn enemies - are invited onstage by a hypnotist (Voltan, played by David Ogden Stiers) who soon has them cavorting like a regular, love-struck couple. While Betty conducts a clandestine affair with her boss (Aykroyd), Briggs, responding to telephone cues from Voltan, spends his evenings executing jewel robberies from wealthy clients and his days investigating said robberies, totally unaware of Voltan's subterfuge. Soon, Voltan throws Betty into the mix and the robberies continue, while Briggs wriggles under the finger of suspicion.
If all this sounds like a lightweight offering, that's exactly what it is and yet The Curse Of The Jade Scorpion turns out to be Woody's most enjoyable offering since Everyone Says I Love You. Brimming with laugh-out-loud humour and deliciously vicious putdowns, there's enough here to satisfy loyal Woody-ites but not, it seems, the critics. Allen uses his smaller than usual cast of stars to great effect, though his (not-quite) one night stand with gorgeous Laura Kensington (Theron) inspired the usual cat-calls from scribes unable/unwilling to see that Allen is, as usual, sending himself up rather than trying to turn the clock back.
Still, ignore this mean spirited viewpoint. Just sit back and enjoy Allen and Hunt trading insults while bouncing off each other like billiard balls; Theron and Berkley having a whale of a time as different sides of the coin sexpots, and Aykroyd tackling his philandering husband role with relish, right up to a signposted twist-within-a-twist ending that's less than surprising, but entirely pleasurable.
A word, too, for David Ogden Stiers whose Voltan character places Allen in a group of directors who include Fritz Lang, Claude Chabrol, Jess Franco and, more recently, Bryan Singer. The spirit of Dr. Mabuse lives on!
American writer/director/actor and one of the most distinctive talents in American film-making over the last three decades. Allen's successful early career as a stand-up comedian led him to start his directing life with a series of madcap, scattershot comedies that included Bananas, Sleeper and Love and Death. 1975's Oscar-winning Annie Hall was his first attempt to weave drama and comedy together, while 1979's Manhattan is considered by many critics to be Allen's masterpiece.
The 90s saw Allen keep up his one-film-a-year work-rate, the most notable being the fraught Husbands and Wives, gangster period piece Bullets Over Broadway, the savagely funny Deconstructing Harry and the under-rated Sweet and Lowdown. After a run of slight, average comedies, Allen returned to more ambitious territory with the split-story Melinda and Melinda, the dark London-set drama Match Point, romantic drama Vicky Cristina Barcelona, one of many of his films which won acting Oscars, and the unexpected late-on hits Midnight in Paris and Blue Jasmine. In any case, he remains an intelligent, always entertaining film-maker with an amazing back catalogue.