Release Date(s)1959 (November 14, 2017)
Studio(s)Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures (Twilight Time)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: C-
Billed as “The Story of the Beach Generation”, Gidget was later considered to be the original “beach party film” – a genre further popularized by American International Pictures, notably with movies starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. A thriving slice of American teenager surf culture, this string of movies lasted throughout the 1960s, mixing in everything from comedy to drama to horror elements. These films also contained similar formulas, utilizing drag racing, musical numbers, and girls in bikinis – all going way beyond what Gidget was initially about.
Sandra Dee stars as Francine (Gidget), a diminutive but charming teenage girl who discovers both surfing and boys over the course of one summer. Despite their dismissal of her early on, the boys take a liking to her as she proves herself to be a resourceful young woman, all under the watchful eye of their wayward leader The Big Kahuna (Cliff Robertson). One of the boys in particular, known amongst his friends as Moondoggie (James Darren), manages to catch her eye, but whether he notices her or not is a different matter altogether.
Based upon the novel “Gidget, the Little Girl with Big Ideas” by Frederick Kohner, there’s more going on in Gidget than what’s on the surface, which appears to be nothing more than a fluffy, easy-going movie. Surfing and romance are the primary ingredients, but the film winds up being more about a woman coming of age and going after her dreams in a positive way, making her story one of female empowerment. This aspect is really what allows it to continue to resonate today, making it far more interesting than the genre it unintentionally created. Part of that magic is Sandra Dee herself, who is impossible not to adore as she is positively bubbling with charisma. In spite of this (albeit retrospective) reading of the film, it went on to spawn several sequels, as well as a TV series starring Sally Field, proving, at the very least, the impact of it at the time. Regardless of the changing times, Gidget remains an enjoyable and engaging film.
Twilight Time presents Gidget for the first time on home video in its widescreen Cinemascope format. A new transfer carried out by Sony, the film looks fantastic on Blu-ray, better than it ever has in its aftermarket life. Grain is even and well-rendered with enormous amounts of fine detail on clothing, landscapes, and skin textures, revealing the rear-screen projections in the surfing scenes much more than ever (not that it matters). Colors are rich and vibrant with excellent skin tones and deep, inky black levels. Overall contrast and brightness is perfect and there’s next to no film damage leftover, nor are there any digital or encoding anomalies. It’s practically perfect. The audio is presented as an English 2.0 mono DTS-HD track with optional subtitles in English SDH. No qualms are to be had with it either as it’s expertly balanced with excellent clarity and fidelity. Dialogue is clean and clear while the score and sound selection has an ample amount of breathing room. Sound effects, although not enveloping, definitely come into play during beach scenes, particularly the wind and waves in the background. A gorgeous presentation, through and through. Extras include an isolated music track in 2.0 DTS-HD, the original theatrical trailer in HD, a scroll-through of the current Twilight Time catalogue, and as always, an excellent 8-page insert booklet with an essay by Julie Kirgo, offering up plenty of valuable insight.
While most looking in will give Gidget a pass being that it’s a dated film and they likely already have an idea of what it is based upon the reputation of the genre, I implore those people to think twice. Gidget is a delightful film, with more going on than what one might think. Twilight Time’s excellent Blu-ray release should make that an easy choice. Highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons