I have to admit that I was underwhelmed with the slightly overhyped Skidoo. More head shaking than jaw-dropping, this failed attempt to tune into the sixties drug vibe serves best as a cautionary tale for those clinging to coolness. Made by Otto Preminger (Anatomy of a Murder) in 1968 this comic, acid tripping romp stars Jackie Gleason, Carol Channing, Frankie Avalon, Cesar Romero, Mickey Rooney, and many, many others.
By 1968, most of the cast were cast off as “your parents comedians”. Desperately trying to remain hip this aging pack of comedians attempt to tap into a free spirit style that is utterly foreign to them. Imagine your parents listening to “your” music. That’s how pathetic Skidoo feels. As laughable as it maybe to watch Jackie Gleason undergo an acid trip, full of psychedelic cliches and not so groovy music, it is hard to stop from wincing at the sad fact that Hollywood had no clue how to handle the changing times of the late 60’s. It’s no wonder that a film like Easy Rider could throttle itself into box office stardom. Skidoo could not have been much fun for anyone back in ’68. Parents who grew up with those comedian did not want to see them like this and the youth of ’68 had to have sensed a rat. Skidoo sticks out like a narc at a biker rally.
Today, Skidoo is a humorous note in the annals of film history. It’s a marker of a point in time when Hollywood was looking to strip cash from a changing culture that it could not put its thumb on. From the present day perspective its easy to see how mis-guided the whole project feels. One automatically wonders what drugs studio executives were on when they green-lighted a project that has Groucho Marx playing a mob king-pin known as God and has its credits sung by Nilsson. Yes, singing credits and Groucho Marx smoking the Pot! Perhaps, those are were the two selling points in a sales pitch that must have been hilarious to hear. Groucho and Nilsson are perhaps the two best points in a truly bungled picture.
Now, I am left to wonder what modern films will stand out like Skidoo. Hollywood continues to have trouble understanding the youth market and old celebrities refuse to die young. Will the present day obsession with the 80’s, the persistent use of supercasts, or the heavy dependency upon irony leads us to our next Skidoo? Only time will tell. Until then be cautious of what you cling to.