A little stereotypical and dated, but worth a closer look
There were a lot of movies in the sixties which were built around the catchphrase "He's not bad, daddy, he's just misunderstood!" They mostly stereotyped the young as well-meaning and virtuous, trying to find their place in the world, and the oldies who came down heavy on them as ignorant, insensitive, authority figures who judged them harshly, and who wouldn't listen.
Although this movie is certainly strongly representative of that group of films, and is completely predictable, you'd be doing yourself a grave disservice if you let that fact stop you from viewing it, because this film has so much to recommend it.
The movie opens at a beach-blanket party (where else!) where hoons on motorbikes terrorise the innocent young virgins around the campfire, and our fearless young hero (played by Christopher Jones) springs to the defence of the girls! Unfortunately, the police arrive, he accidentally thumps one of them in the scuffle, and the stage is set for the misunderstanding of the oldies versus the innocent but oppressed teenagers! Just when you thought a quick word of explanation would clear the whole matter up, too!
However, there are some genuinely touching moments in the film, like when the old grandma holds our young hero in her arms and begins to softly sing a lullaby. That was such a beautiful moment, I'm sure I'll see the film again whenever I can. And there are so many other equally good moments throughout this film, that you really shouldn't miss an opportunity to see it, either.
Christopher Jones does his best to look, sound, and act like James Dean in this movie, and a very good job he does of it, too! Richard Egan is perfect as the misunderstanding father who is strong and protective of his "little girl", but who shows his vulnerable side as well.
Susan Strasberg is a fine actress who never got a role that was suitable for showcasing her acting skills, and in this movie she's mostly off-screen as one of the women whose idea of fulfilment is waiting for their men to come home from the sea! (Well, I told you it was dated!) Audrey Totter, who plays the grandma, even delivers the line "If I had no men to wait for, I would not live to see the sun come up!"
In this movie, Strasberg plays the hero's girlfriend. She's supposed to be a teenager, yet she looks like she's in her late thirties! (She was actually thirty at the time). When she calls Richard Egan "daddy", it jars, because she's easily old enough to be his wife!
Ann Sothern, who was so pretty and who gave us so many great films when she was young, plays the blowsy, aging, overweight Angela, a good-hearted barmaid who befriends the young couple and looks after them. What a fine actress she is!
Although the directing is merely competent, the film stands out as a milestone among films of its type, because of the great acting performances, the strong character development, the film's appealing humanity and compassion, and those wonderful moving moments which make the film soar above its stereotypical foundations!
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