Of the mulitple retrospectives I've neglected to see because of the nature of living, I feel most regretful about the Otto Preminger survey at MoMA. I targeted Saint Joan, The Moon is Blue, Carmen Jones, and Skidoo, and the only one I managed to see was the last. A shame, but at least the one I viewed was remarkable. Not available in any format, and generally regarded a colossal embarassment, Skidoo is a hippie comedy that features a who's who of TV comedians of the era. Jackie Gleason plays the lead, a former mob hitman gone straight, while Carol Channing is his wife with the wandering eye. Groucho Marx is God, the leader of the gang. Other memorable faces include Mickey Rooney, Burgess Meredith, Richard Kiel, Peter Lawford, and Austin Pendleton.
Marx calls Gleason out of retirment to kill Rooney, who lives a posh life in maximum security. While he goes undercover in prison, his daughter falls in with a group of hippies, and Channing invites all of them to stay at her place. Mother and daughter both start to investigate what happened to Gleason, as the job drags on, taking a laconic long-hair along for the ride. That's the basic narrative - but this is one of those comedy super-productions that depend more on incident than arc. It misses more than it hits, but the (LSD) hits are often incredible. When Gleason and his crew lace all of the prison's meals with acid, the anarchic hijinks ramp up, including a fabulous hallucination by the prison guards: the garbage cans grow legs and put on a finely choreographed dance sequence, complete with solarization and far out color strobes. This distracts the guards from Pendleton and Gleason escaping Alcatraz in a hot-air balloon sewn out of grain bags.
It only builds steam from there, as everyone converges on Groucho's yacht, Channing dressed as a sequined sailor and belting out the senseless (and catchy!) theme song with gusto as the hippies disarm the armed guards with surprising efficiency. This ending, completely insane and illogical - is unavoidably touching - it's a kind of hippie Hollywood utopia where power structures are overthrown and absorbed into a world of complete selflessness and God (Marx) becomes a pot-smoking hare krishna. And then, to top it all off --- all of the ending credits are sung...all the way down to the roman numeral for the year of production.