Mind Blowing Movies: What's New Pussycat?, by Richard Metzger

Mm200Recently, Boing Boing presented a series of essays about movies that have had a profound effect on our invited essayists. We are extending the series. See all the essays in the Mind Blowing Movies series. -- Mark

Mind Blowing Movies: What's New Pussycat?, by Richard Metzger

[Video Link] After reading over the other entries in Boing Boing's Mind Blowing Movies series, I couldn't help feeling a little embarrassed that I was unable to think of even a single film that I felt had truly blown my mind. Works of art, music, weird science, books of philosophy, sure, ideas have blown my mind, but when I try to mentally flip though the catalog of my favorite films, or ones that I quote from the most often, or what have you (Female Trouble, Valley of the Dolls, Putney Swope, Ken Russell's Isadora Duncan: Biggest Dancer in the World, Head, Richard Lester's criminally underrated Petulia) I still wouldn't file any of them as particularly "mind blowing," just as movies that I happen to really, really like.

When Mark sent out the invite to contribute, I confess that I immediately drew a cinematic blank, but there was one film that that didn't necessarily "blow my mind," per se, in the same way that the other participants here have expressed it in their posts, but it did fundamentally alter my mind, or at least it did something to immediately change my perception of the world around me, in the sense that there was a before & after aspect when I watched it. Accordingly my anecdote will be short and sweet.

When I was a 7-year-old kid in 1973, What's New Pussycat? the quintessential sexy 60s comedy "romp," aired on ABC's Movie of the Week and I watched it in the basement of my parent's house on a cheap black and white TV set with a rabbit-ears antenna with balls of tin foil crunched at the tip of each branch. The picture quality was comparable to a security camera. Why I was watching What's New Pussycat? sitting alone in a damp, crappy basement or even interested in this particular film in the first place at that age, I couldn't tell you, but I am guessing I wanted to watch it because I liked the theme song, sung by Tom Jones (I owned the 45rpm on Parrot Records) or else simply because Peter Sellers was in it.

In any case, the pivotal moment for me happens at about 120 minutes into the film when Swiss bombshell Ursula Andress suddenly drops from the sky and parachutes into Peter O'Tootle's convertible. I can vividly recall my eyes growing wider and wider and feeling what you might call a "stirring" in my loins as I stared in utter amazement at the most gorgeous creature I had ever seen in my short life. I was completely astonished and transfixed by how beautiful she was. I had never before seen a woman who looked quite like that and the sight of this blonde goddess strongly implied to me that there was something that I might be missing out on...

It was at that precise moment the proverbial light-bulb went on over my head about what the whole "big deal" with girls must be all about. That such a creature as Ursula Andress existed indicated that there were more of them out there. Suddenly there was meaning in my life and something to aspire to. I made a mental note to move to Switzerland as soon as I grew up.

By the end of the film -- which being a comedy made in 1965 only hinted at the things that were going on offscreen -- the mechanics of procreation seemed rather obvious to me.

After that brief "Aha!" moment, the world around me started to make a whole lot more sense...

In the clip, Ursula Andress drops from the sky to tempt soon-to-be-married Peter O'Toole in What's New Pussycat?




  1. I was surprised by how late Woody Allen shows up in this trailer. I guess he was second banana at that point to Peter S.

    1. Well, this was actually Woody Allen’s first produced script.  Most of his best lines/role was given to Peter Sellers, when he joined the picture.  Apparently, Allen was pretty unhappy with how it played out and this was one of the reasons he eventually worked so hard to make films entirely under his own control. 

  2. I’ve long felt that the go-cart chase at the end is an excellent example of comedic surrealism

  3. Yep, that’s one good movie. Sounds like it blown the writer’s pants rather than his mind, though. :) 

    I would really, really like to see Aguirre: Der Zorn Gottes on this list. That’s a mind-blowing movie, if I’ve ever seen one. 

  4. I remember seeing this at a theater when it first came out. Of course, I was just a kid but it had Peter Sellers in it and that was enough for me. Another movie from this time period that someone should work up for ‘Mind-Blowing Movies’ is the original Casino Royale, one total mess of a movie. It has not one, not two but SIX Bonds in it. Lines like, “Don’t breathe that gas! It’s deadly lysergic acid diethylamide!!!” And check out who’s in it:  Peter Sellers, David Niven, Woody Allen, Ursula Andress, Orson Welles, William Holden, Charles Boyer, John Huston, Angelica Huston, George Raft, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jacqueline Bisset and even Peter O’toole! What’s not to like? Totally weird.

  5. Cameo by Richard Burton in the bar scene, he says to O’Toole. “Shakespeare was the greatest man that ever breathed.” In Casino Royal Peter O’Toole’s cameo line is “Richard Burton was the greatest man that ever breathed.” Someone needs to make a movie with the line, “Peter O’Toole was the greatest man that ever breathed.” Maybe Woody Allen…

    1. Someone needs to make a movie with the line, “Peter O’Toole was the greatest man that ever breathed.”

      David should have said that in Prometheus.

      1. it would have made as much/more sense as any other dialogue that actually appeared in Prometheus. 

    2. I’m not sure any mere thespian could ever be elevated to on par with the Immortal Bard…

      Also, DaVinci > Shakespeare, for mine

  6. I saw this last year at my parents’ house – Peter Sellers was “Star of the Month” on Turner Classic Movies and they showed loads of his films. I was already a big Sellers fan and I’d seen a bunch already (though not this one) and I watched as many as I could manage.

    I also love both Peter O’Toole and Woody Allen, but I didn’t really enjoy this film. It’s not as bad as Casino Royale, which I could only sit through part of (I’ll give it another shot sometime)… something about this style of 60’s comedy just doesn’t really work for me – the individually excellent parts (particularly the actors) don’t come together to form a coherent and/or funny whole. 

    Despite that I have seen dozens of these types of films – the other 60’s Woody Allen films, lots of Peter Sellers films, and tons more I can’t think of at the moment – I’m always willing to give them a shot especially if some of my favorite actors are in them. There are dashes of brilliant jokes occasionally, but most of these movies are a slog – even true classics like the Pink Panther series (which I love anyway).

    I think it’s great that this was chosen as part of this series, because it illustrates an important point – a movie doesn’t have to actually be particularly good, or hold up over time, to blow your mind (especially if you’re seven years old when you watch it).

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