Friday, May 29, 2020

Skidoo! Part FIVE


Skidoo was unleashed upon the world in December of 1968. It was obvious that Paramount Pictures was trying to hide the geriatric cast by doing its best to not feature them in print ads. The promotional department featured either a cartoon criminal or a woman’s midriff in posters and advertisements.

Academy Award consideration? Talk about wishful thinking!

The picture landed in theaters with a thud. The young people it was supposed to attract found it to be a square, out of touch mess. The older audience who might have wanted to see Jackie Gleason and Carol Channing found it to be vulgar. The critics had a field day taking the film down.

Gouge your eyes out, kids!

In the end, the film lost a ton of money at the box office. While the picture didn’t quite ruin the careers of its stars, it did cement the idea that Otto Preminger was past it. There were even whispers that he was beginning to show signs of dementia, though those accusations were and are vehemently denied by his family. After its initial theatrical run and its television contracts had expired, Otto quietly put the picture away and forbade it from ever being exhibited, though it did see a bit of a resurgence in the late 1970’s that reportedly pleased Otto. It is the only Preminger film that was never released on videocassette and it was only kept alive through bootlegs.

Get my agent on the line. Chico doesn’t need the money this much!

So where did the film go wrong? While we can only imagine what Doran William Cannon’s original script might have been like, his suggestion that the mob characters be portrayed straight with the hippies bringing the laughs sounds like it could have made for a more intriguing picture. The biggest mistake made by Otto Preminger, however, was the casting. If the goal of the film was to attract a younger audience, Otto should have gotten bigger stars to play the hippies and lesser known stars to play the older characters. That would have allowed the Paramount PR machine to promote the younger stars. Instead, the film appeared to be more suited to a retirement home than a commune.

Even Groucho didn’t want to watch Skidoo.

For years, the only evidence that the film existed was its Harry Nilsson soundtrack, which had originally been dismissed along with the film. Other than the gimmicky credit sequence and Carol Channing’s croaky “Skidoo”, the soundtrack is actually quite good. Bad movie fans would have to wait until 2011 to finally get their own copy of the film. Brilliantly restored and offered on DVD and Blu-ray, the release meant that Preminger’s entire catalog had finally been released on Home video.


The film’s failure reportedly confused Otto Preminger. He had taken the project on as a way to connect with his son and it had failed spectacularly. Despite his inability to accurately depict the younger generation, the trials and tribulations of shooting the film did succeed in bringing them together. For that reason, the picture wasn’t a complete failure.