Looking back on the films of the late '50s and early '60s, it’s clear that America had more than one Cold War going on. Besides its pervasive fear of the Soviet bloc, America was also nervously afraid of its own teenage offspring, who could apparently invade and take over a helpless resort community in 12 hours flat; cause spontaneous outbreaks of "roughhousing" and "rhythm dancing"; give local police chiefs fits of indigestion and high blood pressure; and very possibly cause mutually assured destruction between the generations. Of course, these rompy films, starring teen idols like Troy Donahue, Connie Stevens, Robert Conrad, and more, are about as chaste as The Trouble with Angels
(also excellent). And that’s part of the fun in this four-film set. Teenagers are set to run wild in locals like Palm Springs (pre-resort), Rome, even the Dogpatch-like "Tobacco Valley," with mostly wholesome results, though a few cautionary tales are thrown in for good measure. Palm Springs Weekend
(1963) features a gang of young people descending on desert-y, and deserted Palm Springs for Easter break--and the flirting is out of control. Donahue, Stevens, Conrad, Jerry Van Dyke, and a very young Stefanie Powers run around, tease each other, eat hot dogs, do cannonballs into the pool, and pine for each other. The one rule of the motel: "No cross-pollination!" Rome Adventure
(1962) stars a dewy Suzanne Pleshette off to the Eternal City for adventure and amore
. Her possibilities include Donahue and Rossano Brazzi--but what really wins her, and viewers’ heart is the city of Rome itself. The film was shot on location and is a riveting reminder of the days when studios shot cities and monuments in real time, and didn’t rely on sets or CGI.
Parrish (1961) stars Donahue and Stevens, as well as veterans Claudette Colbert and Karl Malden. Stevens is sultry in her best Daisy Mae outfit, and the story about generations in conflict adds some depth to the "young people on the prowl" premise. Susan Slade (1961) is the teen-film equivalent of using the nuclear option. It recounts the story of a "sweet and innocent" girl (Stevens) and the boy-men, including Donahue. who love her. But Susan strays too far down the flirtatious path, and risks a bad reputation--and worse. And because someone didn’t listen to his or her parents, there is one punishment by death. But the film’s strong acting, sweeping scenery, and good soapy fun are completely compelling. --A.T. Hurley