DVD Review: Skidoo

There is a class of movies that normally get lumped into the Cinema of the Uncool. These were titles made during the ‘60s that desperately wanted to be hip, but ultimately proved to be square. They toned down the youth culture explosion experience to keep from scaring middle America. Top examples include the Beach Party flicks featuring Frankie Avalon & Annette Funicello. The kids never got that wild in the sand. Or any of the clean cut musical exploits of Elvis Presley. Skidoo appears to fall into the Uncool category with a legion of aging stars rubbing shoulders with the hippies, but it isn’t. The film is freakishly cool with an outrageous message that no other studio would ever dare to utter.

Jackie Gleason appears to merely be the owner of a car wash with a teenage daughter (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner‘s Alexandra Hay) and a loud wife (Carol Channing). His best friend is a wimp (Top Cat‘s Arnold Stang). This is all an elaborate lie exposed when God sends his messengers to Jackie. God is Groucho Marx (Duck Soup). He’s a mob kingpin hiding on a yacht to avoid the cops and competition. His messengers are Cesar Romero (Batman‘s the Joker) and Frankie Avalon. Turns out Jackie was a mob hitman and God needs him for one last whack. Turns out that Mickey Rooney has turned state’s witness against God. Jackie must smuggle himself into Alcatraz to snuff Mickey.

Jackie goes on his mission. His daughter turns into a love child. She falls for a long haired hippie (Barbarella‘s John Phillip Law). Carol Channing invites him and her daughter’s new groovy friends back to the house. It gets body painting wild in squareville. The true psychedelic revolution takes place on Alcatraz. Jackie ends up with cellmates Austin Pendleton (Oz) and Michael Constantine (Room 222). Austin is jail for draft dodging. Jackie licks one of Austin’s envelopes and unwittingly goes on an acid trip. Instead of going insane or having a medical issues, Jackie emerges from his LSD experience a changed man. He also knows he can’t kill Mickey and needs to escape from Alcatraz to be with his family. Can he really escape from a prison run by Burgess Meredith (Batman‘s the Penguin), Roman Gabriel (LA Ram quarterback), Harry Nilsson (Grammy winner), Fred Clark (Doctor Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine) and Slim Pickens (Blazing Saddles)? Not to spoil the ending, but Nilsson sings the end credits.

There are a lot of people who think Skidoo is a complete failure. That director Otto Preminger made the worst episode of Love American Style. Lies! This film is a strange success because it’s pro LSD. Not to spoil the film, but Jackie doesn’t have to pay a price for his acid trip in a comeuppance reel. This isn’t Reefer Madness. Perhaps the studio had zero problems with the message of Skidoo since what kid would crave turning on with acid after watching the star of The Honeymooners imagine Groucho Marx’s head on a screw? Skidoo is far from uncool. This is like watching TVLand on acid.

The video is 2.35:1 full frame. The transfer looks great with all the colorful hippie fun splashed across the screen. The audio is Dolby Digital Mono. You’ll be able to hear all the goofy talk without much effort.

No bonus features.

Skidoo is as weird as a major studio film can get. The all-star cast heightens the strange storyline and the pro-LSD message. I had to hunt down a crummy VHS tape of Skidoo for a pal back in the ‘90s. It was a washed out pan and scan eighth generation dub, but the freakishness could not be denied. The new DVD allows Skidoo to dazzle unabated. If you like the Monkees’ Head, you’ll trip over Skidoo.

Olive Films presents Skidoo. Directed by: Otto Preminger. Starring: Jackie Gleason, Mickey Rooney, Groucho Marx, Frank Gorshin and Frankie Avalon. Running Time: 97 minutes Released on DVD: July 19, 2011. Available at Amazon.com.

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