"Just remember, she might be pint-sized, but she's quite a woman." The original surfer girl gets her own three-film DVD collection, dippy fun from a more innocent time. 1959's Gidget
made real surfers nauseated, but it's a kicky movie with some great lounge-era lingo. Sandra Dee, perkiness personified, plays the curious teen who breaks the gender line in surfing. She's also got the attention of surf-happy Moondoggie (James Darren) and the big Kahuna (Cliff Robertson), the latter the prototype of the surf bum who roams the globe in search of the endless summer. The film actually kicked off the great boom in surfing popularity (the Beach Boys and the Beach Party
movies followed), much to the chagrin of purists. It was based on a novel by Frederick Kohner, who was inspired by his daughter's experiences.
Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961) puts Deborah Walley in the title role. She's no Sandra Dee, but at least there are shots of Walley doing her own surfing stunts. The action's in Waikiki, and Gidge is pursued by a confused Moondoggie and a famous dancer. They are played by James Darren and Michael Callan, and having the two 1960s male ingenues in the same movie suggests a weird collision of matter and anti-matter. The spark goes flat in Gidget Goes to Rome (1963), with yet another new actress (Cindy Carol) paired with a loyal James Darren. It's closer to Three Coins in the Fountain than the sandy beaches of Malibu.
DVD caveat: none of the films is in widescreen. The sequels don't suffer much, but the original Gidget was shot in CinemaScope, and the pan-and-scan approach hurts the summery look of the picture--even if it's just Sandra Dee balancing in front of blue-screen waves. --Robert Horton
Sandra Dee became a model for countless teenagers in the late 1950's when she played Gidget, a sad-faced youngster who doesn't quite measure up to the chesty, bikinied girls on the beach. Her mom's reassurances come true when two surfers start paying Gidget some attention. Gidget Goes Hawaiian
Gidget (Deborah Walley, Beach Blanket Bingo
) is desperate: her parents want her to come with them on vacation to Hawaii during the two weeks when her beloved Jeff, aka “Moondoggie” (James Darren, The Brothers Rico
), will be home from college. When he suggests she go, Gidget panics… doesn't he care to be with her? So she sets out for Hawaii in the worst mood. On the plane, she meets the sociable Abby, who advises her to forget about Moondoggie—advice which Abby regrets when Gidget steals her boyfriend Eddie (Michael Callan, Cat Ballou
), a famous dancer. But when Jeff discovers he misses Gidget and makes the trip to Hawaii… the surfing “girl midget” better watch her step! Newly remastered.