TCM's airing of Otto Preminger's SKIDOO certainly was an event. Several websites picked up on it. But, since it aired at 2:00 am, how many people actually saw it?
I watched it Saturday afternoon and it lived up to expectations, whatever they were.
The film opens with an interesting satire on television. Jackie Gleason and Carol Channing are watching TV. The TV shows such images as a commercial with kids smoking selling cigarettes, another commercial for guns, and scenes from Preminger's IN HARM'S WAY.
From this opening, I thought "this could turn into something a lot better than I thought it would be".
Unfortunately, what happens next is an almost two minute scene with the two of them, each armed with a remote control, flipping back and forth, fighting over what to watch. It was pretty deadly.
Then, to make matters worse, the scene takes place in a large house. It appears the actors weren't miked up properly, and no post production work was done, because there are all sorts of echoes and dead spots in the dialogue.
That pretty much sums up the entire film. It felt like the first cut of what could have been an interesting film. It just needed a lot of editing and post production work.
Gleason is an ex-mobster who has left the business to marry Channing. He is called back into the game by Frankie Avalon, working for GOD (Groucho Marx). It seems one of the gang (Mickey Rooney) has been arrested and is planning on testifying against GOD. Since Gleason was the only member of the gang who Rooney would trust, they want Gleason to be sent to the same prison and kill Rooney.
What follows are all sorts of intended wacky sequences that make the film worth watching. At one point, Gleason accidentally ingests LSD and goes on a trip. Carol Channing does a striptease for Avalon. And there is a group of hippies that play a part in the film, as Gleason's daughter joins them.
It is an interesting cast. Groucho, in his last film role, wears a loud blue blazer through it all and is always looking off camera, reading his lines from cue cards. Austin Pendleton, in his film debut, does a good job as a hippie imprisoned with Gleason. Alexandra Hay, also in her film debut, is quite beautiful as Gleason's daughter (but she didn't seem to have much of a career after this). Even Richard Kiel (James Bond's Jaws) has a role as an inmate.
However the real reason to see the film, the finale. We get a big musical number of the title song, led by Channing. Then, Groucho Marx smokes pot. Finally, the closing credits are sung, by Nilsson. The cast, crew, all the way to the copyright in Roman numerals, Nilsson sings it all. It is actually quite catchy! The music is one of the best things about the film.
SKIDOO is far from a great, or even good film. It is a very watchable film though. It deserves a DVD release. The TCM version wasn't letterboxed, with the Panavision phtography cropped quite a bit.