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Thursday, June 21, 2012

SKIDOO (1968)

After the issue-oriented ‘race’ drama HURRY SUNDOWN/’67 abruptly ended his winning streak, aging auteur Otto Preminger surprised everyone (including himself), producing & directing a ‘Mod,’ madcap, all-star comedy. The humorless Stanley Kramer had recently made a big success of IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD/’63, and some people still think that’s a hoot. Why not Otto? So, with a hip young writer hired on his son’s recommendation*, and the likes of Jackie Gleason, Carol Channing, Fred Clark, Frankie Avalon, Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin, Peter Lawford, George Raft, Burgess Meredith, John Phillip Law, Austin Pendleton, Richard Kiel, Arnold Stang, Slim Pickens, Mickey Rooney & Groucho Marx in his old greasepaint mustache, it already sounded hilarious, right? (Cineasts will be shocked to learn that Mickey Rooney gives the pic's subtlest perf.) The two-tiered plot has retired hitman Jackie Gleason taking on one last assignment just as his curvaceous daughter takes up with a busload of free-loving hippy PeaceNics. With its Day-Glo costumes & berserk plotting, the film is so odd, such a calamitous collection of groovy attitudes & execution interruptus, that it acquires a kind of (painful) fascination. The few funny ideas get pummeled to death thru repetition and the film’s climax, a mass LSD-induced ‘trip’ on Alcatraz, could pass for one of Maurice Binder’s James Bond credit sequences. At last, the end credits come up, sung for us by Harry Nilsson. And, it’s . . . it’s . . . it’s adorable. Go figure.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: *Scripter Doran William Cannon managed one more credit, another quirky comedy with free-love, ‘hippy’ overtones, Robert Altman’s BREWSTER MCCLOUD/’70. That gets much closer to the mark and may be the only pro-virginity ‘youth film’ of its era.

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