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Michael James, a notorious womanizer, desperately wants to be faithful to his fiancée Carole, but runs into serious problems since every woman he meets seems to fall in love with him. His psychoanalyst Dr. Fassbender can't help him either since he's busy courting one of his patients who in turn longs for Michael. A catastrophe appears on the horizon as all the characters check into the Chateau Chantelle hotel for the weekend not knowing of each other's presence. Written by
WHAT'S NEW, PUSSYCAT? was a popular ticket in 1965--but when seen outside the context of its era it emerges as a slightly choppy, slightly slapdash film long on froth and short on actual amusement.
Originally written by Woody Allen as a vehicle for Warren Beatty, both script and cast underwent a mighty change before it reached the screen, so much so that the experience prompted Allen to swear he'd never allow any one but himself to direct one of his scripts in the future. The story revolves around Michael James (Peter O'Toole), a handsome man who wants to marry Carol (Romy Schneider) but can't stop sleeping around long enough to make a commitment. He accordingly goes to psychiatrist Dr. Fritz Fassbender (Peter Sellers)--who is a sex-crazed nut in pursuit of patient Renee (Capucine.) Before the dust settles Woody Allen, Paula Prentiss, Ursla Andress, and Edra Gale are added to the mix.
O'Toole and Sellers are hardly challenged by the material and Allen introduces his "I'm a New York neurotic" screen persona for the first time--but it is really the abundance of supporting actresses that give the film what little zing it still retains. Romy Schnieder was among Europe's greatest stars and finest actresses of her era; although the script offers her little, she is charming indeed. Much the same can be said of the legendary Capucine in the role of a world-weary nymphomaniac; Ursula Andress, who arrives in the film via parachute, and bovine Edra Gale, who runs riot in Wagnerian attire. But the real scene stealer is Paula Prentiss.
Although extremely attractive, Prentiss was originally typed as a "second lead" of the Eve Arden type--but she quickly graduated to neurotic comedy roles for which she had a truly unique flair. WHAT'S NEW, PUSSYCAT? finds her at the top of her form as the interestingly-named Liz Bien, who writes bad poetry, has a tendency to overdose on pills every time she goes to the bathroom, and who attaches herself to the much-harassed Peter O'Toole. It really is a performance that transcends the material and which lingers in the mind long after the credits roll.
The DVD release is third rate, with mediocre visual elements and sound so uneven that I constantly adjusted the volume as I watched. When all is said and done, this is really a film for hardcore fans of its various stars--and especially for Paula Prentiss. If for no other reason, the film is worth watching for her alone.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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