And among those twisted, geeky souls who cherish the memory of Stella Stevens swimming in her bloated underwear -- and the chance to witness the very moment when Shelley Winters' always-tawdry career finally hit the skids for good -- this tale of cruise-ship disaster on New Year's Eve is one to treasure.
In these days of computer-generated imagery, we never again will return to the days of upside-down models in fully discernible studio tanks. Few other Oscar-winning songs from movies have compared with the delights of "The Morning After" ("If We Can Hold On Through the Night"), as sung in the film by a hapless bunch of cruise freeloaders.
How could the stunt-averse Gene Hackman top his role as Rev. Scott, the Moses of the dining room? And in how many other movies can one watch a dead guy clearly scratch his nose?
Sweetback Productions, the Chicago troupe that made its name lampooning such films as "Plan 9 From Outer Space," "Valley of the Dolls" and "The Birds," fell apart in an acrimonious split last season. David Cerda -- who penned music, lyrics and book to those past hits -- and most of the other main creative types from Sweetback now have regrouped under the apt name of Hell in a Handbag Productions.
And with the help of director David Zak (who obviously tried and failed to inject a little discipline into the Sweetback madness), Handbag's first project, "Poseidon! An Upside-Down Musical," has moved the troupe from the late-night fringes to a prime-time spot at the Theatre Building.
As with most of Sweetback's past shows, some knowledge of the movie is a prerequisite for enjoying the show. So if such lines as "Panties. What else do I need?" leave you merely bemused, look elsewhere for holiday entertainment.
But fans of the movie will think they've died and gone to the Queen Mary.
Despite the bigger space, fancier director and earlier start time, the show actually is a very typical Sweetback affair. As with all Cerda's prior shows, it's excessive, messy, unwieldy, played partly in drag, full of terrific comic numbers, consistently lacking in cohesion, hopelessly esoteric, too long and very funny.
Along with his strange ideas and warm spirit, Cerda's biggest strength is his songwriting ability. And there are numerous well-staged production numbers here, including the memorable "Just Panties" and "In the Water, I'm a Very Skinny Lady."
Moments of high comedy include the squashing of a fellow (played by cardboard cutout), people playing waves (you have to be there) and the infamous Christmas tree climbing sequence. If you gotta ask, you'll never understand.