Thursday, December 27, 2007

HIDEOUT IN THE SUN (1960) d. Doris Wishman & Larry Wolk

Reviewed by Rick Trottier

Any creative endeavor like a novel or a painting is influenced by the times in which it was made and therefore becomes a record of that era. Film is an even better representation of the past, for as long as the integrity of the print is maintained, accurate visual imagery continues to be the historical yardstick by which all authenticity is measured. Film takes images and freezes them, good or bad, and as such, we can look back and remember with clearer vision than simple memory. When HIDEOUT IN THE SUN was made, its purpose was to display images of nude women and men on the big screen and in the process make some cash for the people involved in its production. In the early 1960s, the only way people could see Silver Screen nudity was in “nudie cutie” films done by pioneers like the late, great Russ Meyer or in “nudist camp” films done by exploitation film makers like Doris Wishman. Who would have ever thought that a “nudie” movie would become a historical icon, but that is exactly what HIDEOUT IN THE SUN is.

HIDEOUT IN THE SUN is the story of bank robbers Steven and Duke Martin, whose get-away plans hit a snag and who are forced to kidnap a pretty bystander named Dorothy. Continued troubles force the thugs to “hide out” at the Hibiscus County Club where Dorothy lives and works. The Hibiscus turns out to be a nudist camp, and to blend in with their surroundings Steven accompanies Dorothy out and about amongst the frolicking naturists while Duke sulks and steams in Dorothy’s cabin. Before long, the Martin brothers try to make a break for it, but they are caught up in fiascos with snakes and babes and little turns out right for them in the end.

HIDEOUT IN THE SUN is not “high cinema”, and those expecting CITIZEN KANE or THE SEARCHERS will be disappointed. It is also not pornography and those expecting incredibly buff women ludicrously sculpted by surgeons and scientists and having sex with anything that moves will be doubly disappointed. HIDEOUT IN THE SUN is a very simple film, but it does have many wonderful qualities. The first 20+ minutes is the “suspenseful” story hook that is suppose to establish the “drama”, but was really there to whet 60s filmgoers appetites for the nudes. I spent this time drooling over the 1950s cars that I so dearly love and looking at scenes of Miami and South Florida that have long since vanished. Once the nudist camp scenes began, I was inundated by 16mm early 1960s colors that have no equal today. You can see those same heartbreaking blues of water and sky, greens of grass and trees and buttery yellows of sun and skin in Russ Meyer's films too and there are few things that bring me back to my youth more effectively than glorious film colors that are so ABSENT from today’s movies. Towards the end when the “story” tries to reassert itself, there are fabulous scenes shot of the grounds and the reptiles at the Miami Serpentarium that are splendid. Over all, there is the canned score which is a mix of an original title song, lounge jazz, whimsical orchestral pieces that would have worked just as well in YOGI BEAR and “dramatic” incidental music that could have easily been heard in JOHNNY QUEST. Between the music, the cars, the colors, the “girl next door” cuteness of the “actresses” and the none-too-gently applied naturist philosophy of the dialogue, one can’t help but come out of this film with a deep sense of nostalgia and an even deeper sense of history marvelously preserved. Thank God that Doris Wishman found a surviving print of this film in her closet.

As is the case with many PopCinema offerings today, the dvd extras menu is crammed with historical goodness. The 2-disc set has the original full frame and modern anamorphic versions of the superbly preserved print. Disc 1 has a commentary by Doris Wishman biographer Michael Bowen, a short interview with Ms. Wishman, as well as a short interview with exploitation icon Dave Friedman. While short, any interview with either of those two is always worth the price of admission. In addition, Disc 1 has a compilation of 1960 news reel footage which would be helpful for younger viewers to put into perspective the events of the year that HIDEOUT IN THE SUN was made. Disc 2 has a 27 minute French nudist film featurette re-titled POSTCARDS FROM A NUDIST CAMP which is a bit more explicit than American “nudie films” of that era. Both discs are replete with retro-seduction trailers to help the viewer get into the nostalgic state of mind.

There are many film experiences I have had that are more intellectual, more spiritual, more sensual and more mind-altering, but this was one of the most enjoyable when it came to spinning me back to the past. As I often say to friends and co-workers, “I live in the past, I’m happy there”. HIDEOUT IN THE SUN was one of those wonderful experiences when I was back in the past for a little while and for anyone who wants to time travel in such a simple way, this is well worth the effort.

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