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So Good It's Good; Watch with an Open Mind
The conventional wisdom on this movie (amply supported by both positive and negative reviews here on IMDb) is that it's either an awful, embarrassing, train-wreck of a movie that wastes it's star-laden cast, or that it's hugely entertaining, but only because of how terrible it is. I beg to differ on both counts.
For starters, people, it's a satire! It's not supposed to be taken at face value, although I believe it has a serious message underneath all the silliness. Satirized at various points throughout are gangsters, television, the judicial system, consumerism, playboys, technology, government, and (very gently) hippies. I think some people probably have trouble following the movie because the plot is fairly intricate; if you're not paying close attention you will miss plot points that make later events more comprehensible. The first time I saw this I was mildly amused, but each time I watch it, it gets better and I get more out of it.
There are even scattered moments of brilliance, dare I say it. The opening scene of Jackie Gleason and Carol Channing dueling with their TV remotes, flipping between the sadly too-realistic senate hearing and amusingly insipid commercials is priceless and spot on. Gleason's assessment of Law's hippie character also brought a smile to my face ("How come you're driving a beat-up Rolls instead of a beat-up Ford? How does that fit with your beliefs?") The acid-trip sequences are actually quite well done, more closely resembling an actual trip, and especially the behavior of those on a trip, than many expressly drug-oriented movies of the time (except maybe for the dancing garbage cans), perhaps because Otto Preminger actually experimented with LSD before making the movie. And everyone from the big names to the bit players are excellent in their roles and play everything straightwith no mugging or winking at the cameraall the way. Austin Pendleton, in particular, as "Fred the Professor," is in top form and nearly steals the show. (And is that Corbett Monica dancing on top of Slim Pickens's switchboard?)
I see this more as a critique of dog-eat-dog capitalism (as represented by the gangsters) than just a meaningless farce. I think the most telling scene is where Gleason ("the best torpedo in the business") drops acid, "loses his ego," and realizes just how morally/spiritually bankrupt the violent, money-obsessed gangster life is. And while the hippies are occasionally gently mocked ("If you can't dig nothing, you can't dig anything") I really feel that the film's heart is on their side, making Skidoo essentially a 98-minute commercial for peace, love, and understanding, and really one of the best countercultural movies of the '60s (especially since it was made by a 62-year-old "member of the establishment"). Compare this to other '60s "youth oriented" cheese fests (which I love) such as Riot on Sunset Strip, The Big Cube, The Love-Ins, etc., and you'll find that Skidoo's depiction of the hippies is actually more realistic (and sympathetic) and that it carries a more serious message (!!).
Try to clear your head of all the "train wreck" and "so-bad-it's-good" propaganda before watching this and I think you'll find a rather sly, sophisticated, and quite funny comedy. I think Preminger was light-years ahead of both audiences and critics in 1968 (and apparently still is), accounting for its failure at the box office more than the quality of the movie itself. That, and the fact that it's so hard to pigeonhole: is it a gangster movie, a comedy, or a youth-market drug flick? The recently released Olive Films DVD is bare-bones, with no extras other than chapter stops, but is in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, and the print is in overall great shape, with good color and contrast and virtually no blemishes or other damage. If you're a fan of this film, pick it up and support the release of obscure gems like this. You will not be disappointed.
"It's only my opinion, but it's one that I value highly." Henry Fool
Wild Ones on Wheels (1962)
Could This Possibly Have Been the Template for Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!?
Moderately interesting exploiter featuring one of my favorite swingin' '60s chicks, smokin' hot Francine York (Space Monster, Doll Squad), and bottom-of-the barrel auteur Ray Dennis Steckler (Incredibly Strange Creatures, Thrill Killers), as well as a few other hangers-on from the Steckler/Arch Hall axis in the cast and crew. The time-worn plot of York and her ex-con hubby being kidnapped by a gang of hot-rodding thugs and forced to reveal the location of a stash of bank-robbery loot buried in the desert years earlier provides the framework for a lot of tough-guy bravado, a "chickie run", and even a quickly aborted attempted rape. Steckler's Preacher Man spouts ridiculous hipsterisms like "insides-ville" for "inside", Edmund Tontini defines "wooden" as the oddly named gang leader King Tut, and Jonathon Karle's ludicrous turn as psycho-nutcase Jick (who has his name in huge white letters on the back of his jacket) really makes you appreciate Arch Hall Jr.'s nuanced performance as Charlie Tibbs in The Sadist. There's a lot more talking than peeling out going on, and several of the sports cars are traded in for Jeeps halfway through, but I was mildly amused and never bored throughout.
But what really fascinates me about this movie are the number of parallels it shares with Russ Meyer's Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, released three years later: 1) the Southwest desert location, 2) the arrival of the gang in three sports cars (and a couple of jeeps), 3) the search for a rumored hidden bankroll, 4) kidnapping of female by leather-clad gang, 5) murder of female's significant other by gang, 6) repeated escape attempts necessitating recapture of kidnapped female due to negligence of gang members, 7) the chicken run, and 8) even one specific library music cue that is shared by both movies! Much of this could be coincidence due to the clichéd nature of the story, but I couldn't help noticing the numerous similarities to FPKK as I watched Wild Ones. Is it possible that Meyer saw this movie somewhere and thought, "What if . . . ?" We'll probably never know, but I just thought I'd throw it out there for exploitation fans to ponder.
Sinister Cinema's DVD-R of this movie is not spectacular looking (the contrast varies from shot to shot at times, apparently due to unequal processing of the A and B rolls used to print the film) but still quite watchable, far better than your typical Alpha Video transfer. I'd give it a "B". There is currently no other available option, so check out the Sinister site and order a few more titles while you're at it. Greg Luce is a great guy and is helping to preserve and disseminate hundreds of public domain movies that would never be seen by film fans otherwise, especially given the supremacy of the almighty profit margin by the multinational entertainment conglomerates.