Pussycat, Pussycat, I Love You
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Pussycat, Pussycat, I Love You

One of the many reasons movies have retained their hold on audiences staying one of the driving forces in entertainment is its ability to morph in response to the every changing whims and passions of the population. Whether the fad is for westerns or spy thrillers filmmakers are going to discover a way to incorporate the trends into their wares. More importantly than film’s ability to meet the expectations of the public it also offers an enduring reflection of the moral climate of culture and what is generally regarded as socially acceptable. For this current generation they grew up in a socio-political environment where sex, violence and substance abuse are common place. Films routinely depict situations that not that many years ago would have been inconceivable, at least to what was considered polite society. In this case movies offer a means to inspire, support and further societal change. In this regard the Baby Boomers once again were present during an explosion of such alterations in the public perspective. The United States is traditionally a puritanical culture, reserved in our views regarding sexual behavior. Typically American movies lag behind their European counterparts when it comes to depicting nudity and sexual activity. This created a conflict around the mid sixties around the time of the so called sexual revolution. The youth of the country were exploring liberated expressions of their sexuality typically beyond what the entertainment industry would tolerate. The reaction of imaginative filmmakers was to resurrect a very old brand of comedy that could push the limits regarding these matters while lurking behind a veil of acceptability. The sex based farce has been around for literally for millennium frequently on the outskirts of respectability. Bawdy plays of this nature were popular back to the domination of the European city state extending its roots to the dawn of Greco-Roman society. In the sixties films of this nature ascended on proliferation frequently featuring mainstream stars like Rock Hudson, Doris Day, Jack Lemmon and Shirley McClain. The sex farce became a staple of the movie world and audiences swarmed to see them. One of the more remembered flicks in this sub genre is under consideration here, ‘Pussycat, Pussycat, I Love You’, the 1970 sequel to the outrageous example of the farce, 1965’s ‘What’s New Pussycat?’ now, thanks to MGM’s continued release of manufactured on Demand movies ‘Pussycat, Pussycat’ is readily available.

There are a few well established ground rules that any filmmaker endeavoring to create an entry to this genre must adhere. First and most important is all men are Horney, drive solely by their libidos. Okay, that can be said of most types of movies but in this case the women he encounters are generally equally lusty albeit prone to enjoying the chase knowing they are ultimately in the driver’s seat. People tend to speak predominately in double entendres and true to the definition of the farce the circumstances driving the action is traditionally over the top, silly and deliciously ridiculous. For ‘Pussy cat’ the requisite horn dog protagonist we have Fred C. Dobbs (Ian McShane) a man with a zealous love of life, good food, fine wine and nubile young women. His residence in Rome typically assures him more than ample opportunity to relish in his passions. As we just noted the foundation of the farce is the improbable circumstances that pervade the production. You should never attempt to make sense of the plot in a farce; it is not conducive to the retention of your mental health. The emotional status of Mr. Dobbs offers a reasonably fertile filed for the absurd. He is pathological when it comes to several of his phobias. One is something a lot of men can readily identify with, losing his hair. The second fear that defines Dobbs is more esoteric and nicely establishes the ridiculous; Dobbs is in abject terror over the prospect of being sexually molested by Milton. A male on male rape is something outside the boundaries of good taste but there is a twist that makes it more palatable and increases the outlandish quotient by an order of magnitude; Milton is a gorilla with a perchance for cross-dressing. Helping Dobbs navigate these rather unusual psychological waters is r. Fahrquardt (Severn Darden). He has the dual function in Dobbs’ life serving as both his psychiatrist and hair restoration expert. The role of the doctor is the connective tissue binding the pair of ‘Pussycat’ films together. Dr. Fritz Fassbender was a character created by one of the masters of comedy and king of the farce, Peter Sellers. Even a talented comedian like Steve Martin fell short of success attempting to reprise a character so basically Severn Darden didn’t stand much of a chance. To his credit he was an award winning actor garnering several awards for his work on Broadway but he had an insurmountable uphill battle here. This is compounded by the script created by director Rod Amateau is a far cry from the original screenplay by another master craftsman of the farce, Woody Allen. As a director Amateau could not rise to the challenge of perfect pacing required to pull this type of film off. This is the difference between farce and slapstick; timing and perspective. One cast member may be a surprise to modern audiences, Ian McShane. Many may know him as an effective villain or the morally challenged Al Swearengen in the HBO series ‘Deadwood’. McShane was a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts McShane is fully capable of any sort of role as demonstrated here. he can terrorize you as a deadly villain as easily as putting on silly antics to make you laugh. His performance here is the high point of the production. This is a bit dated as films go but remains interesting as a sort of sociological lesson in the change in humor.

Posted 01/31/12

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