Twenty-five years ago today, something special, something magical, something…mind-expanding happened in the United Provinces of Ivanlandia… Sure, the Anti-Gravity Society had something to do with it, but we’ve never regretted taking the plunge.
Which makes it all the more wonderful that the seventh day in April can be written: 4/7!
They’ve all played characters that have dropped acid in movies! (The Trip, The Tingler, Skidoo)
Personally, I feel every fan of Psychotronic movies or the Cinema of Weirdness needs to seeSkidoo: it’s like the hajj to Mecca—everybody’s gotta do it at least once. Just because.
Don’t bother watching Skidoo on pan-&-scan like some bootlegs do it and how it was broadcast on TCM in January: In fact the film really needs to be seen in a theater, so you can feel you’re in it—maybe one of those new giant home video systems could reproduce that feeling—because the framing of each scene is important, and the widescreen allows room to breathe.
Of course, all this is tough as Skidoo is not on DVD, and rarely screened. I’ve been lucky enough to catch Skidoo twice in a theater, once at the Museum of Modern Art (no lie), and then at the Film Forum—where they screened the flick’s workprint, grease pencil marks and all. That was weird—and utterly fascinating. Skidoo is hardly flawless, but so what? It’s great. Skidoo is earnest in its misguidedness: these are Hollywood squares trying to make sense/fit in/appreciate/make a buck off of the youth culture…and failing so spectacularly that it falls through the anti-matter universe and returns pure gold.
The whole endeavor is like the document of some South Seas cargo cult—they understand how much of these strange gifts work, but they’re not sure why.
I mean, Carol Channing’s striptease makes you want to throw up—it’s a scene that’s painfully long—and that’s brilliant!
The Trashcan Balletis also long—but because it keeps getting layered with weird opticals and winds up being just so gosh darn sweet, you wish it wouldn’t end.
The scenes of hippies hanging out have a real documentary quality to them—but “spoiled Hollywood brats playing hippy” documentary feeling.
I love, love, love the intense close-ups of Jackie Gleason when he’s tripping: the Great One, indeed!
And not only are the credits by Saul Bass (or a very good lookalike style-wise, since he’s not credited), the flick’s got a whole soundtrack by Harry Nilsson! Slap your forehead, what else do you want?!?
The film is not “so bad, it’s good”—Skidoo is great because it is what it is. Dig?
It’s one of late artist David Wojnarowicz’s favorite films (I was told by a friend of his in conversation), and that’s a fact I find awesome—and makes some level of sense if you’re familiar with Wojnarowicz’s work. And then a flick like The Tingler is not a LSD movie, per se—but it is a film whose characters take LSD. And then a weird lobster crushes your spine—unless you scream, SCREAM, SCREAM!!! Of course there are flicks, like Yellow Submarine or El Topo or 2001 that many say seem like they were made by and for regular LSD users—but that sort of reductiveness is counter-productive in the appreciation of art and weirdness for its own sake, I feel.
Besides, the truth be told, all films can be said to be made by and for regular LSD users, right? It’s the old false reality/Plato’s cave/are-you-watching-the-screen-or-is-it-watching-you whammy. LSD has had, in contemporary society, quite the Jekyll-and-Hyde reputation, first being touted as a great psychiatric cure-all (and in the espionage world as the ultimate truth serum), then, after its criminalization, as a chromosome-damaging mind melter. Meanwhile, taking LSD combines three aspects of genre movies: sci-fi (ingesting some new strange chemical to discover something new), fantasy (the trip itself), and horror (reality, or, on the other hand, what the trip does to you, blah-blah-blah-mom-&-dad-were-right).
Although entertaining and gratifying, films about taking drugs never seem as satisfying as films that were either influenced or appear to have been influenced by drugs. Like humans, films should only use LSD as a means to an end. And as cool as they may be, can The Trip, Psychedelic Sexualis, and Psych-Outstand up against2001, Apocalypse Now or Videodrome? Against Watchmen? I haven’t seen that movie yet, but it sure looks lysergic. And the best—i.e. consistently entertaining, timeless—flicks specifically about LSD made at the time when acid was making headlines tend to be the ones that are violently, almost psychotically anti-drug, like those two great Dragnet episodes about acid, “The LSD Story” (usually known as “Blue Boy”) and “The Prophet.”
Now those are far trippier than Psych-Out could ever hope to be. But of course, that’s because Jack Webb had a philosophy. Not to say that diamonds can’t be found here and there… In Psych-Out, there’s a great moment where Jack Nicholson confronts Dean Stockwell. Their characters are both in the same rock band, with Nicholson playing the ambitious stardom chaser, and Stockwell as the one who’s sick of it all, especially the “plastic hassle” of the fame game.
Take a step back now. They’re both playing themselves as they were at that particular moment of history: Nicholson’s star is rising, but so far it’s just been B-movies and the occasional bit part on The Andy Griffith Show, and Jack knows he’s got to keep working hard to grab that big brass ring. Going back to Neptune City, New Jersey, a failure is not in his game plan. (But isn’t it neat to think that Jack Nicholson grew up on Neptune?)
Meanwhile, Stockwell is tired, his career waning; he’s been a child star, a teen idol, and as an adult (like pal Russ Tamblyn), he’s now only taking these funky roles that allow him to keep his long hair and act all freako.
Basically, if you’re interested in the films of Alejandro Jodorowsky, John Waters or David Lynch, check out Horrors of Malformed Men. Director Teruo Ishiiis called an “exploitation auteur,” and I was grateful.
Watching Horrors of Malformed Men, I realized that in the hands of a “serious artist,” this movie would have probably been dull and ponderous—that you need the B-movie maniacs and weirdos to keep things hopping.
That was my original idea for the title of this blog, a sort of summation of nearly everything I'd ever wanted cinematically: regularly playing on the ABC Channel 7 4:30 movie--or on WOR-TV Channel 9's 4 O'Clock Movie--the greatest monster movie in the universe, and incredible combo of miniatures, men in suits and stop motion, with entire continents destroyed!
But then there was a coup d'etat, and Tzar Ivan I of Ivanlandia took charge.