Monday, May 11, 2009

Pussycat Pussycat I Love You (1970)

Directed by Rodney Amateau
Starring Ian McShane, Severn Darden, Anna Calder-Marshall
Rated GP

"Please, don't involve me. I'm Swiss."

Ian McShane is Fred C Dobbs, an egocentric womanizer living in Rome, who suffers from delusions about losing his hair and getting raped by Milton, an amorous gorilla. To ward off these inner demons, he has sex with any dollybird he can get his mitts on, and then spills the details of his sleazy sexventures to his quack psychiatrist/hair restoration specialist, Dr. Fahrquardt (Severn Darden). And that's pretty much it.

A late-in-the-game sequel to 1965's vastly superior What's New Pussycat, PPILY is a formless and aimless series of non-starting comic set-ups that always seem like they might actually go somewhere, only to fizzle out several disappointing minutes later.

As there is no formal plot, it's difficult to describe the film in any linear way, so I guess a few snapshots of the action will have to do:

Dr F somehow cons a dozen blonde models into taking a champagne-soak in his private bathtub when his Ilsa-like wife, Anna (Joyce Van Patten, Dick's sister) shows up with a crossbow and shoots the mealy-mouthed cheat right in the heart, point-blank. He does not die, however. Later on, she catches him gallivanting with Fred's maid, and shoots his balls off with a shotgun. He's ok in the next scene, though.

Fred's neglected wife Millie (the lovely Anna Calder-Marshall), fully aware of her husband's wandering eye, decides to have an affair of her own. She picks up a smooth-talking Italian dude at a groovy pop-art party, and goes to the movies with him. Halfway through the film, they start getting it on, and by the time the credits roll, everyone in the theater is rolling on the floor in a ferocious (and fully-clothed) group-grope.

Fred - who is a playwright, apparently - hires a gorgeous new secretary named Angelica (Katia Christine) who...well, actually nothing really happens, there. She's just very nice to look at it.


Eventually, a story of sorts emerges. American movie star Grant Granite (John Gavin) shows in Rome to buy Fred's latest screenplay for the princely sum of $150,000. He simply must buy it by the end of the week or the deal's off.

Problem is, Fred's off to god-knows-where with his new secretary. Grant, Millie, Fred's mistress Ornella (Beba Loncar), plus Angelica's old boyfriend, a leather-wearing lesbian folksinger, and various other peripheral characters all take chase after Fred and Angelica as they traipse around the Italian countryside in a white convertible.

Meanwhile, Dr. Fahrquardt tries to get ride of his wife once and for all by agreeing to a double-suicide pact. They walk into the ocean wearing chains to the weight them down, but at the last moment, the doc escapes in a rowboat. Anna is one step ahead of him and drills a hole through the bottom of it. And so on.

Somehow they all end up on the set of a spaghetti western, and after stealing a stagewagon, Grant and the girls end up getting chased by Fred, a bunch of cops, some cowboys, a smattering of Indians, a few chickens, and an angry film crew. Antics ensue, and at the end, Fred gets raped by the gorilla.

Well, not really. The gorilla does show up, though.

You know, it seems almost impossible for this film not to be a sexploitation classic. After all, it does sorta resemble a cross between Russ Meyer's Supervixens and any given episode of Benny Hill. However, aside from a few sly gags here and there ("How does she know I'm a blonde?"), Pussycat Pussycat I Love You just isn't funny. McShane went on to be a classic heavy in films like Sexy Beast and in dirty western Deadwood, but as a Robin Askwith-esque lothario, he completely fizzles out. Also, for a film about fucking, there's very little skin on display. In fact, there's only one bare bum in the whole movie. Considering that this was clearly made for adults, the GP rating (GP was the precursor to PG) is puzzling and, with blinding beauties like Calder-Marshal and Christine in the cast, pretty frustrating.
Still, what saves this one from the trash heap is the near-constant parade of young lovelies that breeze in and out of every scene, the swingin' space-age bachelor pad lounge-pop soundtrack, and some very groovy sets and fashions. So, your call.

Woody Allen wrote the screenplay for Pussycat Pussycat, so I'm going to lay the blame for this one squarely on him. That guy's made a lot of unfunny movies. Director Amateau (RIP), on the other hand, had an impeccable resume full of drive-in trash and jiggle TV, including The Seniors (1978), Drive In (1976), The Dukes of Hazzard (1979-1980), High School USA (1983) and, perhaps most importantly, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie (1987), one of the weirdest kid movies ever made. So, clearly, this is somebody else's fault.

Availability: Pussycat Pussycat I Love You is not available on DVD or VHS. Check your TV listings!

Clip: Pussycat Pussycat I Love You trailer!

- Ken McIntyre

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