Skidoo (1968), the lost recap (part 12 of 14): A garbage musical number
Previously on Skidoo: Flo and her hippie friends used their vast stoner knowledge to figure out how to rescue Darlene from God’s boat. Tony and the gang dosed an entire prison with LSD, and we learned that Frank Gorshin is a goddamn angel and Richard Kiel really misses Loretta, who looks a lot like Leech.
And now we return to the prison-wide LSD trip that’s happening courtesy of Tony and friends. Cut to the prison switchboard operators, who are both zonked out of their minds. And for one final embarrassing celebrity cameo, one of them is played by Slim Pickens. Groucho/God is on the phone looking for Frank Gorshin, asking, “Is the Man there? I wanna talk to the Man!” But a tripping Slim Pickens just says, “Western Union!” and the other switchboard operator says, “That’s more than ten words!” before connecting God to a random extension.
Meanwhile, in the prison kitchen, a guard is juggling onions, while prisoners are dancing, and a cook is being wheeled around on a giant scale while sitting on a pot. Which… sort of looks like he’s sitting on the pot. God is currently on the phone with one of the cooks, who keeps saying, “Soufflé!” Except, he drags it out like he’s talking in slow-mo: “Souuuuffflééé!” And then, suddenly, the dancing prisoners go into actual slow-mo. And no, it doesn’t make any sense. Does it need to? You are so hung up on your “scenes need to have a point” establishment ways, man. It’s time to give up your ego.
God indignantly yells that he needs to talk to the Man. “It’s a federal prison, and I’m a taxpayer!” The guard again cries in slow-mo, “Souuuuflééé!” It’s the rallying cry for a generation.
Meanwhile, Tony, Leech, and the Prof walk up to a door marked “Restricted Area”, and pull out a propane tank and a whole lot of rope. After more footage of God battling the zonked out switchboard operators, we see the three of them enter the prison sweatshop, which is filled with sewing machines. And it turns out they’ve brought a buttload of empty cabbage sacks with them. Do you see where this is going? Actually, you probably don’t, but I do, and it’s not nearly worth all this buildup.
Meanwhile, Slim Pickens is singing “Home on the Range”, and banging together two ashtrays, while the other operator dances on top of the switchboard. God is still yelling into the phone, because it just gets funnier.
Cut to a group of prisoners (who I guess have avoided getting dosed with LSD, somehow) wheeling big garbage cans out of the kitchen and into the prison yard. Up on the tower, two guards man the spotlights, but of course, they’re completely out of it. The older guard tells the younger guard, “You know what? You look like a flower!” The younger guard replies, “That’s funny, I feel like a flower!” Why, that is funny! If we’re in an alternative universe where the word “funny” means “painful and demoralizing”.
And hey, guess what? The younger guard is a special cameo appearance by Harry Nilsson, the guy who wrote and recorded all of this movie’s songs.
As the prisoners wheel garbage cans around, the older guard yells down to them, “Keep the noise down! You’ll wake the baby!” What? Okay, that was just random and bizarre enough to be genuinely funny. But rest assured that any actual laughs in this film are purely accidental.
Nilsson asks who’s down there, so Older Guard replies that it’s the Green Bay Packers. Unfortunately, that line is not quite enough of a non-joke for the filmmakers, so they cut back to the prisoners below, and superimposed over them is the image of football players at the line of scrimmage. Only, all the football players are wearing helmets and shoulder pads… and nothing else. Thank you, movie, for another image I’ll never be able to unsee.
Down below, the prisoners leave the garbage cans outside and head back inside. Suddenly, the whole prison yard changes into psychedelic colors. And then the garbage cans sprout legs and arms and start dancing to a musical number, as so often happens in movies. And just so you know that I myself am not on acid right now, here’s a GIF:
So we’re now watching red, yellow, and purple images of the cut-rate Rockettes dressed like garbage cans, complete with lids for hats, doing a soft-shoe routine to a Harry Nilsson song titled “Garbage Can Ballet”. Though to be honest, after all the pain and nonsense and stupidity this movie has given us so far, my reaction to a random musical number getting thrown in late in the third act is mostly just bored indifference.
Oh, but I haven’t told you about the best part yet: the lyrics!
(music and lyrics by Harry Nilsson)
Living in a garbage can
Can be a lot of fun
It has its ups, doo doo doo doo
Oh, paper cups and coffee grounds, lah lah lah
Living in a garbage can
Can be a lot of fun
Especially if you need the perfect onion
Oh, the great garbage can is just full of good stuff
All the discarded refuse of man
Like the half-used banana, whose girlfriend is Anna
Who shout “Let us out of this can”, lah lah lah
Oh, Mr. Good Brussels Sprout
If only me and the banana could get out
We’d find an asparagus who’d stand up and marry us
But the first thing to do is get out, lah lah lah
Now an old piece of ham is in love with some lamb
But a young head of lettuce is, too
Said the ham to the lettuce, the lamb will forget us
As soon as he learns I love you
Oh whoa whoa whoa
The great garbage can
It’s a tribute to the ingenuity of man
Where corn and tomatoes are mixed with potatoes
And thrown in together with ham
Where a Brussels sprout and a sauerkraut
Can get together and have it out
And no one seems to care about the plan
And a succotash and a piece of hash
Can get together and have a bash
For life is always equal in the can
Wow. This is the first time I can say that a writer probably got his lyrics out of a trash can, and be completely accurate. So on top of the lame hippie-dippie music and the lame dance moves and the sickening colors filling the screen, we are literally listening to garbage lyrics.
Older Guard watches the garbage can dance number, and Nilsson asks him, “Do you hear what I hear?” Older Guard replies, “I hear nothing!” He’s one of the lucky ones.
Then it’s back to the psychedelic, multi-colored, solarized dance number, as the garbage cans continue to sashay before our eyes. Older Guard starts moving around, and doing all sorts of random unfunny dance moves, and kicking his legs in the air, until the song mercifully ends.
The cans return to where they started, and all the psychedelic colors fade away as Tony, Leech, and the Prof climb out of the garbage cans. Up on the tower, Nilsson asks the other guard, “Do you see what I see?” And it seems they can see the three guys sneaking out of the cans, but their brains are so fried that they’re thrilled about it. And so they just stand there and watch as the guys go to a dumpster and pull out the oxygen tank and the propane tank and all the cabbage sacks they’ve sewn together.
Next up: Tony and the gang make their daring escape from prison, Darlene and the hippies launch a full-on assault on God’s boat, and death can’t come too soon. It’s the penultimate recap installment of this godforsaken movie!