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Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot
Monday, March 27, 2006
Don't Like Chicken On Sunday
I've got a lot of terrible movies in my collection, but I don't know if any of them are worse than SKIDOO, which is considered to be one of the worst films in the history of Hollywood. A notorious flop produced and directed by the great Otto Preminger, who not only made one of my favorite courtroom dramas, ANATOMY OF A MURDER, but also played Mr. Freeze on BATMAN, SKIDOO is an all-star abomination released by Paramount in 1968. Everything you've heard about it is true. I recently had a discussion with a friend who claimed that GIGLI was "not as bad as the critics made it out to be." Yes, it is, but SKIDOO is much, much worse. So if you're thinking, "Whatever, how bad can it be?", well, you've been warned.

SKIDOO was clearly intended to be a hip, "with-it" youth comedy, but it was unfortunately made by old squares who don't seem to have even met anyone under 30, much less ever been that young themselves. 52-year-old Jackie Gleason stars as Tony Banks, a former Mob assassin who retired from the organization seventeen years earlier when his daughter Darlene (Alexandra Hay) was born to his wife Flo (the forever unappealing, unattractive and untalented Carol Channing). The same evening the conservative Tony meets his daughter's new boyfriend, hippie Stash (John Philip Law), his old business acquaintance Hechy (Cesar Romero) drops by with his son Angie (Frankie Avalon) with a proposition. Gangster "Blue Chips" Packard (Mickey Rooney) plans to testify against the head of the Syndicate, the mysterious germ-hating God (Groucho Marx), who orders Tony to infiltrate the prison where Packard is incarcerated and "kiss" him. That's right--Groucho plays God.

Instead of a linear story, SKIDOO consists of a series of increasingly absurd comic scenes that are unlike any other you've ever seen. Not that this makes them funny or entertaining, mind you, just jawdroppingly wild. For instance, Gleason's LSD trip, in which he lies on his prison bunk hallucinating Groucho's head rotating on a flying screw (!) and his cellmates shrunken to the size of a mouse and surrounded by a glowing pink pyramid. Or Groucho himself puffing on a joint. Or Channing's excruciatingly tasteless striptease (she was 47 at the time). Or Preminger's wildly inaccurate view of the hippie lifestyle. Handed an M rating by the MPAA, probably for its drug use and mild swearing, SKIDOO, like MYRA BRECKINRIDGE and HEAVEN'S GATE, lives up--or is that down--to its reputation by throwing so many sight gags and over-the-hill guest stars at the screen that, mathematically, some have to work. None do. Among them are the obviously British Peter Lawford as an American senator, Burgess Meredith, George Raft, Frank Gorshin, Fred Clark, Richard Kiel, Austin Pendleton, Slim Pickens, Robert Donner, Michael Constantine, Arnold Stang and L.A. Ram Roman Gabriel.

Something that is very cool about SKIDOO--and really the only good thing about it--are its credits, which are sung by composer Harry Nilsson. I'm surprised no other movie (AFAIK) has ever done this. If you're able to sit through the first 93 excruciating minutes (and you're forgiven if you can't), the last four consist of Nilsson singing the titles, including the indicia, the copyright date (in Roman numeral form), and, of course, his own composition credit.

It's actually a catchy little tune, and such a good idea that you would think someone else would think of it for their movie. I have it as an mp3, but if you watch this trailer, you'll get to hear snippets of it. The trailer, which is "hosted" by Timothy Leary, is more entertaining than the feature anyway, and features most of its stars, including Sammy Davis Jr. (who isn't even in the movie).

Posted by Marty at 11:28 PM CST
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Wednesday, March 29, 2006 - 3:52 PM CST

Name: Hal Horn

Hey, Peter Lawford and Sammy Davis Jr. had their own attempt to be "with it" that very same year, SALT AND PEPPER, which is an Oscar winner compared to SKIDOO for sure, but still one of those "so bad it's good" movies.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006 - 5:35 PM CST

Name: Marty McKee

SALT AND PEPPER is pretty bad, but the sequel (!) ONE MORE TIME, directed by Jerry Lewis, is worse. I don't remember which it was (I think ONE MORE TIME), but seeing one of them on TV as a very young man was the first time I saw anyone drunk. I remember asking my mom why they were acting so strange, and her telling me they were "drunk". I don't think I knew what she meant though.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006 - 5:43 PM CST

Name: Hal Horn

ONE MORE TIME; oh, I was trying to supress that one! I at least had fun watching SALT AND PEPPER (which is still shown occasionally on Showtime's Family Channel) but ONE MORE TIME is painful. Sammy's clearly being directed to imitate Lewis, but Lawford is no Dean, for sure. As a matter of fact, I can't remember Lawford ever having a major screen role after the sequel.

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