The Skydivers (1963) (part 7 of 7)
We cut away from the party mayhem (with the music being literally shut off, mid-note, naturally) as Suzy arrives at Frankie’s home to pick him up. And it has that deranged killer’s home look to it, so Coleman got that right, at least. Stick with what you know, right? I’d bet good money this is Coleman’s house, actually.
So, not only is this the night of the big jump, but it’s also the night of the Acid on the Parachute Caper. Funny how it all comes together like that. They drive off, bound for the airfield.
Back at the party, the surf song is still going strong, and so is Lady Wrestler. She spins Heroin Addict and he pirouettes away three or four times, then falls and rolls across the ground. Unbelievable. Lady Wrestler stands over him waiting as he struggles back to his feet. They continue “dancing”, although it’s really taking on more of a subdom feel at this point.
Cut to Harry and Beth, sitting inside their Dining Box and drinking—say it with me—coffee! Harry is looking over his shoulder, presumably watching the party outside and giving it an icy stare. Beth says, “Let’s go join the party.” Harry replies, “I don’t feel like going to a party tonight.” Dude! It’s your party! Remember? Pretty girls! Booze! Jimmy Bryant! Boo Radley! You were so up for this a few scenes ago! Beth calls him a killjoy, trying to smile, but catching his mood. This guy is so morose, he makes Nicolas Cage look like Liberace.
And so, what better time for her to talk about their relationship again? Joe walks in, unnoticed (hey! He passes through a curtained doorway! Wow, they must’ve taped on a new addition!). He’s just in time to overhear Beth say, “Harry! Put your arms around me and kiss me, Harry!” Which he does, but (shock of shocks) in a really dry, perfunctory, I’m-leaving-for-work kind of way. And the fact that Beth’s chair gives off an enormous groan when she leans forward to kiss Harry is, well, something of a scene-killer. Joe leaves quietly, and outside, somewhere, Suzy and Frankie arrive.
Back at the dance, the next song finally starts, but in the most non-PC way I could imagine. And I’m not a PC person, at all. Stereotypical Asian music begins; it’s that strain you’ve heard a million times (usually during a cut to a Chinatown), and then they all pause so the drummer can say in falsetto, “Ah-so!” This is Jimmy’s other big hit of the movie, “Ah-So”. Yeah! There’s nothing like rocking out to ethnic stereotypes! This one brings everyone out to dance on the tarmac, and even onto the wings of the airplane. Not stressing those at all, are we?
So, here’s a rundown of the current makeup of the Frandoza Freaks™. There’s a grown man in a cowboy suit, one lone black girl in a polka dot bikini (diversity!), the ever present Lady Wrestler, and a Scotsman in a kilt and tam-o’-shanter. They’re like Village People rejects. I can only imagine Coleman, with Checkbook Cardoza in tow, heading into Ed Wood’s Lightly Used Costume Rentals and saying, “We’ll take one of each.”
Frankie and Suzy, both dressed in black, sneak into the Parachute Room. Frankie asks, “Suzy, do you think we oughta?” She slaps him across the mouth and he quickly finds Harry’s parachutes for her. What exactly is this woman’s appeal to men, again? Frankie pulls open Harry’s pack very slightly, and Suzy pours the acid in.
Back at the dance, Groundskeeper Willie has taken center stage, and is dancing a lively, but very strange jig to “Ah-So”, while everyone watches. Frankie and Suzy finish their acid sabotage, and exit the hangar in plain sight of half a dozen partygoers, even walking past some as they leave. Oh yeah. No one will ever suspect you two. Idiots! Back at the dance, we get a nice shot of everyone’s twisting hinders. Well, at least “Twist Party” was an accurate description. Although, given everyone’s getups, “Masquerade Ball” also would have been accepted.
Finally, the jumpers go to the Parachute Room to get their packs on. Harry, of course, notices nothing amiss with his pack. Outside, “Ah-So” finally ends, five minutes too late, and the crowd cheers. Everyone pairs up as the band tears into that jukebox favorite, “Tobacco Worm”.
Beth gets her pack on and turns to smile at Harry. He stops what he’s doing to look at her, and gives her harness a safety tug. So, I guess that after one passionless kiss, their love has been rekindled. They both now care deeply for one another, and are committed to making their marriage work, no matter what. Isn’t that touching? That’s a bright and precious gem that each of us can take away from this movie and strive to achieve in our own relationships! And there’s no possible way this is setting us up for an awful tragedy to happen in the next few minutes!
Now, remember what I said about the girl in the bar scene? The A&W Lady who asked Harry to play the very song we’re now hearing? Well, here’s the payoff scene, folks. The party has ground to a screeching halt as everyone gathers to watch A&W Lady do her stuff. Someone has placed a 4×8 sheet of plywood on the ground, and she’s amusing the crowd by dancing—in roller skates! Did I mention she’s wearing a ruffled tutu? How about the fact that she sucks? I’m not sure which is sadder, her actually doing this, or the fact that all the Freaks are mesmerized by her performance. She finally gets upstaged by everyone cheering the arrival of the jumpers getting ready to board the plane.
The pilot gives a nice long stare directly into the camera as he heads to the plane. Yeah, hi! We see you! Way to blow your three seconds of fame, bud. Harry and Beth follow him. Harry stops Beth at the plane door, turns her to check her harness again and whoa! This time they kiss and actually linger! They have made up. What a precious thing is their love! And this will certainly not take on tragic overtones anytime soon!
Polka Dot Bikini girl screams at the camera, “Bye, Bernie! Bye, Mike! Good luck!” Who the heck is Mike?!?
Three sport parachuting groupies wait by the plane door for the rest of the guys, and kiss each one of them as they get on board. Even Groundskeeper Willie gets a line in as he says in a thick Scottish burr, “Gooood-byeeee! What bonny jumperrrrrrrs ye arrrrre!” Wow.
Everyone waves like it’s the Queen Mary leaving port. Or maybe they’re just waving goodbye to their film careers. Frankie and Suzy watch from some unguessable distance as the plane takes off. Frankie wants to leave, but Suzy just continues to smoke.
The partiers all continue to watch the plane. We cut to the ’60s version of Jon Lovitz reporting, “Go on up to 16,000 feet. Jump. Fall to 2000, then pull the ring.” An old man and woman, sporting two of the scariest faces ever to be seen on screen, listen to this drivel and nod. Which also was completely unnecessary, but I’ve come to realize, if there wasn’t all this Freak Filler material, this movie wouldn’t even reach 60 minutes. I’m sorry, but if you can’t come up with 60 minutes of actual material, then you have no business making a movie. If this movie were meat, it would be a cheap hotdog made of bologna, Spam, hog snouts, and old flannel shirts that were supposed to go to Goodwill, but accidentally went into the grinder instead.
The six skydivers pop out from the plane: Bob! Bernie! Mike (I assume)! Joe! Beth! Harry! And of course, there’s our public domain filmstrip music again to accompany their fall. I missed you, old friend! The music turns all jittery when Harry pulls his ripcord.
The parachute billows and tears open at the top. Harry panics, and doesn’t bother to try the reserve. He plummets to his death in much the same confused, shaky-camera way that Pete did. Groundskeeper Willie Deborah Kerrs, “It’s Harrrrrrry!” Everyone screams and runs out to view his broken body.
Somehow, all the jumpers have already made it to the ground and gotten free of their parachutes, and are able to reach Harry before the people on the ground do. Beth, of course, gets to him first, and begins to mourn. So much for that beautiful, gemlike relationship, I guess. You live in a dark world, Coleman Francis. A dark, twisted world. Speaking of dark, do I even need to mention how all the activity after this 9PM jump takes place during the day? Didn’t think so.
Joe’s voiceover tells Bernie to call the deputy. He tears Beth away from Harry’s body. Multiple voiceovers (including one most certainly provided by Coleman himself) report having seen Frankie and Suzy leave the hangar. The diabolic duo, however, are still trying to find their way to Suzy’s car. They just crossed a stream, for crying out loud! Geez, park your getaway car closer to your crime scene next time! Suzy, who did not get my clothing memo, is finding that her crime spree outfit (consisting of a tight, short dress and heels) is not exactly ideal for trekking through desert scrub. Idiot!
Bob or Bernie or Mike realizes that someone put acid on Harry’s chute. Joe slowly walks Beth back to the hangars, where they run into A&W Gal. She asks Joe what happened. Joe, who could not possibly know, replies, “Someone put acid in his chute.” A&W Gal asks if he knows who did it, and still being omniscient, Joe answers, “Maybe. Take care of her, Lynn.” Shoot. In my mind, her name was Marge. Lynn skates over to shell-shocked Beth (somewhat undermining the mood) and takes over the comfort-protection role from Joe.
We cut to Frankie and Suzy still heading for their car, then back to Joe asking the older Francis kid about them. The kid says he saw them run out of the hangar. A disembodied random voiceover tells Joe to check Hillcrest Road, and he jumps into his Ranchero and tears off on the hunt.
Meanwhile, the white FAA communal T-Bird arrives and a man with a rifle [!] gets out of the car and gets on one of the planes. Ah yes, guys on planes with rifles. Coleman Francis’ directorial motif. A guy runs up with what I suppose is a map, but it looks more like a cocktail napkin (probably the one the script was written on). He tells the rifleman to check Highway 6.
Cut back to Frankie and Suzy, and guess what they’re doing? Oh go on, guess! That’s right. Running down another road, still heading for that blasted car! Did they walk from Frankie’s house or something? Jeesh! Maybe the drunk from the beginning of the movie stole the car—though that would be almost clever, and thus never be a possibility in this movie.
The guys in the white hardtop T-Bird drive away from the airfield, and in an unintentionally funny bit, the plane with the rifleman taxis behind the car, like it’s just going to follow behind, all the way down Highway 6.
At long, long, long, long last Frankie and Suzy have found their car. Bear in mind when they left, the jumpers still had to go to the Parachute Room, put on their parachutes, get through the crowd and onto the plane. The plane had to take off, climb 16,000 feet, get over the jump zone, everyone had to jump out, land, spend five minutes with Harry, call and then wait for the officials to arrive, formulate a plan, drive off and take off in another plane, and start checking the roads in the time it took Frankie and Suzy just to locate their stinking car! Idiots! They get in and pull out on the road and immediately, literally, they don’t get twenty feet, and there’s Joe in the Ranchero! IDIOTS!
So Frankie backs up, turns the car around, and tries to flee. So now it’s just a matter of Joe following them until they give up. Brilliant escape strategy, you two. Bra-vo! So now, with the loss of all possible tension or build up to tracking them down, it’s just tedious driving scenes of the two of them looking back to see if Joe’s still following them, and yes, he’s still following them.
Up above in the plane, we see that the FAA rifleman is none other than Coleman Francis in another, totally different cameo. What does it really say about a movie when it ends with the director shooting it to death from an airplane with a high-powered rifle?
Down below, the hardtop FAA T-Bird passes Joe’s Ranchero, and the men in it start shooting at Frankie and Suzy from behind. Okay, then. You have to love Coleman Francis World, where the authorities are free to shoot people at any time, even if they’re unarmed and not posing an immediate threat to anyone.
Up in the air, Coleman directs his pilot to close in so he can get a better shot at the convertible. Then he opens fire, too. Frankie and Suzy pull off the main road onto a dirt road that leads into the desert. They decide it’s time to bail. Frankie, not constrained by a tight dress and heels, easily outpaces Suzy and leaves her behind. The cops, or FAA guys, or whoever they are, shoot her in the head. Or at least, that’s what the terrible makeup job would have us believe. So, no expensive murder trial for Suzy? Actually, I’m starting to like Coleman Francis World.
Frankie runs on into the desert, where the two FAA cops take him out first with a rifle shot, then two more pistol shots. Of course, since he just ran a quarter mile across rough terrain, he’s still breathing hard when they catch up to his “corpse”. I promise I’ll die, just let me catch my breath first!
They turn him over and geez! Hold your breath for just five seconds, dude! Suzy raises her busted head enough to see that he’s died, and then she too falls back dead. Well. Everyone certainly ended up with exactly what they wanted, didn’t they? To make matters worse, or to at least add more pathos, there’s a loud thunderclap and rain mercilessly beats down on their cold, dead, still-breathing-hard bodies. The FAA guys walk off, apparently planning to just leave them there to rot.
Another day dawns to cheery music. Joe, suitcase in hand again, walks with Beth to the Ranchero. He offers to stay and help her with the skydiving school. “Thanks, Joe,” she answers, “but I don’t think so. I was happy here with Harry”—for five fleeting minutes, anyway—”but now that he’s gone, it would bring back too many memories for me.” And what great memories they were! Sitting in their dining box, eating tuna casserole, staring at each other, drinking coffee… The definition of hating life for anyone else, but for Beth and Harry, it was magic. She says she’ll be leaving soon, too. So they wish each other luck and Joe drives away.
The last scene shows Beth finally trading in the coveralls she wore for the entire movie for a black dress and hat, carrying suitcases to Harry’s big Cadillac. She gives the place one final look and mercifully, the words THE END appear on screen. Except not quite. Coleman is suffering delusions that he’s actually Orson Welles now, and gives every one of the main characters a head shot and credit. Look, a good cast may deserve another credit, but these turnip-heads sure don’t.
Worse still, the music budget has completely run out, so we watch four-second head shots of eight different people in complete silence. And even this can’t be gotten through without a measure of incompetence. Joe gets billed above Harry, despite having half the screen time. Bob’s screen shot is two seconds of material run forward, then reversed [!], making Bob look like a total doof. Finally, and way too late, we learn that the mystery man, Mike, was actually the white corduroy parachutist Flappy Face. And of all the goofy Frandoza Freaks™ to be seen in this movie, only our old pal Shutterbug gets a screen credit. The screen fades to black and the travesty of Coleman’s second “movie” comes to a grinding conclusion. Whew. I need a coffee.
So, since you made it here to the end, and survived the whole thing, I have a treat in store for you. I leave you with a little montage I call the The Many Moods of Tony Cardoza. Enjoy!