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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Gidget (Blu-ray)
Gidget (Blu-ray)
Twilight Time // Unrated // November 14, 2017 // Region Free
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at ]
Review by Jesse Skeen | posted January 16, 2018 | E-mail the Author
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1959's Gidget was the first of several movie and TV appearances of this title character, played by several different actresses in each and by Sandra Dee here. It was based on a book called "Gidget: The Little Girl With Big Ideas" which the author wrote inspired by the real-life surfing exploits of his own daughter. Gidget's real name is Francie, a few weeks away from her 17th birthday and a bit small for her age, as well as a bit behind in her friends' interest in the opposite sex. She accompanies them to the beach where they plan to do some "man-hunting" but Francie pays more attention to what the men are actually doing- surfing- and falls in love with that before falling in love with anyone in particular.

She quickly befriends the core group of "surf bums" who hang out there daily, none of which use their real names. They're led by "Kahuna" (Cliff Robertson) who lives in a slapped-together shack on the beach and follows the summer around the globe year-round. "Moondoggie" (James Darren) idolizes him, but he may also be running away from a more civilized life pushed by his parents. Since a movie of this time wouldn't be complete without the lead character eventually falling in love with something besides an activity, Francie eventually gets hooked on Moondoggie (who gives her the nickname Gidget meaning girl midget, which the rest pick up right away) but the age-old problem of how to get that across to him becomes the main conflict.

Gidget started the "beach movie" genre which ran through the next few decades, though compared to 80s flicks like Hardbodies or Spring Break this is amusingly tame. Those hoping to see girls in skimpy beach wear or less will be disappointed that the outfits in this era more resembled "granny panties". This world isn't too repressed though as the word "sex" is actually said once and Francie's mother (Mary LaRoche) gives her some sage words of advice even as her father (Arthur O'Connell) gets increasingly befuddled at what's happening to his "little girl". The movie's age certainly calls attention to itself, I had to laugh first when Francie is getting down in her bedroom to some jazzy instrumental music on a record player only to hear her dad shout to turn down that "infernal racket!" I must be getting old myself because I'd much prefer that infernal racket to most of what passes for popular music nowadays.

Sandra Dee plays her role straight enough without making it seem too campy today, quite innocent though many now see her as an "empowered woman" as she takes on something that wasn't meant for girls. It's odd to see Cliff Robertson as such a laid-back character given that I'm used to seeing him in far more dignified parts and of course in the 1970s and 80s "Bell System" TV commercials. James Darren is fun as well (it's been said that the role was meant for Elvis Presley but the budget couldn't afford him), and almost turns the movie into a musical at one point as he begins crooning the theme song onscreen.

Picture:

Twilight Time's Blu-Ray release marks the first time this CinemaScope movie is FINALLY seen in its proper format. It first hit home video in 1985 (possibly timed with that year's "Gidget's Summer Reunion" TV movie) in pan and scan which was the norm of the time. Sony issued it on DVD in 2004 as part of a set with the two sequels Gidget Goes Hawaiian and Gidget Goes to Rome, presumably with an updated transfer but STILL panned and scanned to 4x3. (I later found that set at Big Lots for $3 and still passed on it.) Having re-watched the 1985 transfer on CED videodisc (one of the last ‘classic' titles to be released on that long-dead format) prior to receiving this disc, I found the movie didn't suffer too much from pan and scan, but it's still refreshing to see the entire picture. Director Paul Wendkos mainly worked on TV material, and interestingly uses the frame during indoor shots to show parts of the room far away from the characters, almost as if he were composing for a 4x3 frame with extra space left over. Not that it goes to waste- I noticed a doll sitting in a chair in Gidget's bedroom on the edge of the frame as she and her mother talk about her "boy problems"- perhaps symbolic of her departing childhood if I were to read too much into it. Overall the transfer is clean without any obvious tweaking to conform to today's aesthetics- Stuart Galbraith's review of the DVD here (part of which is quoted on this disc's back cover) notes that the Columbia Color is "an ugly yellow-brown" in some spots, but that seems to be intentional as the color still leans that way here. The clairity of the transfer does bring out the obviousness of the rear-projection used for some of the surfing shots as well as the use of an indoor set rather than an actual beach during the nighttime party held there.

Sound:

The mono audio is presented here in 2-channel DTS Master Audio (not 1-channel as indicated on the cover), but remains properly centered if your system is properly set- if your player has full DTS decoding on-board then you'll also be treated to Twilight Time's usual ‘whip' sound effect on the menus. It's also quite clean and surprisingly clear, as you might notice in the sound of a beach ball bouncing in an early scene. Hearing-impaired subtitles are included using large letters positioned across the screen in the same manner as closed captions.

Extras:

This release is light on extras, with the biggest being a theatrical trailer in fair condition transferred in hi-def. Twilight Time's usual isolated score track is also present here which is a nice showcase for the mostly-jazzy music, with songs retaining their vocals. The printed insert features an insightful essay by Julie Kirgo, who mentions other films the cast appeared in around the same time and the movie's general significance. It would've been nice if the other two Gidget films had also been included here, but hopefully they'll at least show up later.

Final Thoughts:

Gidget is certainly a time capsule of a movie and certainly interesting to compare to the many "beach party" movies that followed. Anyone with a remote interest should definitely pick up this limited-edition release as it's never looked even half as good as it does here. Hopefully the other movies will follow, and as the 1965 TV series has already been on DVD I may have to check that out again. As an aside it seems that the books this movie were based on weren't quite so tame or innocent, so I may have to look into those as well.

Jesse Skeen is a life-long obsessive media collector (with an unhealthy preoccupation with obsolete and failed formats) and former theater film projectionist. He enjoys watching movies and strives for presenting them perfectly, but lacks the talent to make his own.

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