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The Curse of the Jade Scorpion

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Title: The Curse of the Jade Scorpion  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Woody Allen, Wallace Shawn, Dan Aykroyd, Old Westbury, New York, 2001 in film, Antz, Elizabeth Berkley, David Ogden Stiers, Mystery film, Irwin Corey
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Woody Allen
Produced by Letty Aronson
Jack Rollins
Charles H. Joffe
Stephen Tenenbaum
Written by Woody Allen
Starring Woody Allen
Helen Hunt
Dan Aykroyd
Brian Markinson
Wallace Shawn
David Ogden Stiers
Charlize Theron
Elizabeth Berkley
Peter Gerety
John Schuck
Cinematography Zhao Fei
Edited by Alisa Lepselter
VCL Licensing GmbH
Distributed by DreamWorks Pictures
Release dates
  • August 24, 2001 (2001-08-24)
Running time 103 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $33 million
Box office $18,914,307

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion is a 2001 crime comedy film written by, directed by, and starring Woody Allen. The cast also features Helen Hunt, Dan Aykroyd, Elizabeth Berkley, John Schuck, Wallace Shawn, David Ogden Stiers, and Charlize Theron. The plot concerns an insurance investigator and an efficiency expert who are both hypnotized by a crooked hypnotist into stealing jewels. The film bears much more in common with Allen's earlier screwball comedy films than with other films made by him around the same time.


In 1940, C. W. Briggs (Woody Allen) is an insurance investigator in New York City who is highly successful, owing to his many connections and ability to think like a criminal. His work does not impress Betty Ann Fitzgerald (Helen Hunt), an efficiency expert who butts heads with C. W. over his old-fashioned views. Her advice is usually followed however, because she secretly is in a relationship with her boss, Chris Magruder (Dan Aykroyd), who constantly reassures her that they will be free to pursue their relationship in public once he finalizes his divorce with his wife.

While attending a dinner with some employees, Voltan (David Ogden Stiers), a stage magician calls on Betty Ann and C. W. to be in his hypnotism act. Using the words "Madagascar" and "Constantinople" on them respectively as trigger words to put them in a trance, the two are given the suggestion that they are newlyweds who are madly in love before being reawakened. When C. W. returns home for the evening, he receives a call from Voltan, who uses C. W.'s trigger word to put him back in a trance and orders him to steal jewels for him. C. W. has no recollections of these crimes after he is woken up and is determined to prove himself by solving the crimes. He starts investigating Betty Ann on the grounds of her suspicious behavior (actually related to her affair with Chris) and sneaks into her house one evening. There, he witnesses Chris tell her that he has reconciled with his wife and will not have a divorce. When he leaves, Betty Ann becomes drunk in a fit of depression and tries jumping out of a window. C. W. stops her and spends the night keeping her from other self-destructive activity.

Eventually, investigations start picking up evidence pointing to C. W., leading to his arrest. He manages to escape to Betty Ann's place, where she grudgingly hides him. Thinking that Briggs is no longer available, Voltan calls Betty Ann, using her trigger word of "Madagascar" to put her in a hypnotic state and steal for him. On her return, still in a trance, the subliminal suggestion of being in love leads her to seduce C. W. Eventually C. W.'s co-workers George Bond (Wallace Shawn) and Alvin "Al" (Brian Markinson) recall the initial hypnotism and realize that it is the cause of the robberies. George, an amateur magician, frees C. W. of the trigger word and upon remembering everything, he rushes to the site where the still hypnotized Betty Ann is delivering the jewels to Voltan. Voltan discovers C. W. and holds him at gunpoint. However, C. W. deduces that a small-time criminal like Voltan would not have the nerve to do something as drastic as murder. Voltan tries escaping, but the police catch him shortly after.

Back at work, C. W. tries convincing Betty Ann that he loves her and she is better off with him than Chris (who insists once more that his relationship with his wife has begun to deteriorate and that they will be divorcing). She remains unwilling to break up with Chris, leading C. W. to ask, "Where are you going? Madagascar?" and puts her in a hypnotic and loving state.

As they are leaving, George remarks that he had already deprogrammed her, and C. W. realizes that as well and understands that Betty Ann is going with him voluntarily, and the two walk off.


Critical reception

The film received mixed reviews from critics; review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that the film received 45% positive reviews, based on 122 reviews.[1] Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 52 out of 100, based on 31 reviews.[2]

Allen himself seems to be in relative agreement with some critics, remarking that it is perhaps his worst movie. Allen has said he felt he let down the rest of the cast by casting himself as the lead. He explained that part of the problem was the period setting and the set building expense which made it too expensive to go back and reshoot anything.[3] Allen famously re-shot the entirety of his 1987 drama September after he felt he got the casting wrong.

With its production budget of $33 million, it is Allen's most expensive film. In relation to most of his most successful productions, the film fared poorly in American theaters with ticket sales of over seven million dollars. Its worldwide gross was $18.9 million.[4] However, in the ten years since its release, it is beginning to enjoy a new generation of cult status comedic recognition. Roger Ebert wrote, "There are pleasures in the film that have little to do with the story. Its look and feel is uncanny; it's a tribute to a black-and-white era, filmed in color, and yet the colors seem burnished and aged. No noir films were shot in color in the 1940s, but if one had been, it would have looked like this. And great attention is given to the women played by Hunt, Berkley and Theron; they look not so much like the women in classic film noir as like the women on film noir posters - their costumes and styles elevate them into archetypes. Hunt in particular has fun with a wisecracking dame role that owes something, perhaps, to Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday."


French singer-songwriter Dimie Cat pays a tribute to the film in the song "Woody Woody", from his album ZigZag.[5]


  1. ^ "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion - Movie Reviews, Trailers, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2008-02-15. 
  2. ^ "Curse of the Jade Scorpion, The (2001): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2008-02-15. 
  3. ^ Lax, Eric. Conversations with Woody Allen: His Films, the Movies, and Movie Making. New York: Knopf, 2007.
  4. ^ "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-02-15. 
  5. ^

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