Phil Moscowitz is parked outside a prison one night when an escaping young lady drops in on him. They go back to his place only to be attacked by two hoodlums - Phil has found himself embroiled in a plot involving two factions who are out to secure the recipe for the world's best egg salad.
Taking a Japanese spy film from 1964, Woody Allen dubbed over the original action with his own dialogue. When an interviewer in the introduction asks him why, he explains that death is his bread and danger is his butter - no, danger is his bread and, er, well, anyway, he has created a wacky comedy with a mixture of hip and corny jokes, and a couple of musical interludes from the Lovin' Spoonful for good measure.
The original film looks to be very influenced by James Bond - this was a few years before You Only Live Twice, although Mie Hama and Akiko Wakabayashi are in both. There are fistfights, exotic locations, gadgets, beautiful women and presumably the hero would offer a handful of throwaway quips, too. In Allen's version, the quips are the whole point, and enough of them hit the mark for the enterprise to be judged a success.
Mostly, the dubbing makes the characters look silly. The prison break has the warden broadcasting an announcement over the tannoy which is interrupted by a weather forecast. One of the villains, Wing Fat, walks down a line of girls making appreciative comments until - "Mom!" When he is outsmarted, the other villain, Shepherd Wong, yells at his henchman, "That was Wing Fool you fat! ...that was Wing Fat you fool!" And, of course, there is a creepy wretch with a Peter Lorre voice, which is killing the voiceover actor's throat.
Allen includes a few non dubbed gags, like reversing the film, stopping the action to have the complicated plot explained (or not), and having a hair on the screen be chased around by the silhouette of a hand. There's enough invention to sustain the short running time, but it's not too consistent, and some of the gags will just make you groan. It would be interesting to compare Tiger Lily with the original - it looks just as crazy (see the "choosing a moustache" bit, for example).
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 hit Midnight in Paris. In any case, he remains an intelligent, always entertaining film-maker with an amazing back catalogue.