Friday, March 20, 2009

Little Darlings (Ronald F. Maxwell, 1980)

New friendships are born, and early on a random guy gets kicked squarely in the testicles, which out of these two things do you think is gonna be the main focus of Little Darlings? If you think about it, they both seem applicable, given the title, but the realm of friendship is where this tender tale of adolescent awakening spends most of its time. I don't know about you, but I'm kinda glad the film's narrative decided to follow the girls to summer camp, as the prospect of watching the tragic aftermath of a vicious violation of ones right not to have his or her balls stomped on isn't very appealing. Anyway, a seemingly straightforward endeavor that examines the budding relationship between two girls from different socioeconomic backgrounds, the film takes the horny teenagers at camp story and gives it a girly edge. Instead of a bunch of boys trying to get laid in a forested setting, this particular woodsy lark is about a group of girls who make a bet to see which virgin will have sexual intercourse with a male human first before the summer is over. The competitors being the disaffected Angel (Kristy McNichol) and the equally disaffected (but for completely different reasons) Ferris (an elegant Tatum O'Neal). The original group who made the unsavoury wager split up into two camps: the Angel camp lead by Dana (Alexa Kenin), who encourage Angel as she makes a play for Randy (a dopey, yet oddly suave Matt Dillon), and the Ferris camp, lead by the cattish Cinder (the lovely Krista Errickson), who help the blue-blooded teen attain the penile devotion of the much older Gary (Armand Assante), a camp counselor with healthy eyebrows.

This separation of the girls gave the film more room to breath (the eight of them in the same room together was a bit much). It also gave the film's two stars a chance to shine on their own, as I found their initial hatred of one another to be awkward and forced. While Kristy's scenes had a weighty tone about them (lot's of meaningful looks and hushed longing), Tatum's were a tad creepy, but kinda playful at the same time. (The reason Armand looked much older than Tatum was because he was...much older.)

Nonetheless, Tatum's puckered lips waiting to be kissed was giggle worthy and her giddy nocturnal jaunt across the field as she left Gary's cabin was on the cusp of being enthralling.

Displaying a quiet intensity, Kristy McNichol is a sullen delight as Angel, a tough chick who smokes, wears pink tank tops, and glowers like a deranged loner. Sporting a hairstyle that defined a generation, the subtly alluring actress maintains a cool veneer as the contentious teen. It's true that both Kristy and Tatum aggressively pursue the men they want to be deflowered by, but the manner in which Kristy went about acquiring her fella was downright sexy. Her persistence when it came to bagging Matt Dillon's Randy was quite the role reversal. I mean, Angel trying to get 'em drunk, the way she picked him up in that canoe, and her flirtatious demeanor when they first met all seemed like the tactics of some unlubricated Lothario, not a feisty virgin.

At any rate, the boathouse scenes are where Miss McNichol's performance shows its mettle, giving Little Darlings the prestige it so rightly deserves in the annals of teenage camp movies.

Oh, and it should be noted that Sunshine is in the Ferris camp as well. Played by an adorable Cynthia Nixon, this particular girl had a distinct hippie vibe about her, as she openly refers to the karma of others and handed out vitamins to people she had just met.



  1. I honestly think that Kristy McNichol was my first real crush as a kid. Not entirely sure why I should share that, if only because it seems odd now that I know it was her.

  2. I totally wanted to lose my virginity that way.

  3. aironlater: You not alone. I hear Brad Pitt and George Clooney also had crush-like feelings for her back when they were germ-free adolescents.

    jm-kaye: Yeah, it does take the pressure off oneself.

  4. Best movie ever I must say! Thank You for this!

  5. I loved how, when this was broadcast on TV, they changed the storyline to the two girls competing to see who'll fall in love first... awww, how sweet...

  6. Great coming-of-age teenage flick! I enjoyed this movie right from the very start when Kristy McNichols' character “Angel” kicked that guy in the balls really hard. It’s Awesome!
    Although it is a very painful scene to watch (for guys anyway) it’s hysterically amusing. It’s also ironic because a movie title like “Little Darlings” sounds like it’s going to be about weak submissive girls, but then it suddenly begins with a WHAM! right in the nuts - an unexpected fun surprise for the entire audience. I can remember hearing a loud WHOO! coming from all of the guys throughout the entire Drive-In Theater where I first saw this film, this is definitely one scene that will make boys cringe and girls want to cheer.
    I have to admit that it is an appropriately great start to this film as it quickly establishes her character as a real toughie and gives true meaning to the movies tag-line “Don’t Let the Name or Title Fool You!” Besides how can anyone possible not love, admire and respect Kristy’s cute tough tomboy image.

  7. A bunch of us over on Home Theater Forum are pining for Little Darlings to be released on Blu, complete with the original music soundtrack. Previous releases (if any, I only saw the YouTube one) were missing the ending song (Let Your Love Flow by the Bellamy Bros).
    I don't believe this ever got a DVD release (except for a foreign PAL release, I think German).
    This film truly deserves a Region A (Region 1) USA release on DVD and Blu-ray, especially on Blu-ray.

    Oh and for those Tatum O'Neal fans, you might check out her next film, Circle Of Two (DVD release sucks in terms of PQ). Lets simply say that it's rather controversial.

    Finally I caught this flick in April of 1980 (with my then-teenage girlfriend Cheryl, heck I was only 19) right before being shipped overseas to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on my USMC overseas tour. Never did catch it again after that until YouTube.