The Curse of the Jade Scorpion
It’s screwball comedy time at our Woody Allen Film Festival. Once again Woody nicely recreates an era, this time the Thirties. He’s an ace reporter who works alone. But his boss, Dan Aykroyd, has hired Helen Hunt as an efficiency expert to modernize the operation. They hate each other instantly and deeply … and thus, by the conventions of the genre, you know that by the last reel they will fall in love. And they do. And there is a lot of fun along the way.
Both of them are hypnotized by a stage magician, who has ulterior motives. After Woody goes back home the evil genius triggers a post-hypnotic suggestion by telephone and instructs Woody to use his inside knowledge to pull off a jewel robbery, and afterwards to forget that it ever happened. So he is soon hot on the trail of the thief, himself. Later, Hunt is triggered, and each of them at different times are made to believe they love the other one. It takes a long time to untangle it all, and I found most of it pretty funny.
It wasn’t popular at the time, but has begun to find an audience. Woody feels this is his worst movie. (I wouldn’t go that far; my own candidate is Shadows and Fog, which I understand he is very fond of. Go figure.) He decided after that fact that he shouldn’t have cast himself as the hero. I have to agree with him. Woody is not the world’s greatest actor. He has a very limited range, and can only work small changes here and there to the basic wildly gesticulating (he would be incapable of speech if you tied his hands behind him), stammering, high-pitched character who frequently whines. The closest he has ever come to real dramatic acting was in Manhattan, where he was good. This movie would have been greatly improved with any of a hundred more handsome, less manic actors in the lead. And it’s not just the good looks that matter here. He was just all wrong for the part.