Austin Chronicle

DIRECTED BY: Otto Preminger

REVIEWED: 08-17-98

Ever wanted to see Groucho Marx puff a fattie with John Phillip Law? How about Carol Channing (in her mid-fifties) stripped down to her bra and panties?? Or have you ever imagined Jackie Gleason whacked out of his skull on LSD?!? These brain-spraining images and many more are in Skidoo (D: Otto Preminger, 1968; Grouch Marx, Carol Channing, Jackie Gleason), Otto Preminger's monumental misfire of a counterculture comedy. Gleason plays a retired hit man who's pressured by Cesar Romero and young snotnose Frankie Avalon into going to prison to rub out Mickey Rooney (so far, so good). Once in the joint, though, Gleason is accidentally turned on to acid, has some horribly hokey hallucinations, and experiences the great epiphany that all violence is evil, renouncing his mobster life. Along with his cellmates he hatches a scheme to spring themselves out of the thug jug; they wind up dosing the entire prison with LSD, and while everyone's baked to the gills, they make their escape in a balloon stitched out of potato sacks, with garbage cans for a gondola. Things only get sillier from there. A cast of Hollywood once-greats parades across the screen in roles that they'd probably not wish to be reminded of today, while Harry Nilsson sings and plays an acid-swacked prison guard. As the story goes, Timothy Leary himself turned Preminger on to hallucinogens in the Sixties (his reaction was to go home and turn on a bank of TVs tuned to different channels a la LBJ or Elvis) and personally helped produce the trailer for Skidoo. It's funny in a childish, asinine sort of way, but as off-base as a typical Laugh-In episode. Still, it's worth seeing just for the sheer jaw-dropping amazement of it all; a far cry from respected Preminger efforts such as Laura, The Man with the Golden Arm, or Anatomy of a Murder.

--Jerry Renshaw

Other Films by Otto Preminger
Anatomy of a Murder

Film Vault Suggested Links
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Book of Life
The Mating Habits of the Earthbound Human

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