Okay, you need to stop whatever you’re doing and set your TiVos and DVRs to record Turner Classic Movies tonight (1/4/07 or tomorrow, 1/5/07, if you’re on the east coast) at 2:00 AM EST/11:00 PM PST: Otto Preminger’s rarely screened, never-released-to-video Skidoo is going to air!
If you’ve never heard of Skidoo, this is the movie that sixty-three-year-old Preminger made after experimenting with acid in the late 60s. And if the thought of watching a "head" film from the director of Laura about (according to Jonathan Rosenbaum) "hippies taking over the world" isn’t enough to get you interested, consider the cast: Jackie Gleason, Carol Channing, Arnold Stang, Frankie Avalon, John Phillip Law, Frank Gorshin, Burgess Meredith, Peter Lawford, George Raft, Mickey Rooney, Cesar Romero, Slim Pickens and Groucho Marx in his last screen performance as a corporate mafia don named "God".
Since I’ve never seen it myself, I’ll let the TCM summary explain the "plot":
"A retired mobster named Tony (Gleason) is called upon by his former Mafia boss (Marx, simply referred to as “God”) to make one last hit. His one time friend Blue Chips Packard (Rooney) was sitting pretty in solitary confinement in Alcatraz after being busted, but has since become an informer against his old gang. Tony is instructed to sneak into the jail and eliminate Packer.
Meanwhile, Tony’s teenage daughter Darlene is in dubious company herself, hanging out with members of San Francisco’s hippie community. She starts dating a tuned-out long hair (John Phillip Law) and espouses the ideals of peace and love. Tony’s wife Flo (Channing), the more sympathetic of the couple, feels for her daughter and invites the whole psychedelic clan back to their house to live. Tony is none too happy about this new crowd, yet befriends a hippie in the clink known as ‘The Professor’ (Austin Pendleton, the unsung hero of the film). He turns Tony onto acid accidentally one day, and during his trip, Tony begins to understand the pitfalls of his violent past. He decides to ‘make love, not war’ against ol’ Blue Chips."
It only gets stranger from there.
Obviously, Skidoo was a massive flop upon its release in 1968, and a tremendous embarrassment for Paramount, which pulled the film from theaters after a week of release. Since then, it’s acquired a cult following despite its consistent unavailability, and is considered one of those movies that every film buff must see at least once. I don’t know if its appearance on TCM this evening suggests that a DVD release is in the offing, but you better record it just to be sure (e.g. Rolling Thunder airs occasionally on Cinemax, but it has yet to hit DVD).
For more on Skidoo, read "The Gist" over at TCM’s website. And you’re welcome.