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Summer of '42
Let's see, Labrador or coming-of-age film…Labrador or coming-of-age film…hmmm…which truly is man's best friend? Every generation has one of 'em, nostalgia dripping from every undeflowered frame. Robert (To Kill A Mockingbird) Mulligan's Summer of '42 tries to be a gentler, more experienced lover.
Summer of '42 is the story of Hermie. Yep, ol' Hermie stuck on an island with his parents for the summer. Oh yeah, and his best friends, Oscy and Benjie, who are also seasonally slumming. And man, are Hermie and Benjie horny, especially Benjie (Oliver Conant, who reminds me of Warren "Potsie" Weber in every single scene)! Oscy seems indifferent to the notion of nookie, but hell, he wears glasses, so…
The "Terrible Trio" soon discover one of the island's greatest hidden treasures: Dorothy, the gorgeous young bride who inhabits a beach house with her military man. Hermie is smitten, Benjie bored. He prefers the island's younger ladies. Hermie, however, cannot detach Dorothy from his cerebral cortex and when her heroic husband is dutifully drafted, Hermie commences the old coming-of-age scheming. Toss in a tragedy, a drugstore, and some carbon paper and viola: Summer of '42.
Having seen Summer of '42 years ago on Home Box Office, I had vague memories of a film I thought was well –written (the screenplay, the cinematography, and editing were nominated for Oscars; Michel Legrand's score took one home) and moving. I guess I was not as tough as I am now.
This is a film that just doesn't hold together very well. The scenes seem to be anecdotes; it's like reading the diary of a particularly uninspired writer. None of the characters are really allowed to grow, and poor Oscy actually disappears for the majority of the film (speaking of Oscy, I was puzzled by the long "e" sound which punctuates each characters name. Hermie, Oscy, Benjie, Dorothy, Aggie…trivial, but rather goofy. I'm surprised the pharmacist wasn't named "Druggie"). I assume that the film didn't seem quite as encumbered by cliché when it was released, but any freshness it had doesn't carry over at all.
The surest way to sink an ailing ship is to add even more "meaningful" weight, and the photography is certainly carrying it in buckets. Full of greeting-card coastlines and soft-focus sunsets, everything screams "purty". Technically pretty, perhaps, but merely icing on an over baked cake.
Obviously, you can't have nostalgic, picture-book beauty without a truckload of soft-focus shots. We have them here, and the result is a very soft-looking film. For a 1971 picture, the transfer is actually pretty decent. I wouldn't rank it near the best of Warner's achievements, but it's watchable (and OAR). Spots of grain appear almost regularly, but otherwise it's a decent transfer.
Mono. Dialogue retains clarity (and dorkiness) and music sounds fine. For some reason I always thought the theme from "A Summer Place" was the Summer of '42 score. I was wrong.
Theatrical trailer (seemed like a teaser…I don't know). Infomenus (awards, cast, etc.). Subtitled in English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, and Thai. That's it. Boo (not that I would have watched anyway, so…).
I generally don't like coming of age films (okay, so I've seen Losin' It more than twice…but I swear it's only because I am the world's biggest Jackie Earle Haley fan. If I were Quentin "I remember everybody" Tarantino, Haley would be right back near the middle where he should be). They are usually nothing more than collections of locker-room urban legends attached to a flimsy skeleton of a story. While Summer of '42 is different in that it points toward poignancy instead of Porky's, it still plays out like the same story in grown-up pants.