What’s Up, Tiger Lilly? is Woody Allen’s directorial debut. He re-dubs the 1965 Japanese film Key of Keys.
The film follows Phil Moskowitz (who is very much not Jewish) as he searches for a valuable egg salad recipe for the Grand Exalted High Majah of Raspue “which is a nonexistent but real-sounding country.”
“It is written, he who makes the best egg salad shall rule heaven and earth. Don’t ask me why egg salad,” the Gran Exalted High Majah tells him.
It’s a short feature-length film packed with jokes and references to the film medium. At one point, Phil receives a call and tells his friends/coworkers “I was almost shot and killed before the opening credits.”
The voice actors refer to the actors’ performances as they happen, and on three occasions Woody Allen addresses the audience, once in the beginning, middle and end.
There are some funny jokes and observations, but the film really works as an intricate experiment to deconstruct a movie and re-arrange it. Allen shows how you can manipulate a story and completely change the meaning and tone. It helps that the dubbing and sound quality is reflective of movies at the time already.
Woody Allen also seems to be enjoying himself. He’s just playing around, messing with the audience and being silly. There’s no real point to the project other than to entertain and make us laugh. He might also be breaking down movies and a certain amount of ego that goes into them. Nothing is important, like a guy trying to find an egg salad recipe because he’s told to. We go along with the plot because we’re told it’s important. The egg salad recipe, like the brief case in Pulp Fiction, is the ultimate MacGuffin.
At the end of the movie, Phil Moskowitz turns down two attractive women and instead chooses to become a Pan Am jet, soaring into the sky as he sings “love has found me and I have found the way.”