By Wade Rockett
SCOPE magazine, August 1995
There are some people who just aren’t bothered by summer in Las Vegas. You’ll be walking down the street with one of them saying, “Ted, it’s darn hot out.” And Ted will cheerfully reply, “Yeah, but it’s a dry heat!” And Ted will keep on walking, whistling a happy tune while your flesh blackens and peels from your bleaching skeleton.
Perhaps you would be better off spending this summer inside. Yes, inside. . .with the air conditioner blasting, sipping a tall, cool glass of iced tea, and experiencing the season vicariously by watching a Summer Movie.
Where The Boys Are jumps the gun a bit in that it does not technically take place during the summer months; it actually deals — in a very powerful, relevant, meaningful manner — with the yearly hormonal uprising known as Spring Break. But it does contain the following Summer Movie elements:
- A beach, and
- Frank Gorshin playing a jazz musician in enormous Coke-bottle glasses.
In this compelling argument for lesbianism, four college students travel to Fort Lauderdale in search of boys, all of whom turn out to be despicable sexual predators. Don’t be fooled by its light, bubbly appearance — things actually turn fairly grim toward the end. There is a 1984 remake available on video as well, but I can’t even look at the box without getting the willies. I can’t imagine what it must be like to actually watch it.
I can imagine very vividly what it’s like to watch Summer School as I have forced many of my friends to view it when no one can decide on anything else to rent. Former soap opera star Mark Harmon is perfect in the role of an affable high school gym teacher who is Shanghaied into teaching English over the summer to a group of young underachievers. Total babes Kirstie Alley and Courtney Thorne-Smith co-star, but the movie is largely stolen by the demented horror film buffs Chainsaw and Dave.
If you saw the movie Diner, you doubtless remember Kevin Bacon hissing “Bet’s off! Bet’s off!” to a smirking Mickey Roarke — who, for reasons vital to the plot, has his male organ in a box of popcorn — in a darkened movie theater. Well, the movie they are ignoring in that scene is A Summer Place with Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue. Like Where the Boys Are, it has a decidedly dark undertone; Sandra’s mom in the film is certifiably psychotic, and Troy’s pop is a miserable, bitter alcoholic. Watching our young heroes Barbie-and-Ken their way through this bizarre psychosexual drama turns out to be surprisingly entertaining. Rent it, if for no other reason than to hear Sandra Dee utter what is arguably the most wonderful line of dialogue in the history of cinema: “Are you bad, Johnny? Have you been bad with girls?”
It’s possible that there are better examples of the John Cusack comedy than One Crazy Summer, but as they take place during seasons which are irrelevant to our discussion (Fall and Winter, for instance) we will not address them here. OCS is a charmingly unpretentious little film, with the kind of non sequitur-laden humor that is the mark of a Cusack film. It’s best to ignore the plot, which has something to do with a boat race, real estate, and the then-unknown Demi Moore‘s attempts to become a folk singer. Concentrate instead on the spectacle of Bobcat Goldthwait, trapped inside a Godzilla costume, shrieking and howling as he blunders through a poolside business luncheon attended by bewildered Japanese investors.
I had been told by several intellectual foreign art film buffs that the French comedy Mister Hulot’s Holiday is hysterically funny, and my life would not be complete unless I had seen it. Well, Hulot isn’t hysterically funny. There are some funny bits, a few that provoke out-loud laughter, but the experience of watching this film is more like that of sitting on a back porch watching children playing. You smile. Sometimes you laugh. Sometimes you wonder what the hell they’re doing, and why.
Monsieur Hulot is a gawky, bumbling, pipe-smoking goofball who inadvertently wreaks havoc at a seaside holiday resort. There is little dialogue — despite the fact that it was made in the late 1940s, it is practically a silent film — and much of it is taken up by people doing ordinary, everyday kinds of things. A child tries to open a door while holding two ice cream cones. A bored waiter springs to action whenever his supervisor enters the room. An elderly British gentleman serenely follows his nagging wife about. And you sit in front of your television, watching them.
In Summer Lovers, a couple, played by Peter Gallagher (or “That one guy! With the big eyebrows! Who’s in all those 70s films!”) and a very young Daryl Hannah travel to Greece in an effort to revitalize their stale and unhappy relationship. We, of course, can see the problem immediately: the guy is an idiot. But when they encounter the beautiful and mysterious French archaeologist Lena (Valerie Quennessen), the obvious solution (dump Peter) falls by the wayside. They find their couple turning into a trio, and their love once again blooming. As the film was made in the early 80s, we don’t get to see Daryl and Valerie discovering the joys of woman-oriented womanhood; they are content to share Peter, and Peter is more than content to be shared.
This film differs from the other summer dramas mentioned in that nothing truly bad ever happens. While the characters in A Summer Place and Where the Boys Are must grapple with sexism, rape, alcoholism, and child abuse, the most serious problems the Summer Lovers trio confront are a sprained wrist and a surprise visit by Mom. Amateur cultural historians should watch for big hair, tube tops, Speedo trunks, and nudism.
So why burn down to a mere lump of carbon in the Nevada heat when you can enjoy the spectacle of other, more athletic, more glamorous people frolicking in more forgiving climates (like Hell)? So go ahead, you crazy kids. Slip on those swimming togs from the Gap, slather on the cocoa butter, and bask in the rays of the cathode tube. And always remember, as a sign on the beach in Summer Lovers urges: “Is forbidden the camping and the nakedness.”