Described by Mystery Science Theater 3000 as "like Manos without the lucid plot," The Skydivers (1963) is less a horror or thriller movie and more a very dull soap opera about the employees of a small parachuting club.
The "plot" involves the eponymous skydivers getting away from their bland, loveless marriages with bland, loveless affairs, watching Coleman Francis's extended family go-go dancing, and either killing, dying, or suffering total mental breakdown as a result of all the deaths. They even skydive, occasionally.
Apparently to make up for the almost dialogue-free The Beast of Yucca Flats, the film consists almost entirely of stilted dialogue punctuated by midair footage of parachutists. That would be fine, if the dialogue wasn't all like this:
Joe: Coffee? I like coffee!
This film contains examples of:
- Better than Sex: Pete describes skydiving that way. Many skydivers in Real Life actually do think the same.
- Character Shilling: All of the men think Beth is hot, and Suzy is jealous of her. She's realistically the Only Sane Woman and doesn't think of herself as anything special.
- Chute Sabotage: Suzy's plan to kill Harry: damaging his chute with acid just before a drop.
- Crazy Jealous Guy: When Harry sees how "close" Joe and Beth have been getting lately, he gets mighty jealous, convincing Beth that he does still love her. Their relationship actually improves from that point forward... until Harry gets killed.
- Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Subverted. The skydivers of 1963 take risks which would not be tolerated today. To be fair, Pete keeps asking to do wildly dangerous stunts, and ends up dying from target fixation, so the film probably foresaw the need for tighter safety precautions.
- Death from Above: Suzy and Frank are shot at from the air.
- Downer Ending: Harry is killed, leaving Beth alone and jobless as their parachuting business goes under.
- Dull Surprise: Tony Cardoza as Harry, who doesn't seem to be all that shocked by... well, anything.
- Extreme Sports Plot: The skydiving sequences are the high point of a plot that is otherwise random and dull.
- Fanservice Extra: Two of them even, who only appear during the party happening near the end of the film (and disappear right after Harry ends up dead in the following skydiving event). There's a tall, buxom blonde woman who pretty much steals the show when she joins the dance (especially with the amusing way the dance between her and a skinnier guy plays out) and a curvy black woman in a polka-dotted bikini who gets a lot of rear shots during the second song of the party.
- Femme Fatale: Suzy, who manipulates love-struck Frankie into helping her murder Harry.
- Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Harry cheated on Beth with Suzy. Beth cheats (sort of) on Harry with Joe. While the film paints neither affair as justified, it's worth noting that we don't know exactly what drove Harry to cheat with Suzy, since Beth is totally dedicated to him and works to maintain her marriage even in the face of Harry's borderline indifference; meanwhile, Beth's own affair with Joe (what we see of it; consists mainly of one Big Damn Kiss and some flirting) was pretty much all Joe's doing.
- Hollywood Skydiving: In spades. Saves an otherwise almost unwatchable film. It's actually averted at one part where one schmoe suffers from target fixation that he forgets to pull his chute and smashes into the ground.
- It's Raining Men: The night formation jump off the C-45.
- Love Dodecahedron: Harry is married to Beth but having an affair with Suzy, whom Frankie is in love with; meanwhile Beth flirts with Harry's war buddy Joe but remains loyal to Harry.
- Male Gaze: Many shots of the black girl's nice butt wiggling back and forth in front of the camera.
- Must Have Caffeine: It wouldn't be a Coleman Francis movie without lots of coffee.
- Old Soldier: Both Harry and Joe have served in the 11th Airborne Division in Korean War. The 11th Airborne was important in determining the viability of large-scale air formations during the Knollwood Maneuver.
- Once per Episode: A vigilante gunning down someone from a plane? It must be a Coleman Francis film!
- Product Placement: One scene has a very obvious van in the background advertising a local restaurant. The camera actually seems more focused on the van than the characters. The fact this is done during what's supposed to be a tense and emotional scene makes it extremely jarring.
- Random Events Plot: It's not exactly clear what the movie's plot actually is until Suzy decides to come up with her scheme...Mike: It seems they forgot to have things happen in this movie.
- Revenge Before Reason:
- Suzy invents a stupid plot to kill Harry because she's angry at being jilted, pretty much. Despite the fact she's apparently wealthy and she has another man who's willing to do anything for her, while Harry has a declining marriage and a failing three-man sport parachuting business. She has nothing to gain from his death, but she does it anyway.
- It gets better. Her plan to kill Harry involves pouring acid in his parachute right before a jump... acid which she procures personally from the local apothecary (and we do mean "personally"). Given that, after the deed is done, absolutely everyone recognizes that acid was used, it becomes hard to believe that the inevitable investigation wouldn't lead directly back to Suzy even if she hadn't been seen skulking around the hangar.
- Rich Bitch: Downplayed with Suzy. In her own words, she's "so mean" because her "paw gave [her] everything." Her money isn't really an important plot element, though. If not for that one scene we'd never even know she's rich.
- Sex for Services: It's implied that Suzy acquires acid from the local druggist in this manner.
- Shown Their Work: One point in the movie's favor: the skydiving is 100% accurate (if a bit outdated compared to today's techniques), including the target fixation scene, which is a real danger to skydivers. (Considering the film was shot around a real skydiving school, it should be.)
- Silent Credits: The film's closing credits consist of clips of the main cast, which play out with no sound or music.
- Statuesque Stunner: The large blonde woman at the night party; she's easily twice the size of the man she's dancing with and throws him around like a Raggedy Andy doll.
- Theme Naming: The local joint is named The Skydiver.