DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
SKIDOO (director: Otto Preminger; screenwriter: Doran William Cannon; cinematographer: Leon Shamroy; editor: George R. Rohrs; music: Harry Nilsson; cast: Jackie Gleason (Tony Banks), Carol Channing (Flo Banks), Alexandra Hay (Darleen Banks), Frankie Avalon (Angie), Fred Clark (Tower Guard), Harry Nilsson (Tower Guard),  Austin Pendleton (The Prof.), Michael Constantine (Leech), Frank Gorshin (The Man), John Phillip Law (Stash), Peter Lawford (The Senator), Burgess Meredith (The Warden), George Raft (Captain Garbaldo), Cesar Romero (Hechy), Groucho Marx (God), Luna (God's Mistress), Mickey Rooney (Blue Chips Packard), Doro Merande (The Mayor), Arnold Stang (Harry), Tom Law (Geronimo), Richard Kiel (Beany), Slim Pickens (Switchboard Operator), Robert Donner (Switchboard Operator); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Otto Preminger; Paramount; 1968)

 
"A relic for the ages that puts a punctuation mark on the times."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The rarely seen Love Generation comedy caper movie was a commercial failure upon its release and much criticized as being an Ed Wood Jr. type of bad film for the ages. But it's so unique and goofy, that it's almost criminal to ignore it; its potential as a cult film is unlimited. Director/producer Otto Preminger ("Exodus"/"Bonjour Tristesse"/"The Moon Is Blue") experimented with LSD during the 1960s, which inspired this wonderful mess. It's worth watching just to see Jack Gleason trip out on LSD and shout "I see mathematics! I see mathematics!", Groucho Marx taking a tote on a joint and then saying “Mmm, pumpkin!” and the trippy musical highlight of the film entitled “The Dance of The Garbage Cans”. One convict named Leech (Michael Constantine) says after viewing Gleason's trip: “Hey, maybe if I took some of that stuff I wouldn’t have to rape anybody no more!”. The heavy-handed Otto directs this counterculture spoof, mixing cartoonish gangsters with groovy hippies, but can never make it light or spontaneous to come close to capturing the "flower-power" movement; nevertheless it's an unintentionally hilarious look at how desperate Hollywood is to catch the changing times and the youth market. It's priceless as rolling-in-the-aisle entertainment for those who can let their hair down. It's a fucked-up almost hallucinogenic trip that must be seen to be believed at how bad and enjoyable it is.

Tough Tony Banks (Jackie Gleason) is a retired torpedo for the mob, operating a car wash for the last seventeen years and living with his sexually liberal wife Flo (Carol Channing) and hippie daughter Darleen (Alexandra Hay) in an affluent San Francisco suburb. Tony is visited by two low-level mob messenger boys (Frankie Avalon and Cesar Romero) who tell him that God (Groucho Marx), a gangster not the Man, ordered him to come out of retirement and knock off his best pal Blue Chips Packard (Mickey Rooney), a former mobster who's about to squeal to a Senate investigating committee headed by a crusading senator played by Peter Lawford. To get to Packard, Tony has to break into the Alcatraz federal prison where the snitch is in a maximum security cell. While in jail Tony licks some LSD-soaked stationery belonging to the Professor (Austin Pendleton), the techie genius draft-dodging cellmate, and as a result no longer wants to put the hit on Packard as he now loves everyone. To avoid the hit, the Professor gets the entire prison stoned when he dumps the LSD into the soup. The two escape by making a balloon from plastic food bags and garbage cans, and stealing the hospital's oxygen tank. Then they fly over the prison and land on God's heavily-armed yacht, docked off the Frisco Bay, at the same time Flo, decked out in an Admiral Nelson uniform, is leading to the yacht on a rescue mission of her kidnapped daughter a bunch of her daughter's hippie friends on a flotilla of sailboats and singing her heart out Harry Nilsson's flower-power title song. 

Not that any of this is good or amusing, but it's just plain astonishing to see these establishment folks make complete asses of themselves. It's probably the sixty-three year old Otto's greatest bomb, even more so than the awful Saint Joan; but this failure is unlike his other clunkers because it's time capsule material—a relic for the ages that puts a punctuation mark on the times. 

The irreverent screenplay was by the pacifist Doran William Cannon, who in 1970 would be the screenwriter for the smash hit youth film Brewster McCloud. Otto was sincere in wanting to register his voice of encouragement to the protesting youth, but the problem is that he doesn't have it in him to be hip and he's such a clod and so pigheaded that he couldn't go along with Cannon's script (wanted to make the mafia the establishment in a serious way and keep things more real) and so he got a number of uncredited screenwriter to rework the script, which in the end vastly deviated from the original script and did not please Cannon.

REVIEWED ON 1/5/2008        GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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