Last Summer (1969) Film Review A

Last Summer
DIRECTOR: Frank Perry
BOTTOM LINE: This penultimate collaboration of director Frank Perry and his screenwriting wife Eleanor is, with 1970’s “Diary of a Mad Housewife,” their best work.  Based on the then just-published best-seller by Evan Hunter, the film follows three bored teenagers trying to find ways to pass the long, sizzling summer days on the beaches of Fire Island – Peter (Richard Thomas – before he became a household name on “The Waltons “), Dan (Bruce Davison) and Sandy (Barbara Hershey).
Thomas and Davison are excellent, prefiguring their later work. But it is Hershey who is stunning as the manipulative Sandy. Then, into their lives wanders Rhoda (Oscar nominee Cathy Burns), who desperately wants to be one of them. The movie ends with a brutal rape scene which resulted in the film, like “Midnight Cowboy” the same year, being slapped with an X-rating by the newly formed MPAA. The rape scene was then re-edited so that the movie could be released with an R-rating. This is the version I saw on Irish television around ten years ago.

STREAMING: “Last Summer” is not available for streaming. All original 35mm prints of the film were lost for years. In 2001, a 16mm print was located at the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia after a two-year search and was brought to Los Angeles. It was the only surviving film version of the movie. The film had a rare showing in 2012 by American Cinematheque here in LA. A plea, therefore, to The Criterion Channel, Kino Lorber, and Martin Scorsese to restore this seminal film. The film is also currently NOT available on DVD, Blu-ray, or VHS tape. Sadly, the only thing on sale at Amazon is an old movie poster.

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