What begins as a familiar 60s romp, replete with Woody Allen script, soon degenerates into a tone-deaf, poorly-executed farce with some long and uneventful sections of dialogue that do little but irritate. Peter Sellers hijacks Allen’s screenplay, riffing on a Dr Strangelove motif whilst donning a strangely inappropriate hair-piece as he bemoans Eddra Gale, his Wagnerian wife, for being too fat and nagging. The first two minutes depict domestic abuse, gaslighting, misogynistic behaviour and bullying as an entree before the comedic shit sandwich.
Woody Allen is strip club assistant (?) Victor Shakapopulis, whilst Sellers takes the insanely showy role of pervy psychiatrist Dr. Fritz Fassbender, whose superficial and child-like relationship with women as a live-action Pepe Le Pew is something to behold. Meanwhile Michael James, played by O’Toole, as editor of Paris Match is beset by women unable to resist his charms. That is a summary of a film which reduces everyone except the three male leads to hideously shallow caricatures and the females to their male-friendly characteristics.
As the main protagonist, O’Toole’s blue-eyed stillness is occasionally allowed to break through Allen’s barrage of relentlessly innuendo-laden gags and one-liners. Supporting Allen’s wordplay are numerous non-descript Euro stereotypes amidst blatant homage to greater works; most notably, Cyrano De Bergerac’s seduction techniques aped poorly and humourlessly by O’Toole and Sellers under Capucine’s window.
A film like A Shot In The Dark has aged well (though its adulterous theme is a little uninspiring), since the technical prowess of that ensemble cast and Blake Edwards’ powers of co-ordination retain its value. Pussycat suffers from the worst ideological excesses of the sixties appearing two years before the official summer of love, but dripping with nihilistic misogyny and few effective jokes.
There are other more enjoyable and less one-note depictions of the debauchery and absurdity of this transformative period of cinematic history; A Shot In The Dark and any number of Carry On films have more to offer a modern audience than this dubious relic. Even Barbarella, despite the focus on Jane Fonda, provides more unique and fresh imagery than Clive Donner’s effort and for a better performance, but in keeping with the retrograde attitudes to women, look no further than Alfie. This is the sort of film that gets a bad review, but the reviewer ends with ‘but it’s got a cracking theme song‘… but not this time. It’s average Tom Jones at best.
Available on Blu-Ray from Monday 2 December 2019