|Reviews & Columns
TV on DVD
Reviews by Studio
Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
DVD Talk Radio
The M.O.D. Squad
DVD Talk Forum
DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
Did you ever see a movie trailer and then never see the actual movie come out? That's happened a number of times- Warner included a trailer for a movie called One Hot Summer with its prints of 1992's summer blockbuster Batman Returns (the first movie I ran to a sold-out theater, and this trailer was the first thing to hit the screen during that)- it made the audience laugh and seemed to be a good enough movie (featuring Juliette Lewis' first appearance since the surprise hit Cape Fear the previous fall), but after Batman Returns stopped playing One Hot Summer was never heard about again. I'd wondered a bit what had happened to it but mostly forgot about it until flipping through laserdiscs at Tower Video more than a year later, and finding a movie with Juliette Lewis that I'd never heard of called That Night- reading the back cover it was obvious that this was that forgotten movie under a different name.
I never heard the reason for the movie's name change (though "That Night" is the title of the novel it was based on) or aborted theatrical release, but with 20th Century Fox recently acquiring the Regency Enterprises films formerly distributed by Warner I've finally gotten a chance to see it. Fox has only seen fit to release it as part of its mail-order DVD-R program, but better than nothing as it hasn't been on DVD before. The story's time and place are quickly established: 1961 in Long Island. Right away we also hear narration from character Alice (Eliza Dushku, who I didn't recognize until the end of the movie as there are no opening cast credits) who puts things in historical context talking about President Kennedy and Sputnik. Alice is a young girl in a rather typical neighborhood, chasing fireflies with the neighborhood's other kids and wondering what the future will hold for her. 17 year old Sheryl (Juliette Lewis) and her family then move into the house across the street, and Alice is immediately fascinated with her- she seems to be what Alice wants to be a few years from now, making her say "If I could just be her for one night, even for just one minute." She can easily see into her bedroom window across from hers, and though she's a bit too shy to talk to her at first she watches and finds out all she can about her.
Alice tells her friends how great Sheryl is, and is just about to finally break the ice with her at the local bowling alley when Sheryl is given the sudden news that her father has died. Though she's devastated, she finds comfort from Rick (C. Thomas Howell) who works at the bowling alley- he's kind of a "bad boy" but both of them have the sort of magic connection that happens in movies like this. (Since Sheryl moved in, lots of other guys had hit on her but she rejected them all.) But while Rick brings new meaning to Sheryl's life, her newly-widowed mother (Helen Shaver) strongly disapproves and gives her the old "I don't want you seeing that boy!" Alice watches all of this from across the street and eventually helps them out, mainly by giving Sheryl the excuse to go out because she's "baby-sitting" her.
Having seen most of C. Thomas Howell's 80s movies but little after that, he appears a bit different here, more than just an older version of his previous 1960s "greaser" character in The Outsiders. Overall his character isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, but has a good heart. Lewis on the other hand is much smarter than her not-too-bright character in Cape Fear and shows us what she delivered plenty more of in the years ahead. Besides Eliza Dushku‘s first screen appearance being a surprise (she's a typical young curious girl here), one of her neighborhood friends is played by Katherine Heigl whom I also didn't recognize until her name showed up at the end- while she looked a bit familiar onscreen I couldn't quite place her by her face alone. Helen Shaver plays Sheryl's mother Ann with just a bit too much of a TV melodrama flavor, causing a few unintentional laughs but not ruining the movie.
The 1.85 film transfer is watchable but not great-looking. Details are blurred mainly from the limitations of standard-def DVD, and some compression artifacts show up mostly in the night scenes. There is also a dark vertical line on the left side of the screen through the entire movie. In the nit-picking department, the Warner Bros. logos at the beginning and end of the movie have been replaced with a black screen.Sound:
The 2-channel Dolby Digital track keeps the dialogue centered with some good ambient sounds across the other channels, as well as a number of popular songs of the era from the likes of Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley. As with most DVD-R releases, there are no subtitles or captions.
With its trailer being a large memory of my early days projecting film, I was glad to finally see this movie regardless of what title it came out as. While I don't know if audiences would have found this worth going to the theater for, it plays very well at home as a nostalgic romance. Seeing how time flies, a similar movie taking place in 1984 should be made now.
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.