I found myself wondering if anything in the world has ever dated as fast as ‘60s (and into the ‘70s) movies about hippies, LSD, and the counterculture. I mean, these things became embarrassing relics between the time the bulb was switched on in the projector and the light hit the screen. Of course, in one sense they were dated the moment the shooting script was finalized, as no writer or director working in Hollywood in those days had the slightest clue what hippies were all about. According to the old men making these films, hippies all drove psychedelic VWs and school buses, spouted meaningless empty-headed platitudes about love and shit like that, danced all day to third-rate bubblegum rock, and, oh yes, were usually accompanied by several stoned-out chicks wearing nothing but body paint. Well, sure man, I was there, I saw all those things from time to time, but they miss everything that was important about those lovely days.
This one was directed by Otto Preminger, in an apparent attempt to show everyone he was “hep” to the “scene,” that he “dug” all the “grooves” those crazy “beatnik” kids were laying down. Who says a 63-year-old Kraut can’t be a cool cat? The product is so embarrassing that, according to Spider Robinson, Gleason stormed out of the premiere threatening to sue everybody. Cool it, Jackie. You read the script for this piece of shit. You booked yourself into this toilet.
This is another one that Spider turned me on to (or inflicted on me, I still haven’t decided) with the warning that it was the weirdest movie he’d ever seen. Well, I won’t say it’s the weirdest (I’ve seen some pretty weird movies) but it’s one of the weirdest ever made with big Hollywood money and (reasonably) big Hollywood names. Jackie Gleason, Carol Channing, Frankie Avalon, Groucho Marx, with short parts by a whole bunch of others, from Slim Pickens to Peter Lawford.
There’s not much point in going over the plot except to say the centerpiece is dropping a lot of LSD in the soup at a prison and everyone freaking out colorfully while Jackie and two friends escape in a homemade hot air balloon. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? It isn’t. We never laughed once at this thing, though our jaws dropped a lot. The film climaxes with a stunningly bad rendition of the title song, “Skidoo” by Carol Channing aboard a huge yacht where Groucho Marx is a paranoid Mafia boss. Oh, yeah, Groucho assessed his own performance as “godawful.” You said the secret woid, Groucho, and the duck came down and shat on your head. He seems to be in a trance. One scene, he’s got this gorgeous girl sitting in his lap, he’s unbuttoning her blouse, and he’s staring off into space. Reading cue cards? Who knows? It’s beyond bizarre.
Oddly, the only thing worth a damn in this horror show is … the end credits. No kidding! They are sung, every word of them, and it’s a long list of credits, right down to the grips and office girls. Now, that’s unique. I have never heard credits sung before. With any luck, I’ll never hear them again.