Designed to be as nonthreatening a form of teen movie as can be imagined, the Gidget filmswere the predecessors to the Beach Party movies with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello,and were sunny bits of cheer not even hinting at the darker side of adolescence explored by suchcontemporaries as I Was Teenage Werewolf (1957). Sandra Dee, perkiness made flesh,was first to play the role in 1959’s Gidget. Here she meets surfer Moondoggie (JamesDarren, the only actor…to reprise his part for all three films). Falling hard for both him and hispastime, she learns to surf herself, and hopes to inspire Moondoggie’s jealousy by attracting theattentions of the much older Kahoona (Cliff Robertson). Never mind the fact that Dee looks allof twelve, and that this appearance is deliberate. Even if she is “almost seventeen,” the flirtationswith Robertson are unintentionally creepy. Then there’s all the cracks about her being “jailbait.”
Gidget and Moondoggie’s love is put to the test in Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961). Avacation in the title location separates the couple, and Gidget (now played by Deborah Walley,who does her own surfing stunts) finds her interest wandering, which leads to complicationswhen Moondoggie unexpectedly shows up. Both of them shows signs of fickleness in GidgetGoes to Rome, which dumps the whole surfing angle (and thus much of the series’ reason forbeing) in favour of the travelogue. Here Cindy Carol takes the title role, and does a prettypassable job as a clone for Dee. Subsequently, of course, Sally Field took over for the TVseries.
By no imaginable distortion of the word are these films “classics.” They barely function ascomedies, though they have acquired some unintentional hilarious/creepy double-entendres overthe years, and there are occasional bits of throwaway dialogue and sight gags that work.
The mono sound is acceptable, and is generally clear of buzz and distortion. The consistenceof the sound improves as the films become younger. The first feature has a very variable tone.Still, the songs have a good warmth to them, and don’t sound thin at all.
The films are all presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, which does them no favours.Gidget, for example, was originally in CinemaScope, and the cropping out of half theframe ruins numerous compositions, and completely destroys the beach vistas. The grain levelvaries from the pretty bad in the first film to virtually none in the last. The other picture qualitiesfollow the same pattern. The result is that the weakest film (of an admittedly not very strong lot)has the best colour, sharpest image and cleanest print, while the original is plagued by variablecolour tones, speckling, grain and noticeable print damage (the worst is a group of vertical linesthat mar the frame from left to right).
Nothing here but a handful of trailers accompanying each flick. Most are romantic comedies,but oddly, the ads accompanying Gidget Goes to Rome are more art-house oriented(Respiro, Bread and Tulips). Is this simply because she’s in Italy? The menu isbasic.
The films are not really any good, and the picture quality of the original is very shaky. Still,as a nostalgic artifact, this is a useful release.
Special Features List