The Warner Archive has released the 1960 comedy hit "Where the Boys Are" as a special edition Blu-ray. The film looks positively quaint today but I enjoyed it in the manner that an anthropologist would if he were examining etchings on cave walls from a distant era. The film reflects the social values of the time and, not surprisingly, there is nary a minority teenager to be seen. The story concerns a group of coeds (to use a truly quaint term)- Dolores Hart, Paula Prentiss, Connie Francis and Yvette Mimieux- who make a first time pilgrimage from their snowbound college to Fort Lauderdale for spring break. Even in 1960, Fort Lauderdale was the "go to" destination for students. However, the film's impact was so significant that it increased the masses of student tourists to Fort Lauderdale exponentially over the years. One must look at the movie in the context of the time period. This was the first generation of females who were able to exert enough independence to make such a trip sans chaperones. The girls are predictably man hungry and in one cringe-inducing sequence, Paula Prentiss' character says her higher education is just a waste of time because she was put on earth to find a guy and have babies!
Still, Where the Boys Are was probably the first beach movie to at least attempt to address sexual desire among the young in a somewhat frank way. While her girlfriends flirt endlessly with hunks like George Hamilton and Jim Hutton, Yvette Mimieux's character lets down her guard and "goes all the way". The resulting sense of guilt and suicidal depression may seem overwrought today but it's genuinely frightening to imagine these were the sensibilities of the time. One doesn't know whether the film is reaffirming the validity of equating virginity with self-worth or whether it is being critical of the philosophy. In any event, the scene adds a poignancy that is lacking from most other movies of this genre. In the beginning of the movie, Dolores Hart's Merritt faces possible expulsion from school for voicing her opinion that premarital sex should not be frowned upon. The next time someone pines away about the good old days, have them watch this cinematic time capsule.
Much was made about the fact that the film was shot on location in Fort Lauderdale. In fact, the on location footage is rather fleeting and judiciously edited among the phony studios shots in order to give the impression that the cast spent much more time in Florida than they actually did. Still, the local color does give the film a leg up over the majority of cheapie beach movies that were to follow in its wake. The main attribute of the movie is the charismatic cast. The female leads are delightful to watch with Paula Prentiss and Connie Francis particularly good. (Francis' crooning of the title song sent it to the top of the charts). Among the males, Hamilton is his usual unruffled, handsome good guy who sports more grease in his hair than Jerry Lewis. Hutton plays a beatnik-type character but the jokes become predictable and weary. Frank Gorshin, in an early screen appearance, is somewhat more amusing as a jazz musician who is blind without his Coke bottle-like eyeglasses.
The Blu-ray extras have been ported over from the previous DVD release from 2002. There is a 2003 featurette with Prentiss and Francis reminiscing about the joys of making the film. The always engaging Prentiss also provides a fun commentary track and there is an original theatrical trailer and brief newsreel footage of the stars arriving in Fort Lauderdale for the world premiere.
Where the Boys Are is by no means cinematic art, but it is a consistently entertaining look at a bygone era.