The Complete Gidget Collection (review)

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It’s the original all-singing, all-surfing beach-party movie, starring the original surfer girl. The circa-1959 Gidget is a mixed bag of horrifyingly retro antifeminism — 16-year-old Gidg (Sandra Dee) laments having expended all her effort on getting straight A’s when she should have been learning how to catch a man — and surprising frankness: the s-e-x word actually passes someone’s lips, and in this summer when the Southern California golden girl discovers both surfing and boys, she’s willing to put herself in the (she thinks) dangerous path of the king of the beach, the Big Kahoona (Cliff Robertson: Spider-Man 2 — boy, he was a cutie!). All she really wants, though, is surf boy Moondoogie, so they can continue their misadventures in 1961’s Gidget Goes Hawaiian and 1963’s Gidget Goes to Rome. All three films are included on this extras-bereft set, and it’s rather disconcerting to see Gidg morph from Dee to Deborah Walley, in Waikiki, to Cindy Carol, in Italy. (Moondoogie stays the same old James Darren through all three films.) These are — as unlikely as this may sound — seminal films, if merely of the silly-teen-girl genre: Everything from the oeuvre of the Olsen sisters to the spate of Cinderella stories and girly adventures we’re currently enduring descends from Gidget and Moondoogie. One oddity: the films have been remastered in high-definition but the pan-and-scan from earlier VHS releases has been retained — why not remaster the original Cinemascope widescreen images instead?

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