Pacific Film Archive has a couple more Otto Preminger treats in store for us before they close down for their annual hibernation scheduled this winter between December 21 and January 13.

On Saturday December 19 at 8:30 pm, the Archive offers Preminger’s psychedelic anti-classic Skidoo, a 1968 mistake that truly must be seen on the big screen to be fully appreciated.

This is the film in which star Jackie Gleason plays a mob hit-man who gets dosed with LSD, Carol Channing (who also croaks the film’s dreadful theme song) as his wife, Mickey Rooney as the man Jackie’s been hired to kill, Groucho Marx as God, Frankie Avalon, George Raft, Fred Clark, Peter Lawford, Richard Kiel, Slim Pickens, and not one — not two — but three former Batman villains (Burgess Meredith, Cesar Romero, and Frank Gorshin).

Once almost as elusive as Jerry Lewis’s benighted concentration camp comedy The Day the Clown Cried, Skidoo is no longer a Holy Grail for fans of cinema obscura: I first saw it at San Francisco’s Red Vic about ten years ago and it’s since shown up on Turner Classic Movies. It remains unavailable on home video, however, so for the full Skidoo experience, you’d better head to PFA this coming Saturday!

Preminger’s creepy 1965 thriller Bunny Lake is Missing is top of the bill on Sunday December 20 at 7:00 pm, and features Carol Lynley and Keir Dullea as, respectively, the mother and uncle of a little girl who disappears during her first day of school. The film features a plot device already well worn by 1965 — that of the hysterical woman who is, perhaps, imagining the whole thing — but will still keep you guessing, at least for a while.

Beautifully shot in widescreen black and white by cinematographer Denys Coop, it also features the screen debut (and swansong!) of pop group The Zombies, then riding high on the American charts with twin hits She’s Not There and Tell Her No. Sandwiched into the story at the behest of the studio in order to help market the film in the US, the group found their one and only big screen appearance limited to a ‘film within the film’, or more precisely, a television set within the film, where they’re seen miming (appropriately enough) a song entitled Just Out of Reach. Zombies snub notwithstanding, Bunny Lake is Missing is full-strength Otto and the last really good film he made.

Last week I mentioned that the Albany Twin was screening Woody Harrelson’s Iraq War drama The Messenger; the film has now migrated to the Shattuck Cinemas for what will probably be a lengthy run throughout December and the upcoming awards season.

The Shattuck also has Collapse, a new documentary from American movie director Chris Smith (pictured above). While American Movie was a hilarious and uplifting tribute to independent filmmaking, Collapse seems more akin to Smith’s more recent anti-globalization feature The Yes Men — only much, much darker. The film’s subject is Michael Ruppert, a conspiracy theorist and political gadfly who apparently anticipated the bursting of the financial bubble in 2008 and thinks things are going to get much, much worse real, real soon.

Having seen the trailer, I’d guess Collapse will make Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story look like a frothy rom-com in comparison. Stock up on canned food, kerosene, and iodine tablets and head downtown for what promises to be a bum trip rivaling the one Jackie Gleason takes in Skidoo.

John Seal is a regular Berkeleyside contributor. He writes a weekly film recommendation column at Box Office Prophets, as well as a column in The Phantom of the Movie’s Videoscope, an old-fashioned paper magazine, published quarterly.

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