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  Skaterdater This Could Be The Start Of Something
Year: 1966
Director: Noel Black
Stars: Michael Mel, Melissa Mallory, Gregg Carroll, Gary Hill, Bill McKaig, Gary Jennings, Bruce McKaig, Ricky Anderson
Genre: Action, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Here's a boy (Michael Mel) skateboarding barefoot along suburban Los Angeles streets, negotiating the terrain with ease and soon joined by the other boys in his unofficial skateboarding club. That is until his great rival (Gregg Carroll) in the club wordlessly challenges him to see who can skate the best, though our man can outwit him with a smart move such as a jump over an abandoned cart. What proves more difficult is an encounter with a girl (Melissa Mallory) on a bicycle - he crashes straight into her!

Skaterdater was one of the first films from director Noel Black, who became better known for his feature length debut, the darkly comic psycho couple thriller Pretty Poison of 1968, the film which proved Tuesday Weld could act. Although there was a similar distraction with the power the fairer sex have over the males in the vicinity here, it was all far more wholesome in this case for a short which went on to win prizes across the world, including at that year's Cannes Film Festival, which should have pointed to great things for Black.

As it was, after the failure of his big screen outings, he retreated to television and carved out a successful career there, but not with the same amount of personality as seen in either Pretty Poison or this. It may have been riding on the coattails of the then-breaking skateboard craze, which was nothing like the multimillion dollar industry back in 1966 it would become later, but for that reason, getting in there at the beginning and capturing what it might have been like for kids finding a new pasttime, many who have arrived after that initial interest can look back on Skaterdater with some affection, but not all of its fans were necessarily skaters.

Indeed, such was the critical acclaim the film won that it would turn up repeatedly as a short support to a longer feature, or a filler on television (it's the sort of thing that British children might have watched in the classroom on something like Picture Box), or indeed as a 16mm reel brought out to divert the schoolkids for about twenty minutes should it be deemed necessary by a harried teacher. So even after that first flush of success, this was being shown around the world and thanks to its easygoing style and timeless message about putting away childish things it has sustained its appeal.

Except for skateboarding, that sport just grew and grew in popularity, and became the type of activity like the surfing which inspired it which was hard to give up, even when a romance was in the air. That's what happens to our hero here: the bicycle girl proves more intriguing than his board, leading to a duel with his rival weaving down a hill. It's safe to say our man has the last laugh. The sheer kinetic quality (hardly thirty seconds go by without another piece of skate action, nothing extreme but they had to start somewhere) and summer's day, devil may care atmosphere make for a nostalgic charm even if you weren't around in California in '66. Music, of a light, surf rock variety, by future superproducer Mike Curb and the man who signed The Beach Boys, Nick Venet.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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