Saturday, December 3, 2011

Movie – Class of ‘44 (1973)

Class of ’44 was the sequel to the very popular Summer of ’42.  Like many sequels it did not achieve the same success as the original.  In this case it was for other than the usual reason.  Many sequels are just rehashes of the exact same thing as the original and therefore people grow bored with them quicker.  Class of ’44 was a completely different kind of movie from Summer of ’42.  This was a disappointment to people at the time because they wanted to see more like what they had just seen two years earlier.  If you go into the movie knowing what not to expect, though, I think you will like it better.

If you haven’t read my review of Summer of ’42 you can find it here.  Reading it before reading this review will help you understand who these characters are.

The biggest difference between the two films is that Jennifer O’Neill does not return as her character of Dorothy.  In fact, the events of the first movie are not even mentioned in the sequel.  The second big difference is that while Summer of ’42 was more of an “arty” film, with long silences and gorgeous views of the ocean, Class of ’44 is more of a regular, straight ahead Hollywood movie.  It probably has more dialogue in the first half hour than Summer of ’42 had in the entire movie.

Class of ’44 opens with Hermie, Oscy, and Benjie graduating from high school.  All three actors return from their roles in Summer of ’42, although the character of Benjie is only on screen for a few minutes.  Benjie joins the Marines, while Hermie and Oscy go to college.

Hermie meets a nice girl named Julie while working at the school paper.  They fall in love.  She convinces him to pledge a fraternity and there are some funny scenes of him and Oscy having to go through the hazing.

Oscy is mostly going to college because his father wants him to.  He’s more interested in girls than in taking classes.  He joins the football team, but he ends up getting caught with a girl in his room (a major no-no back then) and is expelled. 

His best friend is gone, and Hermie finds out his girlfriend can’t go to a dance with him because she is going with her former boyfriend who is on leave from the service.  Even though she says she feels nothing for the old boyfriend Hermie basically accuses her of wanting to have sex with him.  She blows up because he essentially accused her of being a loose woman.  Things are about to get even worse for Hermie, though, as he gets a message from home about a tragedy in his family.

The rest of the movie shows Hermie dealing with this, and it allows him to meet Oscy one last time before Oscy goes off to war.  In real life Herman Raucher’s friend Oscar died during the Korean War.  Knowing this makes Oscy’s final scenes in the movie more poignant.  Raucher actually starting writing the story of Summer of ’42 as a tribute to his friend, but he eventually shifted the focus to what we saw in the movie and in the book.

Note – watch for John Candy’s screen debut with a quick scene of him walking up some stairs by Hermie and Oscy.  You may not recognize him because he is in pretty good shape.

If you love Summer of ’42 then give Class of ’44 a try to see what happens in Hermie’s and Oscy’s lives.  The key thing to remember is to not expect the same kind of movie as the first one.  If you go looking for “Summer of ’42 Part 2” then you will be very disappointed. 

Because Class of ’44 doesn’t refer to the events of the first movie, you could probably watch it without having watched the first one.  The first one is definitely the better of the two movies, though.

Chip’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

[Note – you can see all the Movies by Numbers, as well as get some hints on what’s to come, at this link.]


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