Directed by Otto Preminger
Olive Films blu-ray release, 2014
This is a film that is a giant risk on every level. From acting choices (like Jackie Gleason) to crazy writing (at one point a hallucinatory man in a light pyramid has a conversation with Gleason in a prison cell...) this film walks the line of absolute disaster and brilliant masterpiece. I think, in the end, it lies somewhere in the middle. That being said, I thought it was an avant-garde experiment well worth doing and I'm so please Olive has put it out.
The basic premise is this: Gleason is an old retired mob hitman who is called in for one more job. Problem is, he doesn't want to do that work anymore. He now has a loving wife and daughter.
Up to this point, you might think what is the big deal? Well, imagine that all this plays out like a mix between The Pink Panther and Happy Days. Gleason's daughter is a big time hippy.
I'm not getting this across well at all.
This movie is crazy. There are dancing trash cans. DANCING TRASH CANS. EVERYONE ends up on acid. Prison guards do musical numbers. Groucho Marx plays a germophobe mob boss named God. All the villains from Batman: The TV Series show up. A hippy boat army attacks God's yacht with love. Pacifist physicists make hot air balloons out of laundry.
This is the type of movie that fits perfectly within the Laugh-In culture. Completely subversive, absolutely absurd and strangely intellectual. Its about the culture wars and violence and the military and the prison system and drugs. And, did I mention that Carol Channing is genius?
After all that, you also get the soundtrack. Put together by Harry Nilsson, it is absolutely strange and absolutely catchy in a way only he can do. This is a fascinating piece and the blu-ray looks gorgeous.