What Were We Thinking? An Alum Explains

Film and TV buffs might know Tim M. Hunter ’68 as a prolific director: among his credits are episodes of “Breaking Bad,” “Mad Men,” and “Glee” as well as films including “River’s Edge.” Devotees of Crimson Arts, on the other hand, are more likely to recognize Hunter as a recurring star of our What Were We Thinking? feature, in which we attacked his scathing reviews of “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Graduate.” Hunter recently took the time to respond:

"So I was an idiot – so sue me! I also said that Otto Preminger’s 'Skidoo' was the Best Picture of its Year! My best known Crimson pan, however, was my bad review of 'The Graduate,' which was picked up by Walter Winchell’s column when he wrote, roughly: 'Go figure! 500 Critics called this a Masterpiece and only One critic in the country hated it – Hunter at the Harvard Crimson!' Such is life – I still can’t watch 'The Graduate.' Now on the other hand, my '2001' rave was anthologized and we heard Kubrick carried it around with him for a while. I championed a lot of obscure films in those days that have held up well and hope I inspired folks to see more than 'Casablanca' and 'King of Hearts,' the reigning Harvard Sq. B.O. champs of the day."

Alongside Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” and Jean-Luc Godard’s “Weekend,” Hunter did indeed name Preminger’s “Skidoo” as one of the best films of 1968. Preminger, the director of movies including “Laura” and “Anatomy of a Murder,” doesn’t stick out in this lineup, but “Skidoo” couldn’t be more out of place. Today, it’s regarded as one of Preminger’s weakest efforts and little more than a bizarre artifact of the 1960s. And with good reason—this is a film that concludes with eccentric pop star Harry Nilsson singing the entire credit sequence, copyright information and all.

All that psychedelic excess didn’t sway Hunter. “The brilliant opening confirms beyond a doubt that Preminger’s art is visionary,” the critic raves. Not even Godard earned such glowing adjectives. Hunter does warn that “Skidoo” will polarize audiences, but we suspect this admission might just be a way to flaunt his proto-hipster contrarianism. “Most people hate [Preminger’s] films—I think he’s the only major American director working steadily today,” Hunter writes. Go figure.

Of course, Hunter’s praise seems also to have been influenced by the decade’s social climate. “The director comes out for sex, Hippies, drugs, all that’s good,” he writes. Those were different times indeed.

—Staff writer Petey E. Menz can be reached at menz@college.harvard.edu.

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