The 1960 version of Where the Boys Are may look laughably quaint today, but at the time of its release, it was quite a groundbreaker in terms of reflecting the primitive days of women's lib in the cinema. The tale of a group of college girls who head south to Fort Lauderdale for Spring Break resonated with teens across America. The film was primarily squeaky clean, but it did have some scenes and premises that were considered shocking in the day: young girls who dare to suggest that sex can be enjoyed by females prior to marriage. It also addressed the dilemma of a girl "getting in trouble" in the days before abortion was legal and the only choice was a back alley surgical operation or motherhood at an early age. In 1984, flamboyant producer Allan Carr updated the premise with a new version of the film, Where the Boys Are '84. The film has just been released on DVD on the Scorpion label as a special edition. In terms of comparing the two versions, what a difference a two-and-a-half decades can make. The '84 version reflects how far women's views on sex had progressed. This time around, one of the girls advises her friend on how to pack for the trip: "All you need is a diaphragm and a bikini!" Before long, a convertible packed with sex-crazed coeds is cruising toward Florida. Once in the midst of madness in Fort Lauderdale, they find their hotel is a dump, virtual orgies take place in the hallways, one of their group is arrested and their hard-earned savings go to bailing her out, etc, etc. Naturally, love and sex become immediate components of their stint in the sin capital of American's East Coast. They also become tight with a hunky hitchhiker they had picked up along the way (Russell Todd, who bares an almost uncanny resemblance to young John Travolta). At other times, they are wooed by Camden Roxbury (Daniel McDonald), a world-acclaimed concert pianist who disdains their hedonistic lifestyle even as he tries to romance the more conservative of the group, Jenny (Lisa Hartman) The film is only loosely based on the original, but follows the central plot premise of having each of the individual girls learn life lessons from their experiences in Fort Lauderdale. One learns that her long time boyfriend has more qualities than she realized, especially when contrasted with some of the egotistical beach boys and married men who woo her. Another reevaluates her treatment of sex as a recreational tool. Unlike the original, there are few moments that approach real drama. They are quickly discarded in favor of scenes of wild parties and sun-tanned bodies.
Lorna Luft's memorable turn in the "hot bod" contest.
Where the Boys Are '84 is like cinematic cotton candy in that it's pleasurable but those pleasures evaporate quickly. The movie is clearly designed as a chick flick, though producer Carr obviously realized that there had to be plenty of T&A to keep boyfriends in the audience from dozing off. Consequently, there are many gratuitous shots of college girls in itsy bitsy bikinis jiggling like Jello, as well as a hot bod contest that goes topless in the final moments. Compared to the original film, this version looks like a scene from Caligula. However, over the ensuing years, it might be confused with a Disney flick when held up against today's stream of gross-out teen comedies. The primary pleasure of the movie is the engaging female cast headed by Lisa Hartman, Lorna Luft, Lynn-Holly Johnson and Wendy Schall as the adventurous coeds, with Louise Sorel and Alana Stewart playing upper crust, pretentious cougars. The direction by old pro Hy Averback, primarily known for his work on television, is competent enough, and he stages a ludicrous but ambitious scene in which countless kids use a makeshift armada to descend upon a mansion for an anything-goes style party. The film's climax is a cringe-inducing concert that drips with so much sugary syrup that it makes the Archies look like The Sex Pistols. Purists will be relieved to know that Connie Francis' chart topping title song is played over the end credits, capably crooned by Lisa Hartman.
The DVD includes new interviews with Wendy Schall and Russell Todd,. Both are very charming but neither presents much in the way of insights beyond "he/she was a pleasure to work with" in reference to their stars. However, they do extol the virtues of Allan Carr, whose madcap determination to make a blockbuster had him convinced this would be another Saturday Night Fever. He was wrong. The film under-performed at the boxoffice, but looking at it in retrospect, it has a certain charm for those of us with fond memories of the bygone era of the 1980s. (An original theatrical trailer is also included).