‘Because a lotta people think they’ve gotta draw the line / They separate the good the bad the wrong from right / But forget about the color that’s between the black and white / And all the groovy little in betweens.
Skidoo Skidoo / Skidoo doobly do / I really believe it is the thing to do.’
An ageing mobster comes out of retirement for one last job; killing his best friend in prison. Meanwhile his daughter gets involved with a group of hippies and his wife invites them all to come round and stay so they aren’t thrown out of town by The Man.
There a few sights sadder or more tragic than watching middle aged people trying to get ‘with it’ and ‘down with the kids’. And when the people in question are Hollywood types letting it all hang out on film? Well, the inevitable result is something like ‘Skidoo’ (1968); a stupid, formless, desperately unfunny ‘comedy’ that lurches across the screen like a 3 legged rhinoceros attempting the Paso Doble.
Veteran director Otto Preminger (‘Laura’ (1944), ‘The Man With The Golden Arm’ (1955), ‘Exodus’ (1960)) had already dipped his toe into the late 1960s counter culture by appearing as Mr. Freeze on the ‘Batman’ TV show. He even managed to get fellow ‘Bat-villains’ to waste their time on this: Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin and Burgess Meredith all make brief appearances, and probably wished they hadn’t. Songs and music are supplied by Harry Nillson, who even sings all the end credits, down to the copyright notice! He also appears as a prison guard. Asked if he was high during the making of the film, he replied that he wasn’t – just drunk instead.
Our ‘story’ centres on retired hit man Jackie Gleason, who is ordered out of retirement for one last job by mob kingpin God (Groucho Marx!) This involves rubbing out a jailbird (Mickey Rooney!) who is going to turn state’s evidence. Gleason has to ‘break in’ to prison, where he unwittingly drops acid and sees the error of his ways. Outside of stir, his wife (a dreadful Carol Channing) takes her clothes off for a wannabe mobster (50s singing heartthrob Frankie Avalon!) and their daughter gets involved with a bunch of hippies. These flower children are led by John Phillip Law, who was a star in Europe after appearing as Jane Fonda’s love interest in ‘Barbarella’ (1967) and taking the lead in ‘Diabolik’ (1968). God’s private yacht is skippered by 30s gangster star George Raft and we also get turns from Peter Lawford, Slim Pickens and Richard ‘Jaws’ Kiel.
According to Adam West’s autobiography, Preminger was difficult to work with on ‘Batman’ and apparently clashed with his cast here, bullying Groucho to wear his trademark greasepaint moustache. He also had words with Gleason, who wasn’t putting up with any of his nonsense.
The script was in constant flux with new writers being brought in during filming but Preminger refused to consider most of their suggestions and a lot of film was in the can already. The picture lurches from one inept setup to the next; including an acid trip prison break featuring dancing garbage cans! The brilliant finale features Channing leading the hippies on to the yacht whilst singing the wonderful theme song: ‘Skiddo! Skidoo! Between the one and three, there is a two!’ Raft performs a hippie wedding and Groucho sails off into the sunset whilst smoking a joint. Epic.
Is ‘Skidoo’ (1968) so bad it’s good? No. Is ‘Skidoo’ (1968) available to buy on DVD? Yes. Good luck with that.
‘Skidoo’ (1968) was a production of Paramount Pictures.
‘And watch the scenery / As the color slowly changes from fourteen to twenty three / Skidoo, Skidoo…’