One of the most legendary of all Hollywood fiascos, Skidoo witnessed Otto Preminger and most of his cast delving headfirst into psychedelic absurdity. The film predated Easy Rider and Bob & Carol by a year, rising like a festering wound out of the period when Tinseltown studios were making desperate and embarrassing attempts to connect - in any way possible - with the throes of the then-burgeoning counterculture. Unfortunately - unlike the same year's wonderful I Love You, Alice B. Toklas (yet another picture about squares who decide to drop out) - this loony and misguided, acid-fueled gangster farce never finds its footing. That said, it doesn't begin as a complete disaster, but forks off into left field about halfway through. The curtain rises on a conventional and surprisingly genial note - in the first act, Jackie Gleason, Carol Channing and Frankie Avalon seem to be delivering the kind of characterizations and dialogue more at home in a Disney farce - but once Gleason gets imprisoned and accidentally ingests LSD, beware; the film makes a beeline toward supreme audience irritation and never lets up. Preminger seems to be equating nonsensical mishmash and illogic with "hipness"; this may be the only picture in memory to feature a "Dance of the Garbage Cans" musical number, a deus ex machina in which three prisoners escape by building a hot air balloon with materials found inside of a penitentiary, and a finale in which two romantically (and physically) involved couples swap partners and marry at the drop of a hat, just, apparently, for the sake of confounding the logical fabric of the script and being weird. Much has been made of the bizarre fact that Harry Nilsson sings the final credits (yes, right down to the "Copyright MCMLXVIII,") but that represents the very least of the film's problems. Frankly, the picture isn't funny, or for that matter, entertaining either - not even for aficionados of terrible cinema. The most depressing sidelight is that the studios' attempts to connect with the youth movement continued for several years after Skidoo, and quickly sank even lower. Hollywood didn't really figure out a way to squeeze psychedelic extremities like the ones seen here into a mainstream picture until the brilliant psychodrama End of the Road hit cinemas in 1970. But by that time, the counterculture was already at death's door.
by Nathan Southern review