By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: She gets an abortion.
Abby (Pamela Sue Martin) and Muffy (Betsy Slade) are two teen girls and the best of friends that are attending a New England all-girls school during the 50’s. Abby is in love with Michael (Parker Stevenson) and the two sneak off one weekend and consummate their relationship, which makes Muffy jealous. She is not as pretty as Abby and has a hard time getting boyfriends, but decides one night during a Christmas party to have sex with Malcolm (George O’Hanlon Jr.) in the backseat of a car simply to feel what it is like. Their experience isn’t as enjoyable, but Muffy becomes pregnant anyways and the four then spend the rest of the time looking for an underground abortionist to terminate her pregnancy.
On the technical end the film is slick. I particularly liked the opening tracking shot that takes place in a church. The camera starts at the front of the church showing a close-up of the headmaster singing with the choir and then pulls back down the side aisle to show Abby sneaking in late and then goes back up the middle aisle as she looks for a seat. In fact just about every scene features some form of a tracking shot, which may get a little overdone, but helps give the film a certain visual liveliness. Unlike Leonard Maltin who in his book described the color photography as being ‘bad’, I found it to be quite vivid with a nice soft focus lens that gives it a nostalgic-like appeal.
The story itself is predictable, but I enjoyed the sometimes humorous takes of the sexual repressive, stifling attitude of the era and how the students were made to feel like they were being watched and monitored at every second. Abby’s and Michael’s sexual encounter inside a hotel room is quite amusing, but the one done later on between Muffy and Malcolm is painful to watch and not very realistic, looking more like two clothed bodies on top of each other without much effort to simulate the sexual motions.
Martin is excellent in the lead and ironically starred just two years earlier in a similar film about a young unwed woman looking for an abortionist entitled To Find a Man. Stevenson, who later co-starred with Martin in ‘The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries’ TV-show looks like he is barely past puberty. Jerry Hardin, Cliff Emmich, Robert Walden and Debralee Scott can all be seen in brief bits. This is also the only other film appearance of Karen Balkin, who played the bratty student in The Children’s Hour and plays a similar type of character here.
The only issue I had with the film is with the abortion segment. Overall, from a purely dramatic level I felt these scenes were compelling and the best moments in the movie, but it seemed unrealistic especially from a 1950’s perspective that none of the four would try to convince Muffy to keep the baby. It almost comes off like these are 70’s teens with more modern sensibilities that were transplanted into a different time period than actual characters from a bygone era. The plot also becomes more like a political statement than a story and seems to lean too heavily on a liberal point-of-view.
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: April 10, 1974
Runtime: 1Hour 30Minutes
Director: Peter Hyams
Studio: Warner Brothers
Available: DVD (Warner Archive)