I recently discovered this classic skateboarding film, The Devil's Toy, from 1966 (or 1969? There's some confusion because while most sites say 1966, "MCMLXIX" is visible in the end credits) that's quite a work of art. It was directed by Claude Jutra, a Canadian director, writer, actor, editor, and cinematographer who was born in 1930 in Montréal. The Devil's Toy was produced for the National Film Board of Canada, which describes the film:
This short 1966 documentary dedicated "to all victims of intolerance" depicts the dawn of skateboarding in Montreal. A new activity frowned upon by police and adults, skateboarding gave youngsters a thrilling sensation of speed and freedom. This film – the first Canadian documentary ever made about the sport – captures the exuberance of boys and girls having the time of their lives in free-wheeling downhill locomotion.
While it's billed as a documentary, most agree that it's more of a satiric "mocumentary." The Canadian Encyclopedia describes it as "a delightfully cheeky mock documentary about the evils of skateboarding that functions as a treatise on the adult world's intolerance of youth." In this great article about the film, Dangerous Minds posits that one of the things that makes the 15-minute film so compelling is that it so cleverly walks the line between "documentary" and "satire." Dangerous Minds explains:
The weirdest thing about the "The Devil's Toy" is that the people who commissioned the production may have been under the impression that this was to be a terrifying social guidance movie à la Troy McClure's "Firecrackers: The Silent Menace," but apparently the people who actually made the movie weren't seeing it that way.
Three elements—the title; a portentous, nay grandiloquent dedication "to all victims of intolerance"; and a suitably over-the-top voiceover (one imagines someone like Gary Owens at the mic)—point to the movie's ostensible purpose of alarming teenagers into selling their planks tout de suite—but for anyone with eyes to see, the movie clearly depicts youths having some harmless fun, plus precisely zero malign consequences are depicted as a result of the use of skateboards—not even a single scraped knee.
The director of "The Devil's Toy" is Claude Jutra, an important figure in the history of Quebec film, responsible for 1971's Mon oncle Antoine, among others. Based on "The Devil's Toy" alone, there is no doubt that Jutra was a filmmaker of some talent. The proceedings are heavily influenced by the nouvelle vague, even as the effervescent score, featuring vocals by none other than Geneviève Bujold, can easily be imagined emanating from a Scopitone in some Gallic bistro.
The Video Beat agrees that the film was meant as satire:
Is skateboarding corrupting the youth of the world? Montreal is a wild skateboarding town as evidenced by "The Devil's Toy" which shows kids wearing Beatle boots and trench coats while riding homemade skateboards and throwing rocks at police officers! This film is a satire and made to look like a documentary that portrays skateboarding as so dangerous that Canada is trying to ban them from the streets! Cops take away the kid's skateboards. There are references to Jan & Dean and gangs of skateboarders running away from the police.
Whether satire or not, Caught in the Crossfire is correct when arguing that the film helped cement skateboarding as a "punk choice in life":
It was shot in Montreal, Canada by film maker Claude Jutra in a time where it was very much frowned upon to be rolling the streets on clay wheels, throwing rocks at the cops and generally having the best time ever. The cops hated skateboarders who rolled in trench coats and turtle neck tops and confiscated their decks only to be given back to kids at the local ice rink where skateboarding was allowed.
Doused in a sincere narrative to accompany classic black and white footage The Devil's Toy may well have set the tone for skateboarding being a punk choice in life from the off and most certainly would have been the first ever Canadian skateboard video ever made. Watch it here and look out for some seriously funny B-movie sounding quotes such as: "Beware, the youth of the world is on the move and their aim is to take over!."
The film is beautifully shot in black and white, stars effortlessly cool kids smoothly gliding on their boards across the city of Montreal, backed by jazz music composed by Pierre Brault accompanied by the smooth voice of Genevieve Bujold. And at the end of the film, the skateboarders escape the ice skating rink that the authorities try to confine them to, and once again skate freely through the streets and parks of Montreal. What's not to love?