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This is kind of an interesting TV movie. It was made a little after the
"golden age" of American made-for-TV movies, the 1970's when TV movies
were still made for a general American prime-time audience, but before
the later "Lifetime" era when these kind of movies were aimed
exclusively at bored housewives and generally became pretty worthless.
This movie does indeed resemble the later theatrical film "The Hand
that Rocks the Cradle", but I actually liked it a lot better.
Long-time TV actor Barry Bostwick and Kim Darby, star of of the one the most famous 70's TV horror movies of all time "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark", are a well-off married couple spending the summer at a beach house with their two children (the boy, David Faustino, would later play "Bud Bundy" on the TV series "Married with Children"). Darby's character is pregnant so they hire a teenage babysitter to help out at the beach house and take care of the children. Although she looks rather plain at the interview, the babysitter turns out to be Dianne Franklin, who men of a certain age will definitely remember for her sexy appearances in "The Last American Virgin" and "Amityville 2: the Possession", although she also had more wholesome, comedic roles in movies like "Terrorvision" and "Better Off Dead", and she had played the lead in the made-for-TV slasher movie "Deadly Lessons". Anyway, Franklin's sexy sitter "Cindy" models a number of butt-hugging swimsuits and extreme 80's short-shorts. The drunken next door neighbor, an elderly-looking Murray Hamilton (the mayor in "Jaws"), remarks on her "hot little body", and even the Bostwick character's mother who comes to visit mentions her "cute little bottom". It's not too surprisingly therefore that she is able to seduce a young, hunky Bostwick away from his comparatively frumpy wife. But in typical melodramatic TV movie fashion she also wins away the loyalty of the children and plots to take the wife's place in the family. Oh yeah, and she also casually murders a couple people.
This movie was made a good ten years before "The Hand that Rocks the Cradle", but after the similar early 80's TV movie "The Babysitter" with William Shatner, Patty Duke, and Stephanie Zimbalist. It's probably the best of the three though thanks to very solid performances by Darby and Franklin. None of these films are particularly believable and they're all pretty cheesy, but this one especially is a lot of fun.
Hard-working Gavin Shelburne (Barry Bostwick) and his wife Mary (Kim
Darby) have two young children and a third one on the way. It is
difficult making ends meet but she insists that she needs help with
their children as her delivery date nears. He acquiesces even though
his family is rapidly becoming a greater burden than he thought it
Mary hires mousy but mature-seeming high school nerd Cinni (Diane Franklin) who seems to be a perfect choice for a babysitter. Cinni is asked to report for work at the beginning of summer. The girl meets Gavin for the first time looking very different than she did when Mary and the kids met her. The hunky dad is immediately smitten and not very subtle in showing it.
The attraction is mutual though he can hardly guess that this teen girl has a highly evolved and profound psychosis that is getting progressively worse. It manifests itself in hostility and a hyperactive libido. Mary was unable to sense any of that in Cinni or the nearly single-minded desire the girl has in stealing Gavin.
As Cinni accompanies the family on vacation to their beach house suspicions and jealousy are kindled within Mary. Gavin has lost interest in his awkward and plain-looking wife not merely because of her pregnancy. Mary doesn't look like she was ever comfortable in herself or her sexuality and Cinni's presence makes her that much more self-conscious.
The lovely Diane Franklin (Another of my boyhood crushes) hams it up as Cinni which is a good thing since every other character is a colossal bore. Kim Darby's character would drive any man out of the house whether or not Diane Franklin's Cinni was waiting for him. If he ends up in the arms of a beautiful psychopathic murderess...Well...A man makes his trade-offs like a woman does but often with different priorities.
This 1983 CBS TV movie has a sleazy exploitation feel and a sense of the familiar. It should. It is very similar in theme to 1980's The Babysitter starring William Shatner and Stephanie Zimbalist as well as a fair number of similarly themed thrillers before and since, better and worse.
It seems like Hollywood somehow has this notion that married women normally view sexual betrayal by the men they love as par for the course while seeing betrayal by a female acquaintance as manifestation of a severe mental disorder.
Hence the villainess is a malevolent and warped young sexpot and the husband character is just a weak and vulnerable schlub - more a victim of seduction than an active participant. Not real sure who that is intended to fool.
Though it has its twists and turns, this is the standard "bad nanny/babysitter" film and is fairly predictable. David Faustino prior to "Married with Children" was a fairly good actor; it's too bad he didn't continue in film instead of television. He and I are about the same age and I didn't ever do television and only met him the one time, but TV truly takes a toll on young people.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If the premise of a middle-aged couple hiring a seductive babysitter
sounds familiar, it already was for fans of SUMMER GIRL when the
popular HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE came out years later.
Teenage Diane Franklin stars as Cinny, who, during an interview with pregnant mother Kim Darby, looks plain and unassuming. She's hired for the job... and when Darby's Mary Shelburne and her husband Gavin, played by Barry Bostwick, pick her up something's happened. Cinny is gorgeous with, as described by a several characters, "a hot little body." This provides a dilemma for Mary, who realizes her husband, and even the kids, prefer the babysitter's presence to her own.
Diane Franklin nails the character arc, morphing from a flirtatious tease to a lethal vixen, but that's skipping ahead. Although the chemistry heating up between Boswick and Franklin is essential, the best moments occur tenuously between jealous mother and mischievous babysitter before the inevitable turning point, neither revealing their cards just yet.
And eventually, when Cinnie has no other choice but to play her desperate hand, the suspense works fine despite the limitations of a TV movie.
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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There were a plethora of these 'usurper' movies in the 80's and 90's
from this to "Hand" to "Single White Female". "Summer Girl" was one of
the first and best.
One of the core scenes in stories like this is where the woman realizes that the enemy is inside the gates. This one handled it in a cleverly understated way. During the idle summer weeks preceding as the family lazed at their beach house with Cinni as babysitter, the mother would lazily lift her head from time to time to snap photos of things around her. Cinni and her husband. Cinni and her children. Cinni again with her husband. Cinni again with her children. The moment of awareness comes when the mother has picked up her developed photos and is wordlessly looking them over in the driver seat of her car. Alarm rises in her eyes as she flips through them. Cinni and her husband. Cinni and her children. More Cinni and her husband. And yet more Cinni and her children. With herself figuratively and literally pushed 'out of the picture'.
The character of the husband is very well done. He's at that dangerous mid life crisis period when middle aged men act ridiculous over young girls. He is certainly flattered to have a pretty young girl flirting with him but he is too dutiful to cheat.
I remember the movie from my high school days. We all wished we could have a babysitter like that. Now that I recall it more, that movie really was a precursor to "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle". Got the seducing sitter, two kids and the mischief/revenge factor. They even both take place by the beach. Note that Diane Franklin (the sitter) is the famous "MCI girl".
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