Judge Patrick Naugle has gone back to school one time too many.
"Father, I warn you: I can be pretty stubborn when I'm pushed."
Middle aged Harvey Howard (Bing Crosby, White Christmas) is a successful, self-made restaurant magnate who makes the bold decision to head back to college in the pursuit of higher education, though his start is rocky at best. Aside from the protests of his two children, the students and professors give Harvey gruff for going back to school so late in life. He is eventually able to overcome everyone's snickering comments and makes friends with his new roommates, including Gil (teen idol Fabian), Bob (Richard Beymer, West Side Story), and T.J. (Patrick Adiarte), as well as some of the lovely ladies on campus (Tuesday Weld, Falling Down). As the years fly by, Harvey learns some important lessons on his way to become a college educated man.
In what must be the epitome of innocuous entertainment, High Time stars Bing Crosby as an older gentleman going back to college to get his degree. Does this premise sound even remotely familiar? If not, maybe Rodney Dangerfield's Back to School will jog your memory. While nobody would confuse the two films, the core premise remains the same: successful businessman joins the ranks of the young, in pursuit of that elusive college degree. Whereas Back to School is a sharply crafted and well-executed comedy, High Time is its bland, less interesting cousin.
This is the first film I can recall seeing a film starring Bing Crosby, whose voice floated throughout my house during each of my childhood Christmases. Somehow I get the feeling I shouldn't have started with High Time. While Crosby possesses an amiable onscreen presence, this isn't a film that stretches his acting talents. Crosby saunters through the film with an "aww, shucks" attitude that doesn't generate a lot of electricity or excitement. When the most impressive moment involves Crosby showing off during gym class by doing pull ups, you know you're not in for a riveting time at the movies.
What passes for excitement in High Time? How about students stacking wood crates and chairs into a giant mountain, then watching old Mr. Crosby scale said mountain to add an extra foot at the top. This is about as thrilling as watching Sean Connery fold laundry. The film is broken up into four sections: Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior year. Many of the requisite beats are hit. For example, Harvey falls for one of the beautiful professors (Nicole Maurey, The Day of the Triffids), and later gains the respect of his classmates and teachers. There isn't a single moment in High Time that comes as a surprise. Will it surprise you that the film's finale features Harvey giving a big speech to his graduating class about never giving up or being too old to accomplish your goals? If so, your brain is officially tapioca pudding.
Aside from Crosby, the rest of the ensemble leaves little impression on the viewer. Fabian, looking like a second rate Elvis Presley, wanders blindly through the movie as one of Harvey's jock roommates. Tuesday Weld looks adorable and spends most of the movie bouncing around listening to music. Eagle-eyed viewers will spot The Love Boat's captain Gavin MacLeod as one of the university's professors.
Director Blake Edwards (The Pink Panther) doesn't offer much flare behind the camera; it's mostly yeoman's work without any of his signature directing style. Those hoping to see Bing Crosby sing his way through this film will be sorely disappointed. Except for the popular "The Second Time Around" (an eventual hit for Frank Sinatra), Bing doesn't do a whole lot of crooning.
I know I'm making High Time sound like a bad movie. It's not…well, not really. It's just very forgettable '60s fare. It's often silly and an easy watch, offering up a rather sanitized look at college and the generation gap. And there really isn't anything worth recommending, except the chance to watch Bing Crosby drink sauerkraut juice with a bunch of kids. I can imagine those who saw this as a kid will treat that moment as high nostalgia. For everyone else, it's a blip on the cinematic radar.
Presented in 2.35:1/1080p high definition widescreen, Twilight Time's transfer ends up being a mixed bag. Though it sports some fine detail, colors and black levels, the image often looks hazy and worn. This can be frustrating, because there are spots in High Time where the picture is absolutely crystal clear, and others only look slightly better than they would on a standard definition DVD. Considering I can't find any indication the film was ever released on DVD, fans will be happy just to know it's finally available in some kind of digital format.
The DTS-HD 4.0 Master Audio mix is serviceable, if not extraordinary. Everything is clearly rendered (dialogue, music, effects), but the rear and side speakers aren't given much in the way of dynamic range. The best thing about the track is Henry Mancini's jazzy score. No alternate language tracks or subtitles are available.
The only bonus features are an isolated track of Henry Mancini's score and a theatrical trailer.
High Time is mediocre moviemaking. Twilight Time has released a limited run of 3000 copies, but I wouldn't worry about it selling out any time soon.
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