The invaluable Warner Archive program has made lots of obscure films available on DVD for the first time.
The folks who run the Archive do a great job of ranging from the earliest days of movies to more recent decades in search of interesting titles that have fallen off most people’s radar.
Last year’s batch of DVD-on-demand titles included one of the biggest box office hits of 1960-1961 — “Where the Boys Are” — which has gone in and out of print on various video formats several times over the past few decades.
Best remembered now for the smash title tune by Connie Francis, the film helped to create the template for the beach movies that would be churned out by the dozen through the mid-1960s (when even teens started enjoying some of the racier adult-themed movies that began to come out of the Hollywood studios).
Pasternak was smart enough to know that one of the major attractions of the film was its depiction of the growing spring break scene in Fort Lauderdale, so he budgeted for several weeks of location filming that now give “Where the Boys Are” a wonderful semi-documentary feel.
The movie’s success helped to boost the spring break phenomenon. About 20,000 kids showed up in Fort Lauderdale for the college break before “Boys” came out. A year later, the movie boosted the crowd above 100,000. In the decades to come, college students would have more disposable income and would extend the fun-in-the-sun blast to the Caribbean and Mexico.
Although the fashions and some of the behavior in the film now look antique, the treatment of sex in “Where the Boys Are” is not as retrograde as you might expect from a 51-year-old movie. All four of the major female characters weigh their virtue against the pleasures of a fling in Florida and the central character Merritt (played by the gorgeous Dolores Hart) gets into trouble in the opening scene when she brings up the Kinsey Report with a prudish professor.
The actresses are fun to watch — especially Hart and Prentiss (in her screen debut) — because they are so lively and so obviously capable of taking care of themselves. These are the women who would read “The Feminine Mystique” a few years later and be ready for the sexual revolution that arrived in the second half of the decade.
(Hart shocked Hollywood by becoming a nun a few years after “Where the Boys Are” opened; she is mother superior of a Connecticut order.)
The movie was apparently a considerably watered-down version of the Glendon Swarthout it was based on — he included chapters in the second half in which the students aided the Castro revolution in Cuba (!) — but it remains one of the best of all the many spring break pictures that would follow it.
(Warner Archive titles are made on demand and can be ordered at www.wbshop.com/warnerarchive)