Home Culture History SKIDOO: Ralph Kramden on Acid

SKIDOO: Ralph Kramden on Acid


No really. I saw SKIDOO, the long suppressed all-star Otto Preminger bacchanal, thanks to Mark Evanier and circumstance, and you must see it to believe the LSD prison Riot of 1968, with Frank Gorshin, Peter Lawford, Burgess Meredith, Michael Constantine, Slim Pickens, Jackie Gleason and Richard Kiel. And Carol Channing in a pirate outfit boarding the yacht of a gangster named “God”, played by Groucho Marx. And then there’s the final shot of Groucho smoking a joint.

And the hippies.

The late Sixties were an odd time in pop culture, as the oldsters attempted to understand and cash in on what the youngsters were doing with their drugs and sex and loud music. (The youngsters have always been into drugs, sex and loud music, of course, but they never really had the leisure time and media exposure to exploit it properly until the 60s.) The “Way to Eden” episode of the original Star Trek was another attempt to deal with ” hippies.” All such attempts were doomed to be very embarassing period pieces.

SKIDOO, directed by a very obviously high Otto Preminger, is a product of that culture clash; but so is THE PRISONER. If you like Rudy Gernreich (inventor of the topless” bathing suit” and hippies and Carol Channing, SKIDOO is a MUST.

Mark Evanier has made getting SKIDOO out on DVD a minor crusade at his blog — the movie is rarely shown since the Preminger Estate thinks that releasing it would be bad for his reputation. Apparently being one of the most notoriously demanding and unpleasant people to work with in Hollywood doesn’t count.

After all this, you might think we would be joining Evanier’s crusade to get SKIDOO out on DVD.

But we’re not.

You see, there need to be some mysteries. Some final doorways; some limits. SKIDOO is shown once every year or so on Turner Classic Movies. That makes it rare, special and vibrant. To be able to watch it whenever you wanted would just make it dumb. And yes of course you can download a bootleg copy right now…but…you get my drift.

Link above; The SKIDOO trailer.

  1. Wow. Just, Wow! I had never heard of this movie before. I’m not sure if it’s up my alley, but i admire it as one hell of a cinematic gamble/experiment.

    My favorite line is Sammy Davis Jr. saying, “If you don’t like this, you don’t like chicken on Sundays.” Awesome!

  2. You forgot to mention that the credits ares sung.

    It’s been on TV once before, about 20 years back. Multi-generational copies on VHS have circulated for years. Last night’s showing was its TCM debut. I’ll lay odds it was DVR’d by the cognoscenti as much as many network shows.

    Paramount is too cheap and lazy to run a new print for DVD release and more screenings at US film societies. There’s a widescreen print, in lovely, clean condition, residing at the British Film Institute. It showed a few times in Los Angeles (a dubious cultural advantage), and I was lucky (?) enough to be at one of those screenings.

    All I can say about having seen it in a theater is that the people watching half the image on a TV are gaining a layer of protection that the movie-goer doesn’t have. I like youth exploitation films. A lot. But there was something in the attempted earnestness of Skidoo that was like a bad drug experience. I agree in keeping the film hidden away in that dank recesses of our memories. The people who need to will still see it. But putting it on DVD is like slipping LSD into the water supply.

    More info:


    Now on to Can Hieronymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?

  3. Skidoo is awesome! Especially entertaining if, like myself, your first encounter with Austin Pendleton was The Muppet Movie. Honestly, I’ve seen enough “lost” films that could stay that way with out anyone missing anything, but Skidoo is quite entertaining and a good example of just how nuts Otto Preminger was. Too bad TCM’s copy is the same TV pan-and-scan that’s been floating around for years. Anyway, Skidoo makes a great double bill with The Monkee’s ‘Head’ or Psych-Out.

    I’m happy to see a post here about it… so often I feel like my film friends “don’t get” comics and my comics friends “don’t get” cult cinema…

  4. Thanks to Mark’s tip, I watched “Skiddo” in the wee hours this morning. It was the nuttiest, most self-indulgent film I’ve ever seen, and it will forever serve as unmitigated proof that stars alone do not a good, coherent movie make.

    To me, with all of its misspent star power, “Skiddo” was like a bizarre, schizophrenic version of “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”

    The director, Otto Preminger, just had to be trippin’ between takes to be able to conjure up a film of this strangely disjointed. Only in the 1960s, man!

  5. Be warned, it takes a while to go completely Bizarro and just starts out kind of bland. Then the hippies show up, then Carol Channing freaks out over a remote control apartment, then she disrobes, but even that’s not enough to really get it going. Even a reverb-laden conversation with Mickey “The Mickster” Rooney can’t quite do it. I almost gave up, but then Gleason had hisacid trip, and after that, nonstop crazy: more acid, dancing trashcans, hot air balloons, bumper pool, secret codes, Channing and her pirate suit, army of hippies, song, and electric rock band with no amps!

  6. Ah… late night cable television. how i miss USA’s Night Flight! Some other gems, best discovered by flipping randomly: Oingo Boingo’s Forbidden Zone, Blue Velvet, Francis The Talking Mule at Westpoint with Donald O’Connor, Tarzan in New York…
    and, as a nightcap, any Cable In The Classroom episode, usually aired around 4 AM.
    My best find: uncut Patton on Bravo at 2 am. no interruptions from roommates, telephones…

  7. I actually taped SKIDOO because I was curious about it after reading Mark Evanier’s blog for the last several years. I watched it the next afternoon. I had several reactions, the first of which was…
    “Wow, that wasn’t very good at all, was it?” Nor was it in the “so bad it’s good” category, unfortunately.
    Then there was, “Well, I guess Otto Preminger was another older Hollywood type who just didn’t ‘get’ the sixties.”
    Then there was, “Geez, Groucho wouldn’t wear the greasepaint mustache in the final Marx Brothers film (LOVE HAPPY, 1949)–how did they convince him to wear it here–and to paint his hair jet-black as well?”
    And, “Was Carol Channing cast because there was a musical number at the end of the film, or was there a musical number at the end of the film because Carol Channing was cast?”
    I’m not sure this thing could even have been effectively MST3K’d.

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