Friday, January 4, 2008

Skidoo: The Liveblog

Tonight, Turner Classic Movies is showing Skidoo, for reasons only they know. I'm excited, because it's allegedly an "absurdist masterpiece" (translation: probably unwatchable drugged-up gibberish) and it's definitely almost never shown anywhere in any context. So I'm liveblogging it!

The action starts at 11:00 pm Pacific. While we're waiting, why not read Rhias's comments for some historical perspective? Also of interest: Roger Ebert reporting from the set and Paul Krassner takes acid with Groucho Marx (because Groucho wanted to properly prepare for the role, or something).

11:03: Here we go! This is part of "TCM Underground", apparently, which is supposed to be hosted by Rob Zombie. Where's Rob? Also, I see that the movie after Skidoo is The Love-In. Wow.

11:05: Well, it's not widescreen, but it seems to be a pretty good transfer. The opening credits (featuring what might be a cartoon caricature of Otto Preminger) start to be shown on a television (artsy!), but then someone clicks around the channels, getting a bunch of random shows while Carol Channing complains in voiceover.

11:06: So far, we have Carol Channing and Jackie Gleason dueling over remote controls. One of them wants to watch a Senate hearing, and one wants to watch a pill commercial.

11:08: A surprising amount of this movie (which we're watching on a television) is being shown on a television screen inside the movie. And one of the first lines of dialogue was "I hate watching movies on television. They always get cut up". It's kind of complicated.

11:10: So far, I think I understand the plot. Jackie Gleason is an ex-mobster in hiding, and some guys with a 1937 Rolls Royce with a yellow stripe are outside and might be here to get him. They're the "Mallar brothers". Oh, and the music sounds like that lousy Bill Lava music in 1960s Daffy Duck cartoons. And Jackie's daughter is being chatted up by John Phillip Law, who is a hippie. Got it!

11:15: Plot B has started up, featuring Mister Cesar Romero as an actual mobster. I guess the Rolls Royce was the hippie's car?

11:16: Cesar Romero's young assistant is in charge of "Oregon and Idaho". Does the mob do a lot of work in Idaho?

11:18: Okay, now we've got a plot. Cesar wants Jackie to break into prison (?) and kill someone involved with the Senate investigation. Because "God" wants him to. That all seems relatively clear, although it does not explain why the hippie is sitting on top of his Rolls Royce.

11:19: Tom says in the comments that Cesar Romero's young friend was Frankie Avalon. This whole movie is cameos and stuff. There was a squirrely guy hanging out with Jackie and Carol, and now he's dead, and I don't know who played him. I'm sure it was someone, though.

11:21: Someone inside the hippie bus, filled with naked body-painted chicks and singing: "Hey, man, what's happening?"
Rhias: "My worst nightmare."

11:22: Jackie's daughter has gotten body-painted, but they just painted over her underwear. She does not appear to know how to operate a roach clip, either. She's not much of a hippie, if you ask me.

11:24: If this movie were more self-aware, it would be making some kind of clever statement about the hideous hippie clothes and how they're not as bad as the hideous clothes the straights are wearing. Carol Channing in particular is dressed as Big Bird, and nobody seems to have noticed.

11:27: Okay, Carol has invited the whole hippie nation to stay at their place. Excuse me -- I mean "crash" at their "pad". Or something. Anyway, we'll have a bunch of hippies at Jackie Gleason's place soon. This movie makes perfect sense so far!

11:28: I have no idea why the police just loaded a bunch of opera-singing guys on a ferry.

11:29: Sweet! Austin Pendleton, in his first movie role! And he's a prisoner, so I can pretend he's the same character as he was in Oz, since that guy was a lifer who'd been there for longer than anyone. And now Richard Kiel is a prison guard! Man, this movie's going to make those Six Degrees of Whoever games so much easier!

11:32: No, this Austin Pendleton character is a weenie who's in for burning his draft card. His Oz character stabbed someone in the neck and talked to God. I guess if he has a scene with Groucho, I can pretend it's the same guy.

11:33: Carol should be more careful about inviting hippies (and whatever the other people are) over. That's how Charles Manson ended up at the Beach Boys' place.

11:34: Frankie Avalon has a giant round bed and a remote control that hides his barber in a rotating wall. You heard me.

11:35: I don't much care for the foleying in this movie. The background talk in the prison sounds like Grand Central Sta -- hey! It's Frank Gorshin, talking without moving his lips! Who doesn't like Frank Gorshin?

11:37: Frankie Avalon also has a wet bar and a night sky lit up over his silly bed. And his chairs are a cavalcade of terrible furniture. Unfortunately for him, he's six inches shorter than Carol Channing, so she kind of towers over him.

11:39: Carol Channing is transported into ecstasy by playing with his stereo's remote control. I think she's supposed to be frugging.

11:40: Oh god, now Carol Channing is disrobing. And my horror is only mitigated by confusing at the barber-pole way her zipper goes all the way around her torso.

11:43: When Frankie just dropped his champagne bottle into the ice bucket, the foam spurted out in a suspiciously visual way. I think it was in the nature of being some kind of joke by Otto Preming -- oh god it's Carol Channing in a see-through bra.

11:44: So when we say that Groucho plays God, that's just the name of his character, who's head of the mob. I learned that from the convenient chart of the mob's entire personnel structure that Frankie keeps above his bed. That seems like a bad idea to me, but maybe he's assuming that any cops will be blinded by his zebra-print bed.

11:47: This movie isn't that terrible. It ain't great, but it's at least watchable. It's no Sextette.

11:50: The foleying continues to bug me, as Mickey Rooney's prison stock ticker is making enough noise that, combined with the echo effect caused by Jackie Gleason's and Austin Pendleton's makeshift radio, I can't understand all the dialogue about blackjack. That's an odd sentence.

11:52: Austin Pendleton has just asked Jackie, "Have you ever heard of acid?" and it appears that Jackie's accidentally dosed himself. Here we go!

11:53: No, first we've got Groucho on a boat (named "Mother", loaned to Otto Preminger by John Wayne). Groucho's hair and mustache look fake, but that's nothing new. I'd rather talk about his hot assistant with the ludicrous fingernails. Some people say that Groucho phoned in this part, but I think he's more into it than he was in Love Happy.

11:56: The acid trip (by Jackie Gleason in a prison cell) is actually fairly good. I've never actually done acid myself, but from what I understand, this technique of starting with sounds seeming odd and then slowly ramping up the weirdness is a better than the usual technique (which we'll call the "Eas Rider") of just going straight to the kaleidoscope lens and the floating eyeballs.

Hey, wanna hear an acid anecdote? It's not mine, but I like it a lot. In college, I had two friends named Steve and John, and they took acid for the first time. They la on their backs in a darkened room and waited for the effects to kick in. After about ten minutes, John, being a bad, bad person, turned to Steven and said, in a thoughtful voice, "Hey Steve? You ever think about . . . anal sex?" This was later deemed to be an Acid Foul. Anyway, Jackie Gleason's acid trip is still more realistic than Prison Break.

12:02: This acid trip is going on a little long. Just like with every other acid trip in a movie, really.

12:04: Okay, I admit that Groucho is clearly looking offscreen to read the cue cards, to read dialogue which he's obviously never seen before in his life. He's not even paying attention to the girl he's undressing, which is very un-Groucho-like. He's not even looking at her for a moment. Maybe he thought this was a rehearsal?

12:07: Hey, I think John Phillip Law is getting molested by Groucho's hottie assistant. I don't know what he's complaining about; she took off the six-inch fingernails.

12:10: Plot update: Having had his mind expanded by accidentally taking acid, Jackie Gleason no longer wants to kill anyone in prison, which has angered Frank Gorshin. Groucho wants to set up a multi-city drug operation with the hippies. Groucho's girl (who was in Satyricon!) has slept with John Phillip Law and Frankie Avalon. I think that's about it.

12:13: I actually think Jackie Gleason's pretty good in this. He seems to be taking it seriously, even the drug trip scenes.

12:15: Okay, a second ago, Austin Pendleton, Jackie Gleason, and Leech (Michael Constantine) were all locked in the hospital ward. Then Austin snuck through an air duct to the kitchen, where I think he dosed the whole prison food supply, and now they're all out. Only Austin could have gotten through that vent!

12:16: Burgess Meredith! I am required by law to mention that this movie was directed by Otto Preminger (Mr. Freeze from the Adam West "Batman" show) and features Cesar Romero (Joker), Frank Gorshin (Riddler) and Burgess Meredith (Penguin). Some people say that makes this the biggest grouping of Batman villains, but those people appear to have forgotten about Adam West's Batman movie, which has Frank, Cesar, and Burgess. And Lee Meriwether, who isn't the best Catwoman, but she ain't the worst either.

12:19: Welcome to Bat Country. Richard Kiel, Frank Gorshin, Burgess Meredith, and everyone else in the prison, all climbing the walls on acid. Also, Austin Pendleton's smile looks kind of like Doug Henning's. I think it's the moustache.

12:20: These switchboard operators are Superman Director Richard Donner and Dr. Strangelove Actor Slim Pickens. And that Senator is Rat Pack B-Teamer Peter Lawford! This is a big IMBD movie. I wish I could identify Leech (Michael Constantine), but his only big movie role appears to have been My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which I did not see. He's got 138 TV roles, so I'm sure I've seen him in something.

12:23: Prison Guard A: You know what? You look like a flower.
Prison Guard B: That's funny. I feel like a flower.

I enjoyed that!

12:25: Harry Nilsson thinks that "asparagus" rhymes with "to marry us".

12:27: This acid-trip dance scene is going on too long, so I'm looking for Michael Constantine roles I might recognize. He was "The Sorcerer" in four episodes of "Electra Woman and Dyna Girl", but that doesn't trigger anything in my brain. I have learned that the Naked Green Bay Packers were played by the Orange County Ramblers, which were in the Continental Football League, whatever that is.

12:29: Okay, Jackie and Austin have escaped from the prison (which I guess was Alcatraz) by dosing the entire prison, hiding in some cans for no reason, and then constructing a hot air balloon. In full dalight. At least when Lex Luthor escaped from prison in a hot air balloon (in the beginning of Superman 2), he did it at night.

12:33: Ah, the climactic shootout, in which Carol Channing, dressed as a pirate, leads a ragtag fleet of hippies against Groucho Marx's boat, while Jackie Gleason lands his hot-air balloon on the deck. Carol's saing some kind of crazy beat poetry, but I think she looks cool. I like her new wig, and pirate coats are always cool.

12:34: However, Carol Channing should not sing rock songs, even ones called "Skidoo".

12:37: Rhias objects to Carol's scatting, but I think I heard a "vo-de-o-do" in there, which I always enjoy.

12:38: Wrap-up: Groucho's crazy mistress married Frankie Avalon and then immediately tried to drag Cesar Romero off. Austin Pendleton and Groucho are floating away on a hippie boat. And Harry Nilsson is insisting on singing every single word of the credits, which is going to take forever.

12:40: Okay, that was Skidoo. It was watchable, although I can see why Preminger might have had second thoughts about letting people see it. It didn't really go anywhere, but I guess the message was that Jackie Gleason (who really was pretty good) got his mind expanded by LSD and Carol Channing loosened up by hanging out with hippies. So go freak out, kids! They never explained why John Phillip Law's hippie had a 1937 Rolls Royce.

12:44: I'm going to bed now.


Tom the Dog said...

I'm watching too. Romero's young assistant is Franki Avalon!

Tom the Dog said...

I missed about fifteen minutes of the movie, right after the garbage cans started dancing through right after the balloon landed on Groucho's boat. But I'd still say, like you, it wasn't nearly as bad as it had been built up to be. It wasn't good, really, and it certainly was weird as hell, but it wasn't the shipwreck I was expecting. And Gleason really was pretty good. Now if only I could scrub Carol Channing half naked out of my brain! Carol Channing as a sexual creature is more disturbing than any acid trip.

Anonymous said...

Michael Constantine --Room 222, no?

Monty Ashley said...

I believe so, but my only actual exposure to Room 222 was the Mad Magazine parody, so I don't think it counts as something I've seen him in.

Mertseger said...

The 11:56 entry is missing a couple of y's: "Eas" and "la".