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Case Number 16001: Small Claims Court

Buy Warner Bros. Romance Classics Collection at Amazon

Warner Bros. Romance Classics Collection

Parrish
1960 // 138 Minutes // Not Rated
Susan Slade
1961 // 116 Minutes // Not Rated
Rome Adventure
1962 // 118 Minutes // Not Rated
Palm Springs Weekend
1963 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Released by Warner Bros.
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // March 25th, 2009

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All Rise...

Judge Brett Cullum is living a teen dream with Troy Donahue and Connie Stevens. Everybody watch out! They'll be back by nine.

The Charge

"As for you Troy Donahue,
I know what you wanna do
You got your crust
I'm no object of lust
I'm just plain Sandra Dee."
Rizzo from Grease

The Case

Even though the package is titled the Warner Bros. Romance Classics Collection, you might as well know it should be called "the Troy Donahue Teen Movie" set. Every one of the four films has Donahue playing the dreamy male lead, and if that makes you swoon you're in the right place. Not sure who Troy is? Well, the best way I can describe him is think Zac Efron if he was working in the early '60s with the studio system still in effect. Donahue was managed by the same guy who made a sensation out of Rock Hudson, and for a short time he was the "it" boy of Hollywood and television. His big breakthrough came in 1959 when he appeared in a Sandra Dee film called A Summer Place which led to a screaming fan base of teenage girls. Warner Bros. quickly placed him under contract and set out to package their new idol in several vehicles that would appeal to the high school set who adored Troy enough to wallpaper lockers and dressers with his picture. The cruel fate of Troy Donahue was that by 1962 his star was fading. These four films represent the highs and lows of a teen idol, and we get to see Donahue go from the next big thing to the guy who was lucky to have made a cameo in a Godfather film.

Parrish was the first starring role for Troy Donahue, and in it he plays the titular role Parrish McLean. He arrives in Connecticut to live with his mother (Claudette Colbert in her last screen appearance) on a tobacco plantation, and she ends up falling for a ruthless tycoon (Karl Malden) who seems to want to ruin Parrish's ambition. Connie Stevens (Grease 2) appears as one of three love interests in this overly dramatic story based on a complex novel by Mildred Savage. The plot is a serpentine melodrama, and it reminds me of the James Dean film East of Eden or more aptly Giant. For Warner Bros. this was a big budget project meant to become a tremendous hit and classic film. It packs a punch for its production values, but the characters seem flatter than they should be to capture our imagination. They all seem to be driven by motives that stem more from the plot than their person, but it all looks so good you hardly notice. This one is Troy Donahue's best performance by far when you look at all four films in the box. He gets the one character who seems to grow in logical ways, and his persona works well in the role. The whole thing is a morality play about the haves versus the have nots, a signature theme of its director Delmer Daves. Curiously it plays out like a glitzy soap opera with some strong performances to raise it up to a cinematic level.

Susan Slade is another plush dramatic potboiler with Troy's name above the title, but he is not the true star when you realize Connie Stevens is the focus and title character. Daves is director again working from another novel, and we get the same big glossy soap treatment. This time around the morality tale is about a woman having a child outside of marriage. Susan Slade (Stevens) is the daughter of an engineer who is returning to the US after a long stint in Chile. She falls in love with a stable boy (Donahue), and finds herself with child before she's ready. Her parents tries a fake by moving to Guatemala to claim the baby is theirs, but they eventually return back to America. In the end Susan has to make a decision who to stay with—a junior tycoon or the stable boy she truly loves. Like Parrish, this is a beautiful lush picture that comes across well from a production standpoint even when the story is predictable and a bit trite. Connie Stevens comes off well here, and Donahue seems a little stiff in his supporting role. This is the first time Susan Slade is presented on a home video format, so many fans should be excited to see it here.

Next up is Rome Adventure which features a picturesque journey through Italy, and the teaming up of Troy Donahue with Suzanne Pleshette. Daves is the director once again, and boy does he do a great job with scenery. The film offers a sensory overload coupled with the romantic chemistry of Donahue and Pleshette who married in real life if for only a year. The plot concerns Prudence Bell, an assistant librarian (Pleshette) who takes off from her job to travel. She's determined to start living rather than reading, and she's been chastised for giving a girl a book that was considered too racy by her conservative college. She gains the attention of two men on a boat on the way to Italy, but it is when she meets an American (Donahue) in Rome that sparks fly. He's just been ditched by a man-eater played by Angie Dickinson. More complications arise, but mainly we just get to sit back and watch the scenery fly by.

Palm Springs Weekend is a nice fluffy rip-off of Where the Boys Are and Beach Party with Troy Donahue riding the downward crest of his career. It is totally different from the rest of the collection by being a comedy and not headed up by Delmer Daves. This 1962 offering was made after two failed series for Donahue on the small screen, so it feels smaller in scope and purposefully lighter. It's chock full of television stars and aging teen dreams of both sexes drifting through an aimless romp about crazy kids invading Palm Springs over an Easter Weekend. Donahue is Jim, a college basketball player who finds himself falling for a girl named Bunny (Stefanie Powers,Hart to Hart) who happens to be the daughter of the police chief. Meanwhile Gayle (Connie Stevens) is caught between the charms of a lecherous preppy (Robert Conrad, Mannix) and wholesome Texan (Ty Hardin, I Married a Monster from Outer Space). Also along for the ride are Jerry Van Dyke (brother of Dick, My Mother the Car), Bill Mumy (Lost in Space), and character actor Jack Weston (Dirty Dancin). Troy looks way too old at twenty-seven to be a college basketball star while poor Connie Stevens has to outmaneuver date rape attempts, but Palm Springs Weekend is a passable teen sex comedy with a '50s sensibility. That means there's hardly any skin, prudish language, and lots of silly over the top physical comedy moments. Still, this one's fun enough to recommend if only because it's a lighthearted counterpoint to the other three dramas.

Technically Warner Bros. Romance Classics Collection offers a solid presentation without many frills. All four films get nice widescreen transfers with anamorphic enhancement. The colors look good, but there is a noticeable wash of grain now and then from source elements. Overall I was impressed with how the movies looked, and fans will be glad to see them looking crystal clear almost fifty years later. The sound transfers are the original mono with Dolby processing to clean up hisses and pops. The only extras are the original theatrical trailers which are fun to watch for nostalgia's sake. It would have been nice to have commentaries or featurettes, but the promotional spots are it. As a nice touch each DVD is housed in a compact slim line case which features the original poster art on the cover. It's a bonus to see the one sheets reproduced.

All in all this is a solid collection for anybody who has been wanting to revisit the escapist entertainment Troy Donahue and director Delmer Daves provided during their prime. What is fascinating is how cinematic and dreamy all of these films are, made for teenage girls to swoon and fawn over like the green imagery found in something like today's Twilight. Even back four or five decades ago studios sought to build teen audiences by inserting good looking people in to pretty locales and not do too much more. I guess ultimately things haven't changed too much, and that may be the most comforting thing about revisiting these particular films. None of them are true classics in the Gone With the Wind sense, but they certainly hold up as a fine way to pass a couple of hours in worlds that young girls dreamed of. The hero was always a dreamy eyed blonde haired blue eyed boy who was tender enough to know what to say yet tough enough to square his jaw and get things done. How could you not fall in love with the ruddy good looks of Troy Donahue or find Connie Stevens spunky and cute no matter what she did? But their days were short-lived like most teen idols, and here's the set to prove it.

The Verdict

Guilty pleasures don't come any more guilty than a collection of Troy Donahue movies to enjoy. This is a neat look back at four vehicles Warner Bros. made to showcase the Zac Efron of his time.

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Genres

• Classic
• Comedy
• Drama
• Romance
• Romantic Comedies
• Teen

Scales of Justice, Parrish

Judgment: 90

Perp Profile, Parrish

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
Running Time: 138 Minutes
Release Year: 1960
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Parrish

• Theatrical Trailer

Scales of Justice, Susan Slade

Judgment: 85

Perp Profile, Susan Slade

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
•  4.1 Master Audio (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
Running Time: 116 Minutes
Release Year: 1961
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Susan Slade

• Theatrical Trailer

Scales of Justice, Rome Adventure

Judgment: 90

Perp Profile, Rome Adventure

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Portuguese)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
• Portuguese
Running Time: 118 Minutes
Release Year: 1962
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Rome Adventure

• Theatrical Trailer

Scales of Justice, Palm Springs Weekend

Judgment: 85

Perp Profile, Palm Springs Weekend

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 1963
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Palm Springs Weekend

• Theatrical Trailer








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