DVD OF THE WEEK: Skidoo
by Vadim Rizov
Otto Preminger's 1968 satire Skidoo takes its title from a word dating back to the 1920s, meaning to get out while the getting's good. "Perhaps the first truly national fad expression and one of the most popular fad expressions to appear in the U.S.," says an edition of the Dictionary of American Slang from that later decade. That old jargon is used to describe fresh developments captures the film's central tension well: Preminger, who defied the Production Code by using the word "virgin" in 1953's The Moon is Blue and bluntly delved into the blackmailing of homosexuals in 1962's Advise and Consent (among his other battles with censorship), was no longer on the leading edge of pushing culture to new levels of permissiveness. But by Skidoo, using outmoded slang to tag a saga of free love and LSD comes off as an elderly guy throwing embarrassing jive at the kids. Skidoo features Jackie Gleason asking "What is he, a faggot?", and near-objectively portrays the fault lines of the '60s a year before Easy Rider and Medium Cool busted the counterculture open for adventurous multiplex viewing, yet has always been synonymous with irredeemable failure. (See also: Ishtar, Heaven's Gate, and other re-evaluated cases.) Skidoo isn't the sad attempt of a former taboo-buster to get hep with the rebels he helped spawn: it's exactly the sour but well-argued film Preminger intended rather than a jaw-dropping fiasco.