Feb 12, 2020
Skidoo (1968), the lost recap (part 8 of 14): A literal mind-screw
Previously on Skidoo: We finally got to meet God, played by an embalmed Groucho Marx, but the true suffering began when Tony started to feel the effects of LSD-tainted envelopes, and hallucinated a tiny Professor, a tiny Leech, and numbers materializing before his eyes. Meanwhile, I got lots of rest over the holiday break, and I think I’m ready to finally get through the rest of this acid trip sequence.
Back in his prison cell, Tony is still yelling about the numbers he sees before his eyes and all the “mat-matics” he’s visualizing. Leech responds to this by saying, “He’s got a loose screw!” And when a serial rapist says that about you…
Then Tony hears a nonexistent fly buzzing around his head, and grabs at the air in front of him. And every time he makes a grabbing motion, it’s accompanied by a “trippy” sound effect. He sits up, frantically grabbing at the air all around him. And no, there’s no point to this.
This totally hilarious bit ends when he jumps back, seeing a giant rotating screw floating around the cell. You see, Leech saying he’s “got a loose screw” planted an idea in Tony’s mind, and now here we are. But then he looks closer, and if you can believe it (and really, what choice do you have?), the head of Groucho Marx appears on top of the screw, rotating around, as the screw floats around the cell. Full disclosure: I’ve never tried hallucinogens in my life, and after watching this scene, I doubt I ever will.
But for some reason, Tony looks pleased. He tells the Groucho Screw that “I’m not playing your game!” He folds his arms and continues to watch the thing spin and hover around. “Go ahead,” Tony says. “Drop!” This leads to the giant screw… disappearing down the sink. Tony looks concerned, and gets up to look in the sink. He then turns on the sink and splashes water on his face, saying, “Wonderful! Wonderful!” I guess dropping acid is a totally organic experience for him.
The Professor tells him to “Find yourself in the water!” And so Tony looks into the sink, and sees the reflection of his wet face, and it’s all wavy with red mist around it. Then the image changes to Darlene saying, “Daddy!”
Tony says in echoing voiceover, “No kid of mine could be that pretty!” Darlene’s image fades to black and white, and the red mist in the sink turns blue. I think that means it’s time to replace the 2000 Flushes tablet. A zoom-in on Darlene’s eyes crossfades into a close-up of Tony’s eyes. The floating Darlene head flies out of the frame. “I have a right to know,” Tony says. “It’s a father’s right to know!” Okay, okay, your wife is a slut. Hey, now you know.
Next, an image of Packard skips around, and he’s got a big sack of money in each hand. And how do I know they’re sacks of money? Why, they have dollar signs on them, of course.
Packard then speak-sings a faux ragtime number: “I never have to stay up nights and worry about my flow, I’d rather live the simple life and think about my dough!” Or is he singing about Flo, not his “flow”? No idea. He continues: “So, look, my old pal Tony, and see how much you’ve missed! I can buy and sell a hundred girls, and pay to have me kissed!” Maybe I was wrong. I might need another five-day weekend to get through this.
Then comes the inevitable “multiple floating heads” segment of this acid trip. There are wavy images of Darlene, Hechy, the senator played by Peter Lawford (from the hearings way back at the start of this movie), and “Eggs” Benedict, still covered in bandages and pleading the fifth. As they speak, each of their heads floats off to the side. Groucho appears, saying, “Me? No!” So I’m assuming the point of this is that Tony is hallucinating all the men who could potentially be Darlene’s father. And all of this is superimposed over Mickey Rooney still dancing around like an idiot with his bags of money.
Suddenly, Packard starts glowing red. “I’ve got a right to know,” Tony says. “It’s a father’s right to know!” Yes, we heard you the first time. We zoom in on Tony’s eye, and inside his eye is Flo, in a pink and black feather boa. She grins widely and says, “Would you please repeat the question?” And then she turns blue. That settles it, then. Darlene’s father is a Smurf.
Tony’s super-echoing voice asks, “Who were you with the night of…” The image of Flo cuts him off: “With you, honey boy! You’re my daddy-waddums!” Then Tony asks, “And who were you with the night of, night of, night of, night of…” Flo says, “With you, dickey-boom-boom!” Good lord. She’s even unbearable in a hallucination.
“You’re under oath,” Tony says. “I want the truth!” Blue Wavy Flo just makes a pouty face and says, “The truth is often stranger than, stranger than, stranger than…” Skipping Packard reappears, and the floating heads reappear, and the sickening mise en scéne is finally complete, as the screen is completely filled with a clusterfuck of psychedelic colors and wavy motion. Congratulations, guys. This is about the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen.
Ten years later, Flo finishes her sentence: “…lots of things!” Well, that was worth the wait. She asks if Tony really wants to know. We zoom in on a sweaty Gleason saying, “Don’t tell me!”
Out in the “real world”, Leech is watching Tony, who’s still leaning over the sink. Tony yells into the sink, “I don’t care how many guys you’ve slept with!” Hey, take it easy, you’re only washing your hands, it’s not a long-term commitment.
Back in the hallucination, Flo says, “Haven’t you ever noticed her ears? She’s got your ears!” So, apparently, that was the answer Tony was looking for. This means that Darlene really is his daughter, because he says over and over, “She’s got my ears!” Back in the non-LSD world, he happily repeats this over and over to his cellmates, improvising a song out of the words “she’s got my ears” as he goes dancing over to the cell door. But alas, this is still not the end of the acid trip sequence.
One half of the screen turns into a hallucination featuring Tony’s old friend Arnold Stang, AKA Harry. Harry is looking just like when Tony found his corpse, with a bullet in his head while coming out of a carwash. But this time, Harry’s corpse comes alive and says, “Tony, I’ve been wanting to tell you this for a long time.” Then his image takes on a purple tint, and then (and you knew they had to use this effect eventually) he turns into his negative image. Harry says, “I think she looks like me! Sorry, Tony. It was just one of them things!”
Back in the non-LSD world, Tony turns away from the bars looking devastated. Leech wonders what went wrong, and the Prof says, “He did it! He lost his ego!” Wow. Just from Harry saying he slept with Flo? Actually, learning I got Arnold Stang’s sloppy seconds would be a big blow to my ego, as well.
Tony stares into space and says, “I want a flower.” So the Prof picks up a shaving brush, calls it a “flower”, and makes Leech hand it to Tony.
Tony takes it, but sees Flo’s face momentarily superimposed over Leech’s face. “Comically”, Tony says to Leech, “Thank you, sweetheart!” Hey, there is a place for romance in prison, after all. Tony sniffs the brush and sighs, “Ohhh… Flo!” So does this mean Flo smells like shaving cream and Aqua Velva? That wouldn’t surprise me, actually.
By the way, how’s everybody holding up? Because I’m happy to report that the acid trip is finally over. And I’d really love to say the worst part of the movie is over as well, but of course, this is Skidoo, and you just know something even more horrible is lurking around the corner to make you lose your will to live.
Coming up next: We return to God’s yacht, and witness complete and utter nonsense between Darlene and Stash and Angie that makes the above scene look like a master stroke of coherent storytelling.