Let me introduce you to a film entitled Summer of 42. A film that is dangerous. It promotes values and traditions that of which are currently being condemned, in fact so much so that I am shocked that Warner Bros re-released it in its Archive Collection. There are two ways in which to look at this, and in that lies the problem. The first way is innocent, this film represents a time in which everything was a bit simpler. Where boys would be boys, and their summers were spent figuring out the opposite sex. This included, of course, stealing a medical textbook, and taking a couple of gals to the pictures. Unfortunately, the second way involves looking at a time of ignorance, copping a feel, public sex, and gender inequality.
This is a film that was meant to be artsy, to be bold, and to remind us all of a time of innocence. More importantly, it is supposed to tell us the tale of very real screenwriter Herman Raucher. Raucher, wrote this film while working as a writer for television and apparently found himself unable to get anyone to buy this film. Which only goes to further the point that there may have been a good reason. I cannot imagine what Raucher wanted to say with this film, rather than simply reliving the days of his youth, which may be viewed through the rose-colored glasses that only the forties could have created.
Our story follows Hermie (Gary Grimes) as a young boy who is staying with his parents at their summer home on Nantucket. Along with his friends, Oscy (Jerry Houser) and Benjie (Oliver Conant) he starts down the mission of teenage love and education through various methods and much failing. While his friend Oscy seems heavily focused on the seduction part, Hermie falls in love with a woman from the neighborhood named Dorothy (Jennifer O’Neill) who is alone while her husband is overseas fighting in WWII. Hermie starts assisting Dorothy with household chores and like most teenage boys fantasize and puts heavy meaning into each of her actions. The question becomes will Hermie find a way to become a man by the end of the summer?
The film is riddled with several issues. First and foremost the culture throughout the film is chauvinistic, to say the least. The boys, cross lines that when viewed through the era’s lenses seem innocent enough but only seem to promote a culture of expectations from women that cater only to men. The girls the boys interact with are only given attention because they may get something sexual out of it. The lonely Housewife must only be being nice to Hermie because she wants to seduce him (SPOILER: this is made worse by the fact that she actually does end up sleeping with him). Perhaps the largest problem is the end of the film. Dorothy suffers an extreme loss and is having what might be the absolute worst moment of her life, and the writer seems to think, that she, at that moment, would seduce a sixteen-year-old boy. This is supposedly based on Herman Raucher’s real life, but I find the way the story plays out far-fetched at the absolute minimum.
The Film 2/5
Director Robert Mulligan, attempts to bring Herman Raucher’s tale to life. Mulligan teamed up with accomplished Cinematographer Robert Surtees to create a film that takes the audience back in time. For the most part, the filming is actually quite wonderful they manage to frame a film that in a sense is a snapshot of the time period and does much to sell the era as wholesome. Originally filmed on 35mm this film looks absolutely wonderful on Blu-ray. I found the scenes, and scenery alike bright, detailed, and delightfully clear. This film looks as if it was filmed twenty years ago, not forty-seven and my hat is off to the team at Warner Archives.
Picture Quality 5/5
The score for the film is the most competent part of this film conceptually and has the most to offer. Behind the score is legendary composer Michael Legrand, who is behind the scores for films such as The Thomas Crown Affair, Yentl, Never Say Never Again, and Le Mans. Legrand’s score is outstanding and truly encaptures a time of wholesome joy and innocence, so much so that it doesn’t necessarily fit the subject matter that well. On paper, I’m sure the two seem to belong together, however, once this film was brought to life I find that the score accomplishes much more than its visual accompaniment. The transfer over to Blu-ray and home viewing are flawless and I found no issues in any auditory elements of viewing this one, which is actually quite shocking as the levels do vary quite a bit throughout the film.
Audio Quality 5/5
Here is where it gets odd. The artwork for the packaging seems to both belong and, on the other hand, find itself so far away from the actual subject matter that it isn’t funny. I find a couple of rather clear issues with the art. First and foremost the tagline that is featured prominently displayed across the front “In everyone’s life there’s a….Summer of ‘42” is preposterous and offensive. Let’s really break that down. Are we to assume that this is supposed to be a usual experience that every boy/girl experiences. The inclusion of “everyone” makes it impossibly confusing. In no way does this have a chance to be an anecdotal similarity that everyone can identify with. Let’s just be honest about what this is. A glorified memory of a young boy who lusted after a widower and never got over it. Secondly, the artwork makes it look as if the two featured players on the cover, are love interests and in that regard are in the same age category or at least close. The film is a marketing nightmare, to say the least. I can appreciate how well the case is made, however, the paper used for the artwork already started to curl (wrinkle) inside the case and is obviously not made using high-quality materials.
The Packaging 1.5/5
For this edition, unsurprisingly, the only added extra is that of the original trailer. I am not the least bit surprised. Archives does not always manage to grab extras for their features as well, so this is no exception.
Special Features 0/5
I doubt you could tell, but I found the whole film irrelevant to an experience that someone could look at as a realistic or even appropriate coming of age tale. This is truly a shame because coming of age stories are some of my absolute favorite films to enjoy, and can include some of the best scripted, moments in film history. There is a generational gap between myself and the intended audience of several decades and I cannot push that aside far enough to ignore blatant ignorant viewpoints and opinions. That being said, it has redeeming moments even if they are far and few. You can purchase this film HERE.
Overall 2/5- Not impressed