Skidoo (Preminger, 1968)

Man, I wish Skidoo was a better movie than it is. I love Otto Preminger, but this one’s a mess. Another example of Hollywood trying to capitalize on 1960s counter-culture, gone horribly awry.

The film is a bit of a who’s who: Jackie Gleason as Tony Banks, a former mob hitman forced out of retirement by eccentric and reclusive mob boss God (Grouch Marx in an unfortunate final film role); Carol Channing as Tony’s wife Flo; Frankie Avalon as another mob tough, Angie; Peter Lawford, Burgess Meredith, George Raft, Cesar Romero, and Mickey Rooney all also make appearances.

The film doesn’t work for a variety of reasons: the script is silly, but full of cliches and naivete of youth culture. It feels like an Elvis beach movie transposed onto drug culture. The performances are hammy as hell, especially Carol Channing’s, which is nearly unwatchable it’s so over-the-top. There are long digressions into LSD montages, something that Roger Corman’s The Trip did with a bit more success the year prior, and, while both films suffer from what now looks like an archaic drug-wonder, at least the Corman flick felt earnest in its attempt to capture a high rather than just look at it in goofy stupefaction:

Screen shot 2015-04-30 at 11.36.38 PM Screen shot 2015-04-30 at 11.36.53 PM

There’s something in here that reminds of The Party from the same year: both films look at hippy culture as this colorful, lingo-infused jam that must inevitably lead to a gang’s all here raucous ending just because so over-crowded climax can feel (falsely) like the manic energy of youth:

Screen shot 2015-04-30 at 11.37.12 PM

Maybe the color scheme of Skidoo would have been more fun if the film hadn’t tried so hard to be wacky (possibly its ultimate, nutshell failure). Look at these costumes. The heavy saturation contrasts nicely against otherwise mundane rooms:

Screen shot 2015-04-30 at 11.36.06 PM Screen shot 2015-04-30 at 11.36.21 PM

This is the only film I know of where the ending credits are sung – for every name. It’s probably the best part of the film. And check out this assistant director:

Screen shot 2015-04-30 at 11.37.40 PM

Erich von Stroheim, Jr. Yep, that’s Erich von Stroheim’s son, an AD for his career. Never knew that.

The reason I watched Skidoo in the first place was for Preminger. It’s a shame that there’s none of his gorgeously fluid blocking and camera in here. The thing feels very wooden, which is not what I think of when I think to Bunny Lake Is Missing, Anatomy of a Murder, Laura, etc.

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About dcpfilm

Shooting, teaching, writing and watching the Phillies.
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One Response to Skidoo (Preminger, 1968)

  1. Pingback: The Moon is Blue (Preminger, 1953) | dcpfilm

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