August 5th, 2006

1939 World's Fair

"Anybody who don't like that, baby, don't like chicken on Sundays"

I finally got my hands on a copy of Skidoo, Otto Preminger's 1968 acid movie (and Groucho Marx' last.) You cannot believe how incredibly happy I was to finally see this film. It is terrible. It stars Jackie Gleason, Carol Channing, Mickey Rooney, Frankie Avalon, Austin Pendleton ("Max" from The Muppet Movie) and, as I mentioned before, the one, the only Groucho as a crime lord named God.

Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith and Frank Gorshin even get in on the film. It's like a Batman villain reunion, and with crazy-ass colors to boot!

You can't get this film on DVD for many reasons, the least of which is that it's just plain awful. It's a late-60s Hollywood mishmosh, big-name stars with a thin excuse for a plot and the even thinner excuse that the more incomprehensible it is, the more "the kids" are gonna dig it. The result is an attempt at a head film, Hollywood establishment-style, though it is surprisingly very kind to the freaks and not so kind to the establishment. Heck, the trailer (conveniently found on YouTube) even has the good doctor Timothy Leary advising kids to "turn on their parents" by taking them to this film. I don't think many parents would've turned on quite as Dr. Leary had hoped.

And yes, the film ends with Groucho Marx smoking pot.

Let's take a look at some screenshots, shall we? Collapse )

Otto Preminger actually dropped to gain insight for the film, which was done partly because of his own son's misadventures in Greenwich Village. And if you'll believe Paul Krassner's 1981 article in High Times, so did Groucho, who gave Paul some neat quotes during his psychedelic experience. I particularly like this dissertation on duality and conscience:
"Everybody has their own Laurel and Hardy," [Groucho] mused. "A miniature Laurel and Hardy, one on each shoulder. Your little Oliver Hardy bawls you out-he says, 'Well, this is a fine mess you've gotten us into.' And your little Stan Laurel gets all weepy -"Oh, Ollie, I couldn't help it, I'm sorry, I did the best I could. . . '"
And speaking of Timothy Leary, Krassner reports that Leary later told him "I was fooled by Otto Preminger. He was much hipper than me."

Skidoo is probably the most curious artifact of the late 60s that I have seen. Even at a time when nonsense was celebrated and the phrase "too much" really meant something good, this nonsensical film really was too much. And since then, many other movies have been made about, and under, the influence of LSD. Many of them are better than Skidoo. But at least Skidoo doesn't end with a few redneck crackers giving Jackie Gleason and Groucho Marx facefuls of buckshot.