Today, The Alder Fork presents another piece of the mighty National Film Board of Canada collection. Julian Bigg’s 23 Skidoo is an eeire look at the possible devestation of a neutron bomb. If you are familiar with Montreal’s downtown than this film will be even creepier to you.
The basic premise of the film, that a neutron bomb has killed everyone in the city, while leaving everything intact, represents two realities. The first is the Cold War fear that the entire world would be destroyed by nuclear weapons. That concern is less present today, as people seem to be more afraid of viruses and terrorism than nuclear war. In fact, for younger generations, the cold war worldview is more of a historical curiousity than a reality. The destruction of society in this film is caused by an accident, as a by product of a test gone wrong. That plot twist is intriguing because it departs from the standard mutually assured destruction model. By the 1960’s people were beginning to oppose the testing of nuclear weapons because of the potential dangers.
The second reality in this film is the understanding that a neutron bomb would only kill people. Since the technology was brand new in 1964, it’s understandable that the filmmaker wouldn’t know the way these weapons were later utilized. Indeed, a neutron bomb still yields in the kiloton range and would cause sizable material damage.
The phrase “23 Skidoo” was popular in 1920’s America as a way of implying that someone was going to “get while the getting is good.” What a witty choice for a film about the death of everyone.
This film won awards from the UN and BAFTA. It’s striking message, creepy soundtrack, and stiring visuals bring the extinction of humanity into focus. It is still shocking today, and were it not for the teletype machines and old tv monitors it could be from 2009. 23 Skidoo asks, where are we going and how soon will we get there?