Moviedrome Redux: ‘What’s Up, Doc?’ (1972)

❉ There’s a gleeful sense of madcap to this movie that exists solely to entertain.

This movie is tons of fun from start to finish. I love the busy plotting and frenetic vibe, and count me in for any successful attempt at screwball comedy from any year; these types of movies would clearly never be made today and thanks to the people at TCM, their programming slate has been on fire of late. Peter Bogdanovich obviously had a total blast with this wild and crazy little movie, one that seems to be in love with the fact that it exists solely to entertain; there isn’t a pretentious bone in this film’s charming body.

The inspired absurdity, which pays reference to Bringing Up Baby and various Bugs Bunny cartoons, revolves around four strangers who all happen to be carrying the same piece of plaid luggage and staying at the same hotel, with everyone getting their belongings mixed up, and hijinks ensuing.

There’s a gleeful sense of madcap to most of this movie, which always puts a smile on my face, and I love how the entire film felt like an escalating series of nonsense that everyone took just seriously enough to make it all work.

Ryan O’Neal and Barbra Streisand were both superb, while Madeline Kahn stole the film in her first big-screen outing. Kenneth Mars, Michael Murphy, Austin Pendleton, John Hillerman, and many others all contributed to the sterling supporting roster.

Released in 1972, What’s Up, Doc? grossed nearly $70 million domestic on a $5 million budget, making it a massive financial success while receiving warm critical embrace.

The cinematography by master of the era László Kovács paid tribute to films that had come before, while still staying zippy and displaying a sense of visual energy that bolstered the entire production. Verna Field’s brisk editing kept a fast pace which felt appropriate for the material. And despite not being a traditional musical, there’s a harmonious vibe to the entire movie that is very pleasing, with the WGA-winning screenplay by Buck Henry, David Newman, and Robert Benton hitting one hilarious beat after another. Bogdanovich made some absolutely brilliant movies and this is one of his loosest and most purely enjoyable on a simple but never stupid level.

❉ Nick Clement is a freelance writer, having contributed to Variety Magazine, Hollywood- Elsewhere, Awards Daily, Back to the Movies, and Taste of Cinema. He’s currently writing a book about the works of filmmaker Tony Scott, and co-operates the website Podcasting Them Softly.

❉ He is also a regular contributor for, a site dedicated to providing the best news and analysis on viral marketing and ARG campaigns for films and other forms of entertainment.

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