Title: What’s Up, Doc?
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Director: Peter Bogdanovich
Music: Artie Butler
Cinematography: László Kovács
M. Emmet Walsh
Peter Bogdanovich’s tremendously successful slapstick comedy is a hearty homage to the screwball genre booming from the 30s, Howard Hawks’ BRINGING UP BABY (1938) in particular. A San Francisco-based romp spawned by four identical plaid overnight bags in one hotel.
The main plot-line tells of an adventurous, tomboyish young woman Judy Maxwell (Straisand), pops out from nowhere, but wherever she goes, accidents breed. So when she sets her eyes on a staid but attractive blond musicologist Howard Bannister (O’Neal) from Iowa Conservatory of Music, nothing can stop her from wilfully hogging him as the apple of her eye. Howard is in town for obtaining a grant for his study, which concerns with igneous rocks, with his ill-paired bossy fiancée Eunice Burns (Kahn in her rip-roaring screen debut with her scene-stealing bouffant hairdo), passively endures Judy’s wanton intrusion, and occasionally tries to retort but to his constant dismay, of little avail. However, Judy really is a humdinger, with her little help, Howard is “this” close to procure the grant and vanquishes his rival, the holier-than-thou continental scholar Hugh Simon (the hysterical farceur Kenneth Mars, hilariously indulges in his snobbery mannerism and foreign accents).
The bags-swapping caper, operated by bit players, is unbeknownst to our protagonists, one of the bag contains top-secret papers and attracts a government agent in pursuit, another one is the valuable jewellery collection from a wealthy hotel patron, which incites larceny from two hotel employees. The other two bags belong to Judy and Howard respectively, one is her personal items and the other is stuffed with his precious rocks. With a brisk and whole-heartedly comical pace, the implausible cat-and-mouse game reaches its apex in the spanking 11-minutes car-chasing stunt wonderfully cashes in on the special terrain of San Francisco’s sloping roads, a Chinese dragon costume and a gigantic plate-glass, appended with an uproarious skit in court where adds some padding to Judy’s back-story.
Ryan O’Neal does a fine job in acting dumb but desirable in his deadpan antics, and Barbra Streisand, feels over-exerts herself to ooze credibility in a superfluously conceived character, but retains her charisma with irresistible strains from Cole Porter, including the theme song YOU’RE THE TOP. Madeline Kahn is a god-send bonanza to the silver screen as a virtuoso comedienne, who is spunkily deprived of self-consciousness and pretence to lampoon a larger-than-life laughing-stock, after all, the film serves as a raucous harbinger of her, O’Neal and Bogdanovich’s next consummate collaboration in PAPER MOON (1973).