Friday, August 26, 2016

Revisiting LAST SUMMER

Richard Thomas as Peter in LAST SUMMER.

I revisited the Frank and Eleanor Perry film LAST SUMMER (1969) tonight for the first time in probably 20 years. Unfortunately it hasn't had an official home video release in this country since the VHS days, though it did play in its "cut" R-rated version once on Turner Classic Movies. Watching it again, I was struck by hitherto unnoticed and completely unexpected similarities between Richard Thomas' performance and the performance given by Malcolm McDowell in Lindsay Anderson's IF... the same year.

Malcolm McDowell as Mick in IF...
It would be hard to imagine two actors more dissimilar in terms of their public images, which naturally was formed by the work they've respectively done over the course of their careers (ie., THE WALTONS, CALIGULA), yet in these early films, they could nearly be mistaken for one another in some shots, so alike are they in their abilities to contrast wide-eyed innocence and feral, amoral intensity. It could probably be said that typecasting has affected them both adversely, albeit in quite different ways.

I've never read the Evan Hunter novel that was the basis for LAST SUMMER (he also wrote a sequel, COME WINTER) but I wonder if the story's resemblance to William Golding's LORD OF THE FLIES is more or less pronounced in print than on film. It's something I've always noticed about the film, brought to the fore by the beachside setting and the teens' almost tribally induced reversion to savagery, with Cathy Burns' preternaturally wise, victimized Rhoda being the analogy to Piggy.

On another subject concerning the same film: LAST SUMMER was originally advertised as carrying an X rating, but Wikipedia tells us that it never played in theaters in that cut, which was altered by opening day to win the film a more commercial R rating. Everything I've ever read about the film claims that cuts were made to the climactic rape scene, but knowing how tame X films could be in 1969 (even in 1971 when a matter of seconds were cut from a rape film shown as part of the Ludovico Treatment in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE), I'm skeptical that it was ever more graphic than what we see now. However, the dialogue in the film has a lot of relooped dialogue along the lines of "frickin'" and "frackin'" and I suspect that the real bartering in the film was done with language. In those days, the F word could get you an X.

Another oddity concerning the soundtrack is that the dialogue includes not one, but two spoken lead-ins to music cues that never happen - once when a record gets changed and Barbara Hershey suggests "How about something by the Airplane?" (which is followed by music featuring brass) and again at the bar when she notices "a new song by The Band" on the jukebox and they pop in a quarter to play it. That said, one or two members of The Band apparently did contribute to tracks recorded for the movie as part of the congregation identified as Aunt Mary's Transcendental Slip & Lurch Band.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.