Skidoo (1968), the lost recap (part 14 of 14): Adieu, Skidoo
Previously on Skidoo: After spending what felt like half the movie building a hot air balloon, Tony and the Professor finally used it to escape from prison. God found out Tony didn’t go through with the hit on Packard, so he ordered Angie to kill Darlene. But then Flo and all the hippies showed up on a fleet of boats they got from somewhere to storm God’s yacht and come to Darlene’s rescue and set the stage for a truly horrible musical finale.
Here it is at last: Skidoo, the final chapter. And once again, I’m reminded of why it took me over 12 years to finally get around to posting this thing. Because after six months and 13 recap installments, we’re about to end up right back where we began: with a stream of painful, unfunny nonsense that defies all attempts at being witty or insightful. Alright, let’s finish this. And if I don’t make it to end… well, I had a good life.
So, here we are. Tony’s makeshift hot air balloon has just landed on God’s yacht, while Flo’s boat has been getting closer and closer. And then Flo, still dressed in the wacky Napoleon outfit, starts speaking directly to the camera, and talking in complete gibberish.
Did Flo accidentally lick some LSD-tainted envelopes, too? Or is it just a contact high from hanging around with hippies all day? Flo continues to cry, “Shiiiiine!” And the hippies all pick up the cry of “Shiiiine!” as they climb aboard God’s yacht. And then, we get a partial explanation for Flo’s nonsensical speech when she starts singing.
You see, that whole “power power” spiel was really the intro to another godawful musical number. But not just any musical number. This is the theme song to the whole stupid movie. Flo steps onto God’s boat and begins warbling the title tune, “Skidoo”. Let’s check out some of the lyrics, and see if they perhaps give some clue as to what this movie is about.
Skidoo, skidoo, the only thing that matters is with who
Skidoo, adieu, I do believe it really is the thing to do
Skidoo, skidoo, and the world can be a better place for you
Yeah, I would say that just about sums things up.
And the action behind her is exactly what you’d expect to see in an alleged “madcap” comedy that ends with a big musical number: All of the hippies and all of God’s goons are now frolicking together and dancing together, even though the goons were ready to shoot them all just a minute or two ago. Also, several hippies with musical instruments are dancing around behind Flo, supposedly being her “band”.
Also during this, we see God slipping into a closet. Okay, solid escape plan. I can see how he came to be in charge of a nationwide protection racket.
Tony gets pulled out of the hot air balloon, and demands to know where his daughter is. He finds his way to Darlene’s cabin, opens the bathroom door, and sees Darlene (who is, of course, still alive) in the shower with Angie. It’s not quite as scandalous as it sounds, because Angie is fully clothed and Darlene is wearing a towel, but this doesn’t stop Tony from running in and smacking Angie around anyway.
Darlene tells him to stop, insisting, “He saved my life!” And why exactly did Angie decide to disobey God’s orders and not kill Darlene? We never find out. But who cares? It’s all a big love-in laugh-fest! It’s time to skidoo!
Throughout this, Flo continues to wander around the boat singing the theme song, even with people talking directly over her. She’s now singing, “Skidoo, skidoo, between the one and three, there is a two!” Hey, at least they can say this song is informative to preschoolers.
Flo leads all the hippies into God’s cabin. She sits in his chair, plays pool, then sits in a vibrating recliner for a while. All the hippies are dancing around and playing their instruments, and a hippie jumps on God’s exercise bike. Meanwhile, Flo is singing that we all need to “take a breath and watch the scenery, as the color slowly changes from 14 to 23!” Wow, these lyrics are like, blowing my mind, man.
Tony enters and Flo runs to him, but he pushes her away, wanting to know where God is. He asks all the hippies where God is, including the guy playing tambourine. Hey, he’s a little busy being in a musical number right now, but maybe he can get back to you later.
Flo, still singing the song to Tony this entire time, leads him into a closet. And then there’s an abrupt cut to them outside, so maybe God’s closets are teleportation devices, after all. Flo leads him to another cabin, where she tosses off her Napoleon hat and they kiss and fall onto a bed and the door thankfully closes. Wow, so I guess I was right about Flo keeping this outfit handy for sexy cosplay with Tony.
And then, the song morphs into the wedding march, and we cut to Captain George Raft marrying an unseen couple. The camera pulls back and we see who’s getting married. Any guesses? Any guesses at all? Actually, don’t even bother, because the couple is Angie and Elizabeth, God’s supermodel mistress. Which has basically nothing to do with the entire movie we just watched, which, come to think of it, makes it completely appropriate as an ending. By the way, instead of the Bible, George Raft is holding a copy of a book titled The Death of God. What is there to say to this, really?
Raft pronounces them man and wife, and then hands them a life preserver to use as the “ring”. He tells Angie to kiss the bride, and Angie has to get up on his tiptoes to kiss Elizabeth. A common predicament for Frankie Avalon, I’m sure.
And then, Angie’s father Hechy suddenly re-enters the movie. What? Cesar, why the hell didn’t you get out when you still had the chance? And I’d ask how he even got here, since he didn’t arrive with the hippies and he obviously wasn’t in Tony’s balloon, but clearly nothing that happens at this point is supposed to make any logical sense.
Elizabeth puts the life preserver around Hechy, drags him into a corner, and kisses him. Hey, why not? It’s free love, baby! Marry a guy and then make out with his dad ten seconds later! If you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with, love the one you’re with! Doo do doo doo dodo doo!
Angie pushes them apart, putting on a really overdone “shocked” face. He freezes, and if the next words out of his mouth were “Aaaaand… scene!” it would not have surprised me in the slightest.
But wait! The crazy wedding hijinks are not over, folks. I repeat: This is not over. Next to be married are Darlene and Stash, and Geronimo is presiding over the ceremony and taking over for George Raft. Alas, we don’t get to see any part of this ceremony. Again, since the relationship between Stash and Darlene took up a significant portion of the movie, it only makes sense that we not see any of their wedding, right?
Instead, we cut to a small sailboat out on the water, where God is apparently making his getaway. But accompanying him on the sailboat is the Professor, and the sailboat has the words “LOVE” and “PEACE” painted on the sails.
Both men are all wrapped up in sheets, like they’re on a spiritual retreat in India, and they’re also smoking pot together. Yes, you read that right; This is Groucho Marx’s final film role, and his final moments on camera are him smoking a joint.
God takes a hit and exclaims, “Pumpkin!” Which is a very, very slight reference to the scene in city hall from earlier in the movie, which at this point feels like it happened five years ago. If you don’t remember it, don’t worry about it. It’s not even worth going back to read that part of the recap to get it.
And with that, the movie more or less ends. I mean, that’s the end of the plot, such as it was. Although, just between us, I think the movie gave up on having a plot quite some time ago. Tony’s hit on Packard never amounted to anything (and Tony was never even in the same room as Packard!), the whole Darlene/Stash hippie subplot devolved into nonsense, and the other big plot thread, concerning Tony’s doubts about being Darlene’s father, was completely forgotten after the acid trip sequence.
And yet, there’s still time left for one final bit of pain: the closing credits. As the PEACE and LOVE boat sails away, the picture freezes, and the sound screeches to a halt. We hear a voice with a thick Austrian accent that must be director Otto Preminger say, “Stop! We are not through! And before you skidoo, we would like to introduce our cast and crew!”
This kicks off a bewildering closing credit sequence where Harry Nilsson sings the credits. And by that I mean, he literally sings the credits. As the names of cast members slide onto the screen, Nilsson finds a way to work all the actor names and character names into the lyrics of his song.
And you might be thinking he only sings the cast credits. No, he sings all of the credits: crew members, producers, and caterers all get mentioned, with various asides to make everything fit the meter. We are now listening to a song with lyrics like “Camera operators Irving Rosenberg and Dewey Wrigley”, and “Chief electrician Fred Hall, key grip Leo McCreary”. Not only that, but he sings the legal disclaimers and copyright information at the end. This is so insane it would almost be brilliant, if it weren’t coming at the tail end of one of the most painful moviegoing experiences of all time.
Also during this song, we learn the Professor’s name is “Fred”, but I’m positive that name was never actually said in the movie. Then it’s sung to us that the part of the naked Green Bay Packers was played by the “Orange County Ramblers”, a team that only played for one season in something called the Continental Football League. And when Nilsson sings about this, we get a helpful overlay shot of them naked all over again.
After the credits song ends, the LOVE boat starts moving again to an instrumental reprise of “Skidoo”, and at long, long last… That is the end.
This film was clearly trying hard to be in the same vein as a lot of popular comedies of the mid-‘60s, full of rapid-fire madcap hijinks and lots of celebrity cameos, only with an added layer of psychedelia and counter-culture themes to make it “contemporary”. And honestly, there’s nothing inherently terrible about the concept. No, the biggest problem with Skidoo is that it’s not the slightest bit funny. There’s not one moment in this whole miserable movie that will make you so much as crack a smile. It’s so devoid of laughs, and so filled with unlikable characters and contempt for its target audience that I have to wonder if it was meant as a post-modern meta-comedy where the total lack of jokes is the joke. But I’m probably giving Preminger and this movie too much credit.
As previously mentioned, the screenwriter, Doran William Cannon, also wrote the script for Robert Altman’s Brewster McCloud, which is a far superior film (though, the critical response was mostly negative at the time), mainly because Altman’s more subtle, naturalistic style worked way better for the material. Here, Preminger’s formal, stagey, over the top, and rigorously planned style just murders all attempts at humor in the crib. It’s hard to imagine a director working in 1968 who was more ill-suited to direct this movie than Otto Preminger.
Skidoo was reviled by critics and became a notorious bomb. Preminger would bounce back soon enough from this disaster, but it was clear his best days as a director were behind him, and he would only make four more films before his death in 1986. Ultimately, Skidoo should be remembered as an aberration in an exceptional and highly influential filmography. If you haven’t seen any of Preminger’s well-regarded films, I would recommend starting with Laura, his best-known film noir, or the courtroom drama Anatomy of a Murder. And while they may not be widely considered his best films, I’m also partial to the romantic comedy/drama Such Good Friends (with a screenplay by future Ishtar director Elaine May!) and the Hitchcock-ian suspense thriller Bunny Lake is Missing. Any one of these movies should be more than enough to wash away the memory of the bad trip that is Skidoo.