Friday, January 04, 2008

Camera Obscura: Groucho as God; KITT as a Mustang

What happens when Groucho Marx plays God, Jackie Gleason takes LSD at Alcatraz and Harry Nilsson sings the movie's credits? Well you are watching a movie from 1968 called "Skidoo." And you can watch it tonight (actually 2 a.m.) on Turner Classic Movies as part of their Underground series.

Sure, watching it may give you nightmares, what with Slim Pickens and Mickey Rooney on a drug trip, or it might make you laugh yourself into a coma. The original trailer for this ... um, fractured bit of entertainment is provided with the assistance of Timothy Leary and Sammy Davis Jr. Groovy, baby! Ah, 1968 ...

Words really don't do justice to this movie, but if you can't (or won't) view it, then you should at least read this review by Nathan Rabin at the A.V. Club. It's a beautiful piece of work:

Over the last decade, it's become a cliché for films to use a glassy-eyed character flipping through television channels as a way of conveying alienation and the emptiness of popular culture. But, as Skidoo helpfully reminds viewers, the close relationship between soul-sickness and channel-surfing has existed for decades, as evidenced by an opening scene in which ex-crook Jackie Gleason and sexually voracious wife Carol Channing flip through the deadening hellscape of '60s television. Fortunately, their life gets a jolt when Gleason is recruited by crime boss and houseboat enthusiast Groucho Marx to kill imprisoned stool pigeon and longtime Gleason chum Mickey Rooney. Channing, meanwhile, must deal with daughter Alexandra Hay's groovy new associates, a body-paint-loving pack of road-show Merry Pranksters led by Hay's boyfriend, who explains to her that the reason "the squares aren't making it" is "because they're digging the nine-to-five bag." Though not digging the having-to-kill-his-friend bag, Gleason nevertheless finds himself locked up in a fully automated prison, where book-learning peacenik Austin Pendleton accidentally introduces him to LSD, leading Gleason to engage in an animated, albeit one-sided, conversation with a floating screw sporting Marx's head. Tripping even further, Gleason hallucinates that he's being yelled at by the disembodied heads of Channing, Marx, hood Frank Gorshin, and Rooney--a common side effect of LSD during the late '60s (although some trips found Agnes Moorehead filling in for Channing). Channing, meanwhile, searches for Gleason, leading her to visit the futuristic bachelor pad of Marx henchman Frankie Avalon. There, upon failing to learn Gleason's whereabouts, she gyrates erratically while frantically waving around a yellow feather boa in an attempt to seduce the former teen heartthrob. Though Avalon appears shockingly willing to submit to Channing's crazy-eyed charms, the arrival of Hay and her far-out companion postpones their blissful union. Together, the mismatched quartet visits Marx at sea, where the comedy legend floats about in perpetual limbo. Meanwhile, Pendleton and Gleason concoct a scheme to escape by slipping LSD to the prison populace, including a pair of square guards who hallucinate a garbage-can-themed production number that allows Pendleton and Gleason to escape in a makeshift hot-air balloon. Alas, the psychedelic madness dissipates, but not before Channing, decked out in Michael Jackson-style naval apparel, can sing the unforgettable theme song, whose lyrics about the untapped potential of dove power combined with flower power are as profound and prescient now as they must have been in 1968."

Nicely done, Nathan. Sometimes, you just have to let Art wash over you.


For some, the old TV show "Knight Rider" starring "The Hoff" (that's Mr. Hasselhoff to you) is a classic. As was the car, a computerized Trans Am. But before fans get a full-blown Hollywood movie version/remake, they can watch a new TV Movie later this winter. But be warned - the Trans Am is gone, replaced by a Ford Shelby Mustang. A side-by-side comparison of the two talking cars is provided by Popular Mechanics online magazine. No, really.

The comments on the change - over 2,500 of them - should also entertain you.

1 comment:

  1. It reminds me of the film (which I loved) "It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world"
    ,but much more trippy and colourful!