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Films: S is for...


The late ’60s had a mind-expanding effect on Hollywood. Even Otto Preminger, director of such sober fare as Anatomy of a Murder (1959), found himself ‘turned on’ for this weirdo masterpiece. The story’s fairly innocuous: mob boss Groucho Marx gets Jackie Gleason out of retirement to rub out incarcerated gangster Mickey Rooney. Things are, however, rather complicated by pretty much every character tripping on LSD at some point in the film. The result is a jaw-dropping mish-mash of acid-addled visions (tap-dancing dustbins) and dialogue (‘I see mathematics!’) which is all the more incongruous as the majority of the cast are well into middle-age. Preminger, still ordering script rewrites when the film was halfway finished, lets himself go – in all senses. By the time Harry Nilsson brings proceedings to a close by scat-singing the end credits, the cinema audience is firmly divided between those who absolutely love this misbegotten mess, and those who are already on the bus home. As Sammy Davis Jr put it in the film’s slightly panicky publicity: ‘Anyone who don’t like that don’t like chicken on a Sunday!’

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