Posted by: detourmag on March 31, 2008 at 12:03 pm

Skidoo (Otto Preminger, 1968)

If all of the patients suffering from dementia at your local convalescence center put on a play about mobsters and hippies, it might look a lot like Otto Preminger’s Skidoo. Jackie Gleason stars as Tony Banks, a retired torpedo who’s tapped by God (Groucho Marx), the head of La Cosa Nostra, to bump off George “Blue Chips” Packard (Mickey Rooney) before he turns state’s evidence. In order to “kiss” his ex-pal Packard, Tony has to get himself jailed. His cellmate, Fred the Professor (Austin Pendleton), devises a number of clever contraptions and puts his stash of LSD to good use.

Meanwhile, back at the Banks household, his wife Flo (Carol Channing, wearing some amazing feathered outfits), invites their daughter’s boyfriend Stash and his cadre of hippies to crash at their place. This allows ample opportunity for culture clash humor between the suburban squares and the free lovin’ hippies, and of course an eventual understanding. But these expected laughs are too easy a target for screenwriter Doran William Cannon, who opts instead to spend more time with Tony hanging out in jail with Beany (Richard Kiel), Leech (Michael Constantine), and The Man (Frank Gorshin who, in addition to Cesar Romero, doubles the “’Batman’ Villain Quotient” of the film). There’s also the infamous scene of Tony taking an accidental acid trip. If you’re ever unknowingly dosed by a stationary envelope, remember that the onset of LSD delusions is signaled by bad special effects and excessive reverb. You might also begin to doubt the fidelity of your spouse and be privy to a song and dance routine from Mickey Rooney.

His bad trip seems to finally break Gleason out of his Ralph Kramden hothead routine, and makes him a kinder, gentler gangster. He realizes that he can’t kill Packard and belongs with his family. Alas, his daughter Darlene (Alexandra Hay) is being held captive on God’s boat.

As God, Groucho Marx really exemplifies everything that’s wrong with Skidoo. The septuagenarian comedian is completely disconnected with the rest of the film. His character is locked away in a cabin where he communicates via closed-circuit television. Even when he’s interacting directly with another character he never makes eye contact, perhaps ashamed of the terrible dialogue or merely relying on cue cards.
Apart from a few too little, too late songs from Harry Nilsson (who briefly appears as a stoned prison guard), Skidoo is best remembered as being an embarrassing attempt at Paramount Pictures trying to cash in on a youth market that it clearly misunderstood. Paramount. What a bunch of squares. — Mike White

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[tags]Skidoo, Groucho Marx, Jackie Gleason, Otto Preminger, Mickey Rooney, Carol Channing[/tags]


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