• Gidget




    Released By: Twilight Time
    Released On: November 14 2017.
    Director: Paul Wendkos
    Cast: Sandra Dee, James Darren, Cliff Robertson, Arthur O’Connell, Joby Baker, Yvonne Craig, Doug McClure
    Year: 1959
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:

    Ask legendary big wave surfer Greg Noll what he thinks about Gidget, and he won't have anything to say that's not laced with profanity. True, Noll and his buddies were enjoying their relatively anonymous lives as surf bums in California and Hawaii, a small group of dedicated friends in one of the most notorious lineups ever seen, when the success of The Beach Boys and Sandra Dee's Gidget sent everyone with a few bucks and a station wagon down to the coast to check out the newest teen sensation of surfing. Based on the books by Frederick Kohner, father of a teenaged female surfer, GIDGET was, in an eyebrow-raising ad campaign, geared towards adolescent males too young to "Fidget with Bridget".

    Sandra Dee was kind of a precursor to those 80's films where sex symbols had to act like teenagers who couldn't get a date to save their lives while the entire teenaged viewing population contemplated giving up a limb to spend five minutes alone with them; check out that cover art. Sandra Dee is a sweetheart. Of course, in the film, she's 16 year-old Francie Lawrence, a tomboy whose friend Patti pushes to head down to the beach to get with the available boys before she ends up an old maid at eighteen. Manhunting doesn't work out too successfully for Francie, whose physical presence can't match up to the buxom blitzkrieg that Patti and the other girls lay down in their two-piece fashions of the day. To add insult to injury, Francie doesn't know the tips and tricks to draw in the boys, and furthermore, couldn't care less. A third factor complicates matters further, in that the boys the girls are after; Moondoggie (James Darren), Stinky (Joby Baker), Lover Boy (Tom Laughlin...BILLY JACK!!!) and the others, led by The Big Kahuna (Cliff Robertson); are surfers who live for nothing but waves, although they will show appreciation for the fairer sex when the tide is out.

    It's not long before Francie's indifference takes over, leading her to go snorkelling over hanging with her friends, a move that the more experienced girls recoil from, refusing to allow themselves to look so ridiculous. Francie's apathy leads to disaster, however, when she's caught in the seaweed that dominates the coast, dragging her towards the ocean floor and away from precious air. Fortunately, Moondoggie cottons on to what's happening quickly and paddles out with his huge-ass wooden longboard to save the drowning girl, and since the tide is in, chooses to catch a wave with the semi-conscious teen laying prone on the deck of his board, catching the whitewater wash to the safety of the shore. Unbeknownst to Moondoggie, he's just exposed Francie to "shooting the curl", a surfing maneuver that the young girl has decided is the most exhilarating thing that she's ever encountered. Sure, she might be laughed at as "jailbait" by the other guys, but Moondoggie still feels the need to sing a song to the half girl, half midget....the "Gidget"....to let her know that she's the one for him...kind of. Unfortunately, despite Gidget's commitment to surfing and her willingness to shell out for a water-logged board from Stinky, Moondoggie has a lady friend named Joanne, and she bats outside of Gidget's weight class.

    Still, Gidget does what she can, hitting the break every day after learning to surf courtesy of a book and her friend rocking her bed-bound surfboard...which prepares her to catch waves about five minutes later....and gets in good with Kahuna, learning of his carefree lifestyle and compulsion to travel the world for the best waves. And as much as her parents express their consternation in their daughter's newfound affinity for boys with no stable financial future, Gidget practices her boob-growing exercises, gets better at brushing her hair out of her face while surfing against a rear-projection screen, and determines that she will attend the year-end Luau...even mapping out how she'll make Moondoggie jealous, a plan with disastrous repercussions. Will Moondoggie drop his girl for Gidget? Will her boobs get bigger? Will she finally shoot the curl on her own? Or will Kahuna make the younger girl his globe-trotting woman? In this bizarre artifact from a more wholesome era, strangely, nothing is certain.

    All Noll-isms aside, and ignoring how the success of GIDGET sent all of the Valley kids running for the ocean break, this film pioneered the funtime beach movies that would follow, films that made Frankie and Annette bigger stars than Sandra Dee. And there's really nothing offensive about Gidget, unless you're from the old school that probably took offense to the film back in the day. Girls! Looking for sex! ARRRRGGHHH! Truthfully, the most offensive thing about Gidget these days are the outdated ideals on display, like the fact that a girl is more or less required to sit and wait for a man to decide that she's worthy of his time, and the fact that poor Sandra Dee spends the majority of her time on screen getting pawed by her male co-stars, or laying prone on a surfboard while the boys get to bury their faces in her bottom end.

    Aside from that, we get fun, entertaining fluff...nobody is pushing the intellectual boundary here....full of awesome 50's/60's tropes...hep lingo, rear-screen action scenes, fashions of the times, all based around the simple equation of girl/boy wants girl/boy. The performances are fine here, the atmosphere is fun and bouncy, the soundtrack is fitting, and aside from some snickery subtext, GIDGET is flat-out fun. Is the direction anything that resonates? No. Are we marvelling over the action sequences? Not really. But GIDGET is....well...swell. And, obviously, considering the sequels and other follow-ups, enough people thought so. But at the end of the day, GIDGET is entertainment, and that should really be enough to recommend it.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Twilight Time brings Gidget to Blu-ray in a miraculously uncropped 2.35:1 transfer, courtesy of a new 4K scan. Gidget fans rejoice that watching the film in pan and scan is no longer a requirement, and though the AVC-encoded transfer does fluctuate in quality from scene to scene, it's largely impressive with loads of detail, solid blacks, and a lack of artifacts or compression issues. It's safe to say that this is the best the Gidget has ever looked on home video.

    Audio is handled courtesy of a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 track that easily hits outside of its weight class, with good dynamic range and no hisses, crack, pops, or anything else to speak of. It's definitely one of the better tracks to pop up on a Twilight Time disc, and easily balances the score, foley, and hep surfer lingo effortlessly. English Subs for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing are also available, as is Twilight Time's usual staple of the Isolated Music Track.

    Extras are pretty much barebones here...a trailer, the Twilight Time Interactive Catalogue, and Liner Notes by Julie Kirgo are available.

    The Final Word:

    A cool relic of the 50's and the beginning of the surf craze, Gidget makes its way to Blu-ray in a manner that shuns its predecessors. Fun guaranteed for all.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!






















    Comments 2 Comments
    1. C.D. Workman's Avatar
      C.D. Workman -
      Great review, Mark!
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Aw, thanks, Chris! It was a fun one to watch...and write