Wednesday, February 29, 2012


First time I heard about this 'un was during a carpool ride back '78 way. Seems that this already decade-old film was playing at either some revival house or local porn palace "Midnight Movie", so in order to boost that all-umportant college kid attendance a particularly slimy commercial plugging said showing was airing on none other than the local top 40 outlet. From a good thirty-five years of brainfog, I most definitely recall this particular ad being one of the sleaziest and downright sickest things to have been allowed on the airwaves at least until the advent of birth control commercials...boy you could tell from the outset that the copy writers were trying hard overtime to make SKIDOO out as one of the most outrageous cinematic excursion extant since L'AGE D'OR, or perhaps even SALO with a little bitta ILSA, SHE WOLF OF THE SS tossed in for good measure! Still remember the snarling "hey kid, c'mere here!" tone of voice the announcer was using to reel us lumpen ignoramuses in, complete with the shocking revelations of a scene featuring co-star Groucho Marx smoking marijuana and of course that hoary old "Banned in 23 Countries!" come on that even David Peel got a whole lotta mileage outta! Not surprisingly, I recall similar ads being used around the same time for other revived cinematic excursions ranging from MYRA BRECKENRIDGE to that Sherlock Holmes film with the "quick Watson, the needle!" line...sheesh, I can't believe we were all that innocent to fall for such POOR WHITE TRASH PART TWO hype that promised the world but only gave us slight pseudo-innuendo and perhaps a gratuitous reference to VD!

After doing some research I decided that SKIDOO just hadda've been one of those typical late-sixties "Now Films" considering the lineup of stars from Jackie Gleason and Carol Channing on down mixed with the up 'n comers whose careers undoubtedly fizzled out soon afterwards. Naturally it wasn't like I was just champing at the bit to see it the way I've always wanted to catch a flick like say, THE BABY MAKER (which at least had Lois Lane herself Phyllis Coates and Beaver's Aunt Martha in it to hold yer attention). However, given the secrecy surrounding this feature as well as the utter pans and general unavailability (with director Otto Preminger's daughter sitting on the negatives for years on end) you gotta admit that curiousity got my cat's tongue!. And now that SKIDOO's finally available on disque well, you could say that at least one li'l cold case file in my gulcheral experience life has been closed though maybe I'm still trying to decide whether it was worth all of the time, trouble, wonderment and dishing out of hard to come by $$$ to find out.

But just how can one describe this film anyway other'n as an establishment freak out of the highest order? Trying to be one part "generation gap comedy" (think THE IMPOSSIBLE YEARS with an even more lascivious bent) and the other part mafia crime romp, SKIDOO stars Gleason as a retired mob torpedo who's not only living a respectable life running an automated car wash but is now married to none other than Carol Channing and coping with a typical curvy teenaged daughter played by some flash goin' by the name of Alexandra Hay. However, the sanctity of Gleason's new middle-class existence is shattered when none other'n a father and son team (Cesar Romaro and Frankie Avalon) show up at his digs to tell him that crime boss "God" (Groucho Marx complete with hair dyed worse than Jack Lord) wants Gleason to come out of retirement to rub out prison inmate Mickey Rooney before the guy blabs to a senate subcommittee. Gleason balks at returning to his old ways, though when he finds pal Arnold Stang stung so to speak his bulbousity decides to play along sneaking into prison in order to carry out the wicked deed.

As for the "youth market" portion of the film,  Gleason's daughter just happens to be an up-'n-sprouting hippie chick of the Gloria Stivic variety who hitches up with a '68 stock moom pitcher flower child played by John Phillip Law. This interesting subplot makes at least a small part of this flick an eerie precursor to ALL IN THE FAMILY with all of the proper components intact (Gleason as Archie, Channing as Edith...). With Gleason missing in prison, Channing opens her home to all of her daughter's hippie friends who proceed to "do their own thing" despite the objections of the local yokels who definitely want to keep their town nice 'n odor free.

The story gets a li'l more complicated from here, and since this ain't some late-seventies TIME magazine review which gives the entire film away I'll cease with any more detailed plot summaries in case you're just as puzzled about the whys of this 'un as I was. But as for my impressions of it...well, they're certainly a "mixed bag" as the Troggs woulda said. First off, it's kinda strange seeing a whole buncha these old H-wood hands acting in a moom such as this, especially when you consider that Jackie Gleason's one of the guys who was leading the charge against Jim Morrison's on-stage flasher incident a year after this was made. However in this film The Great One seems to be taking a kinder view to at least one of the Now Generation's favorite pastimes, mainly dropping acid. In the scene where he accidentally gets dosed with LSD, Gleason believe-it-or-not actually makes a subtle if perhaps effective case regarding the usage of psychedelics as a positive force for better mental health, which I guess is the reason why none other than Acid Guru himself Dr. Timothy Leary ended up endorsing this 'un! (See below for more.) And although I'm sure a good portion of your older relatives would probably relish viewing something along the lines of SKIDOO considering all of the old hands who've appeared in the thang, you know that if they actually were to give this 'un an eyefull they'd just mutter "what the hell was that all about anyway? Is this film pro-drugs??? Can't believe that! And how could a nice wopadago kid like Frankie Avalon be in this...oh the horror of it all!" Give it a try time you go visit Uncle Ferd and Aunt Mabel take a copy along and offer to spin it for 'em! You'll see the look of anticipation turn into a swift kick inna ass right before your very eyes...and buttocks!

I like the mix 'n match myself, where the film on one hand looks like a typical sixties comedy that woulda got stuck on the CBS LATE MOVIE sometime inna early eighties yet comes off like a standard generation gap/brainy relevant film albeit not as strong a one as THE POOPIES NEXT DOOR, BILLY HACK or SOLDIER BLUE BALLS. But shocking enough in its own new morality way as were a great number of similar-minded films for the next four or so years that the folks in Hollywood for some reason thought we all wanted to see. A lot of SKIDOO is as ridiculous as you'd expect, though some parts such as the aforementioned Gleason LSD trip scene are about as "there" as the various acid trip experiences in all of those other late-sixties films you've endured lo these many years which might not be saying much, but frankly I'd rather watch Gleason tripping out than Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper anyday.

Of course considering some of the material that's juxtaposed in this 'un (the musical climax with Channing dressed like a pirate leading an army of hippies through God's boat being just one of 'em) you kinda wonder whether or not this was originally supposed to be a tender generation gap seriocomedy, only thanks to rewrites and editing it turned out to be something quite different. And if you're the type to ponder over something like this I guarantee you'll be doing plenty of head-scratching, especially during the escape scene where the entire prison clientele's tripping their brains out while Gleason and his cellmate (Austin Pendleton) make their grand escape via hot air balloon! Maybe you'll think (like I did) that the part where the prison guards manning the search lights (played by Fred Clark and Harry Nilsson, who also did those spright pop tunes on the soundtrack) hallucinate dancing trash cans comes off eerily like an outtake from 200 MOTELS that Frank Zappa had the good sense to leave on the cutting room floor, but then again maybe not.Well, I guess that an audience that would eat up the hipster hokum on LAUGH IN would've gobbled a scene like this hook line and flower power sinker, so let's just chalk it all up to period piece misfire!

As usual, I decided to pad this post out with the trailer for the film which features, besides Dr. Leary's endorsement, commentary by Sammy Davis Jr. who I guess just hadda be anywhere where the hip stuff was happenin'! Yeah, I know what you're thinking...just what was Leary on when he was watching this anyway? Well, frankly I think you already know the answer to that, but then again I think that the trailer's probably just as funnily terrible (but it's a fun terrible, and perhaps even terrible fun) as the film is, and worth it if only to see Leary and Sammy Davis Jr. juxtaposed with the likes of Peter Lawford, Fred Clark, Frankie Avalon, Burgess Meredith, Frank Gorshin, George Raft and Groucho Marx who were at least in the thing! If you make it through the following 2:19 having even a semblance of curiosity then you might just wanna dish out a few measlies for a copy of this 'un like I obviously did!


One final note of kultural significance that I should you can see by the poster that is reproduced on the left, SKIDOO originally earned the old MPAA "M" rating* when it first came out in 1968. This rating does seemed justified if only due to the at-times sexy nature of the film not to mention the scenes with actress "Luna" showing a good inch or two of her butt crack, the body paint that's been applied to quite a few nubile hippie chick juggins, the Green Bay Packers playing football buck nekkid and Frank Gorshin** uttering the oft-used yet verboten exclamation "God damn"...typical "M" stuff if I do say so myself. The odd thing however is that, after forty-four years SKIDOO is now rated "R" which really does stymie me since the only real bare boobs with clearly visible nipples one sees is on the pin up spotted in the tower guard scene (and way in the background at that) and the language does seem rather tame compared with the string of obscenities that can be heard in many multiplexes these sad 'n sorry times. I guess that the new rating downgrade (upgrade?) is in fact due to not just whatever femme body parts might be visible to young 'n tender eyes (which I guess were much sturdier when this film was made), but for SKIDOO's "drug content," something which I gotta say makes me wanna chortle and chuckle to no end considering how the drugs being used were certainly not being "glorified" but used totally for comedic effect. In fact, I consider the part where Gleason's cellmate doses the entire prison in order to facilitate an easy jailbreak to be a sly update on the ancient yet belly-shaking gag where uptight, usually strongly anti-alcohol types get stoned outta their gourds without knowing it! Yeah, I can see it now...some sick white liberal blue-haired old lady whose job it is to rate motion pictures just frowning up a storm thinking that a scene where Burgess Meredith and Peter Lawford are flying high is a danger to the youth at large..."we mustn't let our children see such...such dangerous and damaging frivolities, so this movie must be rated "R"!!!" Funny thing is, that ol' gal probably would not object to letting kids see something that's the equivalent of what they glom in any sex ed class these days which contain material that's probably graphic to the nth degree and more or less an enticement for kids to go out and scam some gamahootch themselves!

Frankly, sex in the modern age is a whole lot more dangerous 'n using the kind of LSD (extremely mellow!) that's being peddled these days so let's just say that once again we can all see just how skewered the collective consciousnesses of the New Moral Guardians can get when they' re left unchecked as usual! Yeah kids, whore it up all you want, but whatever you do, don't trip out!!! And while you're at it, don't tell me we're not living in the Bizarro World because I can see the cracks on all of your faces from way back here!!!

*The "M" rating ("Recommended for MATURE audiences. Parental discretion advised") had been changed to "GP" ("General Patronage. All ages admitted")  in 1970 because many people were under the impression that ""M" films contained extremely strong material of a sexual and/or violent nature and that an "R" rating was in fact indicative of a milder movie for the whole family to see! Since most of the films of the day were getting "M"'s  it was decided that perhaps a new rating that didn't sound as strict would be less apt to scare of prospective patrons. So then came the "GP" (General patronage. All ages admitted") rating which nobody could differentiate from the standard "G" ("General audiences. All ages admitted") so kids, who were previously prohibited from going off to see those nasty "M" features, were now able to attend the screenings of such films as CAT O' NINE TAILS and RYAN'S DAUGHTER which even had a bitta bare titty in 'em (lucky kids!) and the parents never even knew! That's undoubtedly the reason why somebody at the MPAA finally had the brains to reverse the letters to "PG" ("Parental Guidance Suggested") in '72 thus giving folks at least a semblance of an idea as to what they were gonna be in store when they set foot inside a moom pitcher palace. I gotta say that I always did prefer the old "M" to those ratings that came after because...well, it sounded dirtier and like I could think of myself as being a cool tough guy by watching an "M" film 'stead of the goofy "G" stuff that people thought I should be watching lest my mind be corrupted by...well, whatever it is you see in "M" films that supposed to corrupt you!

**Gorshin, along with Romero and Meredith, were of course part of the BATMAN tee-vee ensemble which closed up shop shortly before SKIDOO went into production. Dunno how that would exactly play into the hands of fans of that particular series other'n as a strange coincidence, but it's a creepy enough of one to make note of even if it really means nothing to any of you regular blog tuner-inners.

1 comment:

Markus said...

Hey Chris, this is more appropriate as an email but i can't find yours. i know you've said some nice things about the andrew pearson band cuts on max's kansas city vol. 2, and i just found out that mr. pearson is still making music. Here is the link to the website of his new project: