Summer of '42
Long before there was American Pie, Porky's or Losin' It, director Robert Mulligan turned the teenage quest for poon into blockbuster material with Summer of '42. Released in 1971 but set during World War II, this curious drama is of more interest now due to the foreigness of its sexual innocence. The movie follows two horny teenagers as the boredom of yet another Nantucket-ish summer is mitigated by some intense sexual awakenings. Gary Grimes stars as Hermie, a gawky and confused 15-year-old infatuated with a pretty war bride (Jennifer O'Neill) and tormented by the bossy immaturity of his best friend, Oscy (Jerry Houser). They may be defined by their complete ignorance of delicate matters, but unlike the randy teens of more recent pictures Summer of '42's horny heroes don't vent their confusion with practical jokes and rascally hijinks, and the script culminates in bottled emotions, fist-fights, and horrific revelations. In a way, the approach feels very fresh, as it focuses on aspects almost entirely ignored by later genre movies. However, it also feels a bit overdone. In fact, so much of Summer of '42 inadvertently veers into maudlin silliness (the film seems to have been stylistically modeled after 1970's hit Love Story) that only its perfectly, sensitively wrought climactic scene redeems it. For a film this big, it's notable that none of its young stars featured in any further films of impact and neither, really, did they deserve to but O'Neill is a natural beauty, and her easy if unconvincing style consistently rescues the film from Grimes' clumsily directed debut. Warner Home Video presents Summer of '42 in a good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) from a source that is far from meticulous, but partially excused by the film's overexposed, grainy visual style. Michael Legrand's evocative, memorable music is well represented by the monaural Dolby Digital audio. Trailer, snap-case.