Ex-hood Tough Tony Banks (Jackie Gleason) is watching television with his wife Flo (Carol Channing) and associate Harry (Arnold Stang), but they cannot decide on what to watch. He wants to watch anything other than the televised trials of his other associates, but his wife is interested, so having to give up after a remote control skirmish, Tony takes his friend into the kitchen to cook some sausages for supper. However, they notice out of the window that there is a suspicious vehicle parked in the driveway: could it be the cops ready to arrest him as well?
Nope, it's his daughter Darlene (Alexandra Hay) and her new boyfriend Stash (John Phillip Law), who happens to be a free-your-mind espousing hippy, which should give you some idea of where this was heading. But only some as nobody could have conceived of quite where this would end up, as one of the most lambasted movies of its day, even at the time, with its unsteady combination of the hopelessly square and aspiring to freakiness acted out by many of the least appropriate guest stars imaginable. The chief culprit here was our director Otto Preminger, who had become so enamoured of the whole sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll scene sending an earthquake through Hollywood that he thought he could contribute.
Therefore after dutifully testing the waters with an LSD experience of his own, he settled on himself, the ageing, tyrannical moviemaker of the old guard, to create this paean to the improving power of acid and youth culture. Except that actual youths were thin on the ground when most of the name cast were made up of equally over the hill celebrities who could not have seemed more out of place at a love-in or a happening if they had tried. Once assembled, Preminger set them to work on a comedy that endeavoured mightily to seem now and relevant to the social upheavals of America only to find most people preferred to hear that sort of thing from Easy Rider and various A.I.P. flicks.
So what happens when your would-be masterpiece ends up looking like a dinosaur even on its opening night? Well, pitifully few punters line up to see it at the time, but over the years its legendary badness attracts a different kind of movie fan: the turkey aficionado, who saw in this much the same kind of appeal that a car wreck like Myra Breckinridge had been, the film stuffed with cult stars and established stars who were making fools of themselves for over ninety minutes of your viewing pleasure. The plot saw Tough Tony in prison to assassinate Mickey Rooney's liability to his dubious profession, which would have made a fair jailbird thriller, but the spectre of Preminger's trip kept looming.
Therefore Tony gets landed in a cell with draft-dodger Austin Pendleton, who happens to have brought a massive amount of acid with him secreted in his writing paper: one lick of an envelope later, and Honeymooners fans got to see their comedy hero spaced out, or as close as Gleason could get to approximating such an experience. If that wasn't unsettling enough, meanwhile Flo was seeking her close-to-dropping out daughter and trying to seduce Frankie Avalon in the process, complete with a scene where she seductively peels off her dress - Carol Channing, ladies and gentlemen, not everyone's idea of a mature enchantress. Although she did get to sing the title song, penned with the rest of the music by Harry Nilsson (who appears and sings the credits too), a naggingly catchy ditty ruined by her foghorn delivery. By the stage that all the prisoners and guards are high on LSD, including Slim Pickens of all people, the fact that this was the movie that made Groucho Marx (as "God") swear off the whole filmmaking idea will not surprise you. Truly a work to make you go, what the hell were they thinking? Or taking.