Jul 3, 2019
Skidoo (1968): the lost recap (part 2 of 14)
Previously on Skidoo: Unbridled American consumerism got a well-deserved skewering with a five-minute static shot of a TV set showing satirical commercials for painkillers, beer, candy cigarettes, and cola (for fat people!) that were as hilarious as they were breathtaking as they were Oscar-worthy. Oh yeah, and there was something in there about a retired mobster who’s apparently still suspicious after 20+ years that he’s not his daughter’s biological father. Though, with her fondness for dopey hippies, he should be happy to have an excuse to disown her.
It’s still nighttime and we’re down at the San Francisco waterfront, specifically (according to the sign) Pier 17. A motorboat pulls up to the dock and two men step off, and they’re dressed as stereotypical mobsters with red-orange dress shirts under their black suits. And the two men are Frankie Avalon and Cesar Romero, because nothing says “hardcore mob enforcers” like the star of Beach Blanket Bingo and the guy who painted his moustache white to play the Joker. A black Mercedes pulls up and they hop in.
Back at Tony’s house, Darlene’s hippie boyfriend is laid out on the couch and Flo is attending to the head injury he got when Tony pistol-whipped him just now. Hippie Guy assures them he’s feeling “groovy”, so I guess we can all rest easy now. Tony, cigarette in mouth, walks up to him and quips, “Who’s your tailor, Sittin’ Bull?” Sitting, standing, or lying down, there’s plenty of bull to go around in this movie.
Tony wants to know why Hippie Guy dresses like that, and Hippie Guy replies that “we can’t all be undertakers, man!” Yeah, that’s a pretty tough industry to crack into.
This gets Tony all fired up again. “Don’t push me, punk!” Harry holds him back, but Hippie Guy continues to speak in Fortune Cookie: “Violence is the sign language of the inarticulate.” I don’t know, I’m sure I could be pretty eloquent in explaining why I want to punch this guy in the mouth.
Tony is befuddled, so Darlene butts in: “Stash is only interested in nothing!” Stash? The drugged-out hippie guy is named “Stash”? Welcome to Subtletyville. She says Stash isn’t “taken in by our false values”. Tony says if that’s true, why is he driving a “beat-up Rolls Royce? Why aren’t you drivin’ a beat-up Ford?” Tony, can you rephrase that in the form of a coherent thought?
The doorbell rings and Harry answers, and it’s Cesar Romero and Frankie Avalon. Cesar is playing a guy named “Hechy”, and Tony greets him enthusiastically with, “I forgot you were goin’ to drop in tonight!” He ushers them into another room, and once they’re out of earshot of the others, Tony yells at them for showing up at his house unannounced.
Then Tony looks at Frankie and says, “Who’s he?” Hechy happily tells him, “That’s Angie!” Tony remembers Angie being a kid, but Hechy explains that he’s now “in the business” and he “runs Oregon and Idaho”. Did I mention that the mob in this movie is more like Amway, with a big multi-level network of mobsters operating in every state?
Angie is apparently Hechy’s son, because he boasts that next year, Angie “gets the whole Northwest!” Tony proudly says that next year, Darlene goes to Vassar.
The two mobsters look over into the next room and check out Darlene, and Tony wonders if they came here to “introduce the two kids”. Hechy just chuckles, telling Tony that “God summoned you tonight”. And no, Hechy’s not a religious nutjob; he’s not talking about the God, but rather the big boss in charge of their whole criminal organization. But I bet Jackie Gleason wished the real God had summoned him before he could make this movie.
Tony thinks Hechy’s playing a joke on him, but Hechy insists that “God has a little job for you!” Yeah, yeah. I bet that’s the same thing he said to Noah.
Tony says he’s retired, and starts prattling on about how God “released” him from his “jurisdiction”, and even gave him a new name, Tony Banks, because “what’s more legit than ‘Banks’?” Hechy shuts Tony up by telling him that “Packard is turning state’s evidence”, which would be the same George “Blue Chips” Packard mentioned earlier on the news. Angie says Packard is “power-hungry” and wants to take over. Hechy tells Tony he’ll have to “kiss him”. Ew. Not with tongues, I hope.
As it turns out, this movie’s “mobster” slang is about as authentic as its “hippie” slang, because when they talk about “kissing” someone in this movie, it means to kill them. Tony says he can’t “kiss” Packard, because he was his best friend and even Darlene’s godfather. Hechy explains that Tony’s previous relationship to Packard is why God wants him to do it. “You’re the only one Packard won’t suspect!”
Tony reminds them that he “saved the whole tree” once, and he’s not talking about the amount of recycled material that went into this script. The “tree” is another piece of fake mobster slang that will be explained in much greater detail later, but according to Tony, if he hadn’t done this, “the whole organization would have been finished 17 years ago!”
This statement is accompanied by a flashback to Tony “saving the tree”. And for maximum “humorous” effect, this flashback is presented in grainy black and white footage, and the whole thing is shot like a slapstick silent film. In the flashback, there’s a building with a “Federal Bureau of Investigations” sign above the door. The door opens and a file cabinet rolls out, labeled with the words “TOP SECRET”. It turns out the file cabinet is strapped to Tony’s back, and Tony has a big Doc Holiday-style moustache in the flashback. And if that’s not bewildering enough, this is presented in split screen, with Hechy and Angie on one side of the flashback, and Tony on the other.
There’s a cut and the flashback is now on the right side of the screen, with Tony and Hechy talking on the left. Hechy explains that Packard is in “Rock Island Federal Pen” (basically, this movie’s Alcatraz). The split screen switches, so that the flashback is on the left, and the present time stuff is on the right. Groovy, man! On the right, Tony continues to insist he won’t “kiss” Packard. On the left, things turn into a Keystone Cops movie as several police officers chase Tony in sped-up footage.
In the present, Tony wonders how he could even do the hit, since Packard is in prison, but Hechy assures him, “We get you in, we get you out!” Tony calls this “impossible”, and as they talk, Flashback Flo drives up in Flashback Tony’s getaway car, which is a milk truck. Flo shoots at the pursuing cops, and somehow ends up shooting off half of Tony’s moustache. Oh, but wait, it gets even funnier.
As Flo and Tony drive off in the milk truck, several cops shoot at them, causing milk to “hilariously” spurt out of bullet holes in the milk tanks in the back. And I should add that all the gunshots in the flashback are accompanied by loud sound effects, which completely drown out the conversation in the present. And yes, I am thankful. Since I can’t hear them, I’m just going to recap the conversation I made up in my head just now, and assume they’re talking about how God can get Tony smuggled into the prison, while Tony protests that he doesn’t want to give up his new life for the sake of this job.
Hechy and Angie try to tell Tony that he has no choice in the matter, but Tony continues to resist. In the splitscreen flashback, which I can’t believe is still going on, we see cop cars chasing Harry’s milk truck, only to have to swerve to avoid an old lady crossing the street. As the cop cars crash, the old lady walks down an alley, and turns out to be Harry in disguise. So on top of Arnold Stang being clumsy, and Arnold Stang mishearing things, we now get Arnold Stang in drag. Has Arnold Stang now embodied every type of unfunny humor there possibly is?
At last, the stupid flashback ends, and no part of it is ever mentioned again. No, there was no point to that.
In the present, Angie says “we’re wasting time” and tries to get Tony to leave with them. So Tony grabs Angie and starts smacking him across the face repeatedly, saying, “Now you little…” Pow! Right in the kisser! Actually, I wonder if this is what Ralph did to Alice when the cameras weren’t around.
Harry stops Tony, and Tony composes himself and derisively refers to Hechy as “just a messenger”, and says that he’s delivered the message and he can go back and tell God that “The answer is no!” Hechy says if he changes his mind, they’ll be at Pier 17. I guess, just hanging out all night at the docks. Tony says no way, no how is he changing his mind. Clearly, this is not going to end well for him.
Outside, Darlene and Stash are making out, but they stop when they see the gangsters leaving. Stash puts his hands together and bows to Tony, and says goodnight. What? He’s a hippie, not Japanese. Tony tells Darlene to get in the house. Harry also leaves now, so that he can go get himself killed in a minute. Oops, sorry for the spoiler.
After everyone’s gone, Stash climbs on the roof of his Rolls, pulls a blanket over himself, and sits Indian style to more sitar music. So it would seem he plans to sleep outside the Banks residence tonight. Alrighty then.
Cut to the middle of the night, as Tony gets woken up by a phone call. He gets off the phone and tells Flo that somebody at “the office” left “everything on”. Flo dreamily replies, “Alright, Stanley!” Tony stops in his tracks. “Stanley? Stanley who?” But Flo is deep in sleep and just writhes around in ecstasy and humps her pillow, which is something I sure didn’t need to see.
Tony puts his jealous thoughts aside and drives to “the office” in his housecoat and pajamas, and the “office” in this case appears to be a coin-op car wash. I bet it takes a lot of quarters to send your daughter to Vassar.
Tony sees a car going through the rinse. He stops the wash, and approaches the car… and finds Harry’s corpse inside, sitting upright in the driver’s seat with a bullet hole in his head. There’s even a hole in the windshield that lines up with the hole in Harry’s head.
Up until now, everything’s been sitcom-level hijinks, with lots of actors known for doing broad, mostly hacky comedy. So to go from that to a guy with a bullet in his head is just a tiny bit jarring, and trust me, the whole movie is filled with these kinds of wild fluctuations in tone.
Tony apparently gets the message loud and clear that it’s not a good idea to say no to a mob boss. So he gets in Harry’s car, shoves his corpse over, and drives off.
Tony drives out to Pier 17, where Hechy and Angie are waiting for him. Hechy tells Angie to get rid of the car while a resigned Tony calmly walks to the motorboat, with Hechy right behind him. Why are they getting on a boat? Apparently, God lives on a yacht, but we don’t find that out until much, much later.
Come back next time as the movie forgets all about Tony for a while, and gives us what we’ve all been craving: more dumb hippie stereotypes!