Thursday, December 27, 2007


(Continually we will spotlight films that are only available on VHS and of course are available at Rocket Video)


    LAST SUMMER (Perry 1969)

What a find (based on a book by Evan HunterHitchcock’s The BirdsThe Blackboard Jungle)! Two suntanned blond summer beach boys Dan and Peter (a kinda Leopold And Loeb-Lite) stumble upon the beautiful Sandy and help her rehabilitate an injured pigeon. The three uber-innocent teens become best friends and have a-coming-of-age-summer full of heavy petting, gawking, drooling, drinking a beer (“truth serum”), smoking reefer (they get groovy). 

The three Aryan virgins are played by a future cast of fairly distinguished thespians. Richard Thomas became known to all as John Boy on The Waltons. Bruce Davison fell in love with a rat in Willard (Mann 1971, also only on VHS) and got an oscar nomination for one of the first “mainstream” films about AIDS, Longtime Companion (Rene 1990). And as the cruel object of these boys lust is Barbara Hershey, who went on to be the lust of Peter O’Toole’s twisted film director in the masterpiece The Stunt Man (Rush 1980) and  Michael Caine’s fussy lust in another great flick Hanna And Her Sisters (Allen 1986) and she made Jesus drool in The Last Temptation Of Christ (Scorsese 1988).

Things get really wacky for the trio when a fourth teenybopper joins the gang, the awkward and chubby Rhoda (the terrific Catherine Burns She got a Best Supporting Oscar nomination for this flick and then went on to do a bunch of TV guest parts, Mod SquadAdams-12, etc.). The three slowly start to get meaner and crueler to their new follower until the brutal end. 

What starts out as an innocent adolescent flick in the vain of Summer of '42 (Mulligan 1971) this one really takes some fascinating and shocking psychological turns. Director Frank Perry who before this directed the equally shocking examination of suburban madness, The Swimmer (1969), had a couple of fairly revered seventies cult films with similar themes  Diary of a Mad Housewife (1970) and 

Play It As It Lays (1972). And then did a couple of camp-epics, the ridicules Monsignor (1982) and the histrionic Mommie Dearest (1981). Before his death 1995 he did manage to help to bury Shelly Long’s post TV career with the incredibly forgettable Hello Again (1987). 

Think of this as a little... Thirteen (Hardwicke 2003), Jaws (Spielberg 1975) and maybe, Cruel Intentions (Kumble 1999) but without the shark or the adults.

    WEST BEIRUT (Doueiri 1998)

Ziad Doueiri, having worked as first assistant camera on  Quentin Tarantino films Reservoir Dogs (1992) through Jackie Brown (1997) displays a lot of style and skill in this autobiographical coming-of-age flick. As he also did in his French follow-up Lila Says (2004) another teenage lust epic. Like the boys in Last SummerWest Beirut’s Tarek and Omar just wanna get laid (and listen to American disco tunes). Though instead of fretting over a rainy day at the beach, they have to contend with the Islamic Civil War breaking out in the otherwise westernized Lebanon. All this talk of Islam is also getting in the way of Tarek’s budding romance with a spunky Christian girl May.

Raised by intellectual Liberal parents and attending a French school, Tarek is obviously the stand in for the director, he runs around with a Super-8 camera and wants to direct films. The three teenage actors are wonderfully natural and show potential gifts, but unlike their three American counterparts apparently, sadly they haven’t continued acting.

This is another great lost film that is in need of, say the Criterion DVD treatment. Besides illuminating the similarities of teens of all cultures, like Louis Malle’s childhood flicks, Murmur of the Heart (1971) & Au Revoir, Les Enfants (1987) it’s specific to the filmmaker’s time and place, but everyone can find a little of their own experience in it (don’t we all just wanna catch-a-peek? Er, I mean, don’t they all). It’s also a great tribute to the power of film-making around the world and the dream of escaping our own humdrum existence's through the movies.  


You're A Big Boy Now (Coppola 1966) 

Far from the Madding Crowd (Schlesinger 1967)

Kes (Loach 1969)  

Bless The Beasts & The Children (Kramer 1971) 

Looking For Mr. Goodbar (Brooks 1977) 

Rich Kids (Young 1979)

Little Darlings (Maxwell 1980) 

Baby It’s You (Sayles 1982)

Last Exit to Brooklyn (Edel 1989) 


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