Film & Television

Wishful Thinking at the Multiplex:
Summer Movies of Yesteryear

I grew up in Manhattan, and if there was a movie I wanted to see, it was fairly easy to find it. A quick walk from my family’s high rise included the Paramount; the Embassy; Cinema Studios I and II, which tended to show smaller indie films; and the Regency, which specialized in vintage Hollywood double features. A little farther, but still walkable, were the Paris (foreign films), Loews 83rd (mainstream hits), and the New Yorker (which had weekly midnight showings of Rocky Horror). And I haven’t even scratched the surface. Greenwich Village — and countless art houses — was a simple subway ride away. Not to mention movies available at New York’s many museums.

As a young adult, I moved to Boston, a much smaller city. But this was the mid-1980s, and there were still several independent movie theaters, as well as film festivals at the Museum of Fine Arts and the Institute of Contemporary Art. Plus, with 35 colleges and universities in the greater Boston area, it wasn’t difficult to find obscure screenings at student-friendly prices.

Now I live in a suburb. It’s a quaint historic suburb, but a suburb nonetheless. My local movie theater options are limited to two enormous multiplexes and two tiny independents (that for some reason choose to show the same big-budget blockbusters as the multiplexes).

And it’s officially summertime, the season of cinematic superheroes (or in this case, dinosaurs), and trying to find a movie to watch and review for you this week was particularly challenging.

For example, the closest multiplex is currently showing Incredibles 2 on four screens and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom on another five. The handful of screens left over are taken up with Solo: A Star Wars Story; Avengers: Infinity War; Deadpool 2; and Gotti.

What’s a responsible, mature, female critic to do? That’s easy . . . think back on some classic summer titles and encourage you to pop your own popcorn (healthier and cheaper), and find these films to rent or view on demand. Here are some of my all-time favorites:

The Parent Trap (1961)

Starring Hayley Mills and Hayley Mills, as well as Brian Keith and the magnificent Maureen O’Hara, this Disney classic will remind you of everything you ever loved (or maybe hated) about summer camp. Identical campers Susan and Sharon accidentally meet and become instant enemies, until they realize that they’re sisters, separated when their parents divorced years earlier. They switch places and the rest of the movie is their elaborate plot to bring their parents back together. The 1998 remake with Lindsay Lohan (and Lindsay Lohan) isn’t too bad either and includes a lovely performance by the late Natasha Richardson.

Beach Blanket Bingo (1965)

Actually, any movie with Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon will do (others include: Beach Party, Muscle Beach Party, Bikini Beach, and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini). Beach Blanket Bingo includes gratuitous skydiving, mistaken identities, and characters named Bonehead and Eric Von Zipper. As CinemaEditor described the genre, “In Frankie and Annette, teenagers now had their own version of Rock Hudson and Doris Day as the ‘bedroom farce’ is moved to the beach and made a little younger, a little dumber, and stuffed full of wild music.” Younger, dumber but also definitively summer.

Summer of 42 (1971)

In this memorable coming of age story set on a New England island during World War II, awkward adolescent Hermie falls in love with his beautiful neighbor (Jennifer O’Neill), whose husband is fighting overseas. While his sex-crazed buddies pursue younger girls, Hermie slowly builds a gentle friendship with the older woman until fate intervenes. The movie was one of the top grossing films of its year and a critical success. (No doubt it was also responsible for thousands of teen boys developing crushes on Ms. O’Neill. I know my husband did.)

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  • Dr. Pat June 26, 2018 at 8:32 am

    Dear Alex,
    I hope Netflix is reading this post! The big studios have
    to produce “block-busters” with the same old themes.
    Our demographic has no reason to go to the movies with
    titles like this summer’s line up. Indie’s, foreign films and
    films that are written by, directed by and starring women
    are what we need.
    Dr. Pat