The Summer of '42 (1971) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

If you are into watching movies for nostalgia, you get a double dose here. On the one hand, you get to indulge in the innocence of the boys who were fifteen in 1942. On the other hand, you get to reminisce about the way they made films in 1971.

It isn't really a great film, but it brought back a lot of warm, pleasant memories. Although I'm too young to know what it was like to grow up before The Great War, my boyhood summers were very similar to the events pictured here. We lived in a time when our parents wouldn't worry for a minute if we disappeared at eight on a summer morning and didn't return until dark. When I was about 10, I'd grab my bat and glove and about fifty cents every summer morning, and disappear for the day. My friends all did the same thing. We played ball until we dropped, then picked up a soft drink and same baseball cards and shot the bull until we were rested enough to play ball again. Or maybe we'd go on a bicycle adventure. If it was rainy, we hung out at somebody's house and played games. If we were lucky, somebody's mom would make us lunch, and then we could spend just about the entire 50 cents on baseball cards. In those days, you could get more than one card per penny.

Sometimes I'd ride bikes with my friend Mike Dwyer for fun, while at other times we'd head off on a special entrepreneurial sortie to collect pop and beer bottles. They were worth two cents each, and if we worked at it hard enough, going through the best spots by the lake and in the park, we could make a couple of dollars each with a hard day's work which was also fun. The only bad part of it was when we ran into grouchy store owners who didn't want our bottles. The rest of the day was like getting paid for having fun. Sometimes fishermen and college guys would even give us clean bottles from their cars, because they considered glass bottles a pain to return, and two cents didn't mean jack to them.

There was never a sense that our lives were in any danger. Mike and I would ride our bikes into the poor neighborhoods in the inner city, and we'd wander sometimes as much as thirty miles from our homes in search of some adventure or another, and our parents never worried about whether we'd return. I can't remember a single moment when we felt threatened.


None. Jennifer O'Neill undresses with the camera behind her and above her waist, but even that is a cheat. Her breast cups are visible in one frame!

As the years went on, we started to take more of an interest in sex and girls, and this is where we leave my life to pick up the narrative of The Summer of '42. Three kids hang out together on Long Island in the summertime. They are about 15, and every day they spy on the beautiful young wife who lives in a beach house with her handsome young husband. It is 1942, remember, so the young husband heads off to war, leaving his wife around to be the designated sexual fantasy for the boys.

Through an unlikely concatenation of events, this incredibly beautiful 22 year old woman becomes a widow, and actually ends up taking the virginity of one of the boys. I didn't believe this for a minute, frankly. Although the character is named Hermie, and the author is Herman Raucher, and the story is quasi-autobiographical, it doesn't seem credible. Imagine that you're a 15 year old dweeb, and you manage to get in bed not only with a 22 year old woman, but about the most beautiful one that ever trod upon these mortal boards (Jennifer O'Neill. What a dish she was!). What are the Vegas odds on that upset, Jimmy the Greek?

Speaking of Jimmy, why are Greek guys always called "the Greek"? Jimmy the Greek, Zorba the Greek, the painter El Greco (which simply means "The Greek"). We don't do this with other nationalities? You never hear of "Jimmy the Belgian", or "Jimmy the Peruvian"? Why are Greeks singled out for this ethnic identification? Why don't we call Hugh Grant "Hughie the Brit", or Brigitte Nielsen "Gitte the Dane"? Frankly, I have not been able to figure this Greek thing out, and I'm starting to sound like Andy Rooney, so I think I'll move on.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen letterbox

  • no meaningful features

I still enjoyed the film, even though it's more like a boyhood fantasy than a real boyhood. I felt a lot of nostalgia for my own boyhood, and I felt equally nostalgic for a lost kind of filmmaking. This film was directed by the same guy who did To Kill a Mockingbird. I guess he specialized in the kids' point of view. The music was typical 60's-70's theme music, an Oscar-winning score written by Michel Legrand. You'll recognize it the minute you hear it.

I can remember taking a woman to see this movie, so it brings back memories of those times as well. It may not be not such a good film, but it's a repository of many treasured generational memories.

The Critics Vote

  • Maltin 3/4

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDB readers say 6.7/10.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C. Probably an overrated movie, and the plot seems ludicrous to me, but I really enjoyed the period details, and it will invoke a lot of nostalgia for you if you are 45 or older, and especially if you were born in the twenties.

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