The Skydivers (1963) (part 5 of 7)
We head back to Suzy’s Lake of Love, and this time she’s got second choice Frankie with her. Coleman gives us lots of shots of the boat motor (yes, it’s a Johnson). Then there’s a shot of Suzy’s butt, then water lapping by the side of the boat, the motor again, Suzy’s armpit, Frankie drinking a beer, Suzy’s butt, water lapping again. To top it off, he accompanies this montage with Russian Cossack music. It actually sounds a lot like the Tetris theme music, come to think of it.
They pull up to shore. Frankie gets out and starts to help Suzy out, but the shot jumps, and Frankie and Suzy are now chasing each other around the boat. Oh, and the boat has magically grown a sail. This whole movie is like one of those puzzles with two drawings, where you have to spot all the differences between the top one and the bottom one.
After they get done chasing each other, they head onto the sand. And right in the middle of all the beach’s rocks and prickly scrub plants, the love birds have placed a blanket. Suzy implies she can get Frankie’s job back for him by sleeping with Harry. But good ol’ dense Frankie doesn’t see how that would work.
Suzy switches tactics, first talking about Crazy Freefalling Pete dying, then getting all psychotic. She asks Frankie what would happen if they poured acid on someone’s parachute. “Eh-cid?” Frankie asks. “Eh-cid would eat holes in the chute.” Gah! This guy’s delivery is so bad, it makes Richard Kiel look like Orson Welles.
Plus, Frankie is pointlessly playing the character like he’s a few bricks short, instead of as a dangerous loner, or as Suzy’s deranged sidekick, or anything else that might be regarded as threatening. He seems more like her dumb little brother that she’s letting tag along. To say nothing of what this drunk half-wit airplane mechanic has done to my confidence in the aviation industry. Is this really who you want for your “guest star”, movie? There’s still time to change your mind! I hear John Carradine is still available. Very, very available. Actually, Coleman could have plugged any of the Freaks into this role and still gotten as good or better a performance—and saved Tony the twelve pack of Schlitz this guy probably got as part of his “guest star” status.
Frankie brilliantly points out that it would be bad for them if anyone found out about their acid scheme. But like a dog with a bone, Suzy has got this idea now to kill the lover she can’t have, and she’s not going to let go of it. Frankie asks Suzy why she’s so “mean” when her “pa” gave her everything: a car, a boat, a ranch. “My pa,” she says, disgusted. “He gave me too much. We were always alone together. He didn’t think I needed anybody else! He followed me everywhere. Everywhere.” Does that mean what I think it means? Because if that’s a common occurrence, that would sure help explain the physical appearance of the town’s population.
Oh, and as they’re making out, we see that Frankie has a heart tattoo on his arm that says “Suzy”. Just between you and me, I think he got that in loving tribute to the speedboat.
Back in the Parachute Room, Joe finds Beth working on some wiring. Man, does Harry do anything around here? She starts to get down from the step ladder, when Joe tears her off and gives her a passionate kiss. What the heck? You know what, guys? She’s not that pretty! The huge piled-up hair is bad enough, but she’s also got the forehead of Klingon. (But then again, there aren’t too many options for single men in this town, as we’ll soon see.)
The “general”, meanwhile, pulls up outside in his Cadillac. Joe and Beth pull away at the sound of his arrival, and Joe walks out to talk to Harry. Joe offers to leave until the FAA lets Harry reopen. Harry says, “Stick around. Make yourself at home.” Sleep with my wife if you wanna. Me, I’m just gonna swig coffee and stare at the walls of my dining crate.
Harry walks away and Beth comes out and stands beside Joe. They look at each other, no doubt thinking: What’s going on between us? Or perhaps, When’s Coleman gonna say “cut”?
More bad driving music, straight out of a 1960s supper club set, accompanies Frankie and Suzy as they drive to see the guy who’s selling them acid. The song is like a rumba or cha-cha dance number. Should peppy music really accompany your film’s darkest, most disturbing scene? I suppose if Tarantino did it, people would laud the ironic juxtaposition, but this is Coleman Francis. Anything that appears to be a glimmer of brilliance is always pure happenstance.
In a laboratory—an honest-to-goodness definitely not some guy’s garage with a sheet partitioning off ten feet of it—a guy in a pharmacist’s coat examines what appears to be a big jug of moonshine. This is Frederic “Four Strikes” Downs, whom you might remember from his earlier Booth appearances. (But given the quality of those films, probably not.) But never have you seen him in a performance like that of Ralph the Acid Supplier.
Suzy and Frankie pull up outside his place and Suzy goes in alone. “Ralph,” she purrs, “May I have a little acid?” Ralph gets a flustered look, and then the two walk off arm-in-arm into the dark recesses of the back of the garage, and their souls.
Frankie sits in the car listening to the 9 o’clock news on the radio. Jump cut to an empty garage, then back to Frankie, and music is once again playing on the radio. Frankie finally gets out of the car and begins pacing, no doubt wondering how a simple acid purchase can take so long. Finally, finally, finally the two come back out, Ralph looking exhausted and Suzy looking like this all in a day’s work for her, which I’ve no doubt it is. And that’s all I’m saying. Just draw your own conclusions, okay? And then try to shove them all violently from your mind. Rest assured, she got the acid.
Oblivious to reality, Frankie gets in the car with Suzy and they drive away. They drive for awhile, then Suzy pulls over and says, “Well, Frankie, this is it.” Yeah, my career is officially over. I got it on with Frederic Downs in the back of a garage.
Frankie, still clueless, warns her to be careful. She asks if he’s going to do it or if she’ll have to. My money’s on her. After all, she’s just proven she’ll do anything. Frankie points out the parachuting school is still closed down by the FAA, but Suzy says they’ll be open again soon. So, I’m guessing a certain FAA official is getting an unexpected visit from Suzy soon, too.
She asks Frankie if he’s chicken. And he actually considers whether he is or not for like, 30 seconds before finally agreeing to go along with her plan. If you have to think about it that hard, you might be a chicken.
Then there’s another pointless driving scene of Harry in his Cadillac arriving at the airfield. He gets out and noiselessly slams the car door. Don’t worry, they’ll foley that in later.
Beth comes up, and Harry tells her the FAA has cleared them to operate again. Beth says she’ll go tell Joe, and Harry gives her a look that could be interpreted to mean, “What’s with you and Joe?” Or possibly, “I wonder if there’s any hot coffee?” Or, “Why am I wasting my money on a Coleman Francis movie again?”
Since they’re free to fly again, we immediately cut to more random strangers skydiving, with the omnipresent Freakazoid gawkers on the ground. I swear this is the same skydiving footage we saw earlier. Bob and Bernie come out of a hangar and ask Shutterbug why he doesn’t jump, and take some pictures coming down. Shutterbug replies, “What do you think I am, some kind of a nut?” Yeah, of course not. You’re just a guy who likes to take pictures of skydivers, then sit at home and look at them. Alone. Face it, Shutterbug, you’re the kind of nut they build houses for.
Joe and Beth walk up together and Joe lights her cigarette. Alternate Universe Harry is starting to realize the two of them are alone together an awful lot, and it bugs him. Shutterbug wanders over and Beth tells him they’re planning a big night jump soon, and throwing a big twist party that same night.
Bob and Bernie jump again, this time over a mountain range! This is the other jump zone? So, their options were either a busy highway, or high mountains? Why exactly did the FAA let this place reopen?
You know, by this point, I’ve had it with the skydiving footage. I just don’t care anymore. What’s to say? What’s to see? Guys jump off a plane, plunge towards the ground, open a chute, float for awhile and land. I get it! They’re not even trying to put any variety into it. (Well, apart from Pete, who got himself killed.) It’s not like they’re skydiving while sitting in cars and drinking Mountain Dews. They have no guns or knives. In short, they’re doing nothing which I, the viewer, should derive any entertainment from. Worse yet, they’re not even advancing the plot. It’s so—what’s the word? Oh, right, boring.
Yet, strangely, this jump is becoming an even bigger deal on the ground. People are bringing their picnic lunches now. Young girls are jockeying for viewing position like Arch Hall Jr. is making a special appearance. Large groups of people are everywhere, wasting their free time watching other people have lives.
The guys land and Joe and Beth drive out in the Ranchero to pick them up. There’s a brief cut to Shutterbug comparing the skydivers to “seagulls”, and… no… I’m not getting into it. Sorry. Meanwhile, Joe drives back to the hangar and Bernie asks how they looked in the sky. Beth says, “Grrrrreat! My grade school teacher couldn’t have drawn a better figure 8!” Uhhh… what? A figure 8? That’s what they were doing? Okay. That didn’t come across at all.
Having settled that, Joe helps Beth out of the back of the truck. Harry arrives, and he’s finally had too much. He runs in and shoves Joe away, monotoning that Joe’s “been paying too much attention to Beth, and I don’t like it.” Bernie interrupts, offering, for a Coleman Francis film, the only possible solution to such a tense situation. He says, “Hey, c’mon guys. Let’s have a cup of hot coffee.” Honestly, if Coleman had the wit, this would almost qualify as an in-joke.
After a bit more posturing, Joe and Harry make up and walk away. It would have been great if, as they walked away, Harry just hauled off and decked Joe out of the blue, but since it’s not my movie, that doesn’t happen. Beth smiles like, “Yay! My husband does care about me! My affair is working!”
Cut to: thirty second shot of Beth pouring coffee for herself and Joe. Okay, that seriously had no point.
And now it’s time for the IMDb-heralded progeny of Coleman Francis, Alan and Ronald, to get their first scene in the movie. The younger one asks Harry when “the big jump” is, because his dad said he could watch. Much as I imagine he once said, “Hey boys, Daddy’s making a film next weekend, and you can come watch!” Harry says the jump is next Saturday night, to which the older boy, suffering from acute 14 Year Old Boy Disease asks, “Next Saturday night here, mister?” No, next Saturday night in Tokyo! Alright, I’m sorry. It wasn’t you. Well, it was partly your line reading. But mostly it was the stupid line you were given to say.
That plot point established yet again (by the way, in case you missed it, folks, there’s a big event scheduled for Saturday night), we cut back to Joe and Beth and their Taster’s Choice romance. Beth says over her coffee, “You never should’ve kissed me, Joe.” Joe replies, “It wasn’t just a kiss.” Well, then someone left out a reel of the movie, ’cause that’s all I saw.
But Beth insists she still loves her husband, “Good or bad.” Boy, it’s just too bad we’re a few years too early for the steel guitar strains of “Stand By Your Man” to be playing in the background of this scene. It’s the perfect opportunity, really. Or if any music was playing, for that matter. Heck, bring back that Russian Sword Dance music—Anything! Anyway, Beth and Joe decide to stay friends, and even shake hands on it. And it would be hilarious if in the middle of the handshake, they started making out, but again, not my movie.