Summer Girl (1983)

For the last five or six years, on a roughly monthly basis, I’ve been checking YouTube for the appearance of the elusive 1983 TV movie SUMMER GIRL. My sad, faithful diligence has finally paid off! To the best of my memory, I haven’t laid eyes on this chestnut since the original night it aired. Not that my powers of recall can be trusted. My strongest recollection of SUMMER GIRL has always been of its startling final image, a dark silhouette standing on a cliff in some kind of ominous victorious pose. It stayed sharp in my mind even while the rest of the flick blurred…

…only I totally got that wrong. That scene happens in the middle of the movie with plenty of stuff still waiting to happen. It’s still awesome though! It’s not necessary to go into much detail about SUMMER GIRL’s plot. You are familiar with this tale in one form or another. It’s the same as THE BABYSITTER (1980) which came before it, and the same as any number of HAND THAT ROCKED THE CRADLE-molded films that came after it too. Take a happy family with an insecure wife (in this case our old pal KIM DARBY) and a husband with a roving eye (MEGAFORCE-of nature BARRY BOSTWICK) and then add a seemingly helpful innocent who is in actuality a cunning sociopath and stir. What makes this routine outing momentous is that the one and only DIANE FRANKLIN plays the requisite interloping usurper.

If MOLLY RINGWALD is the peachy pastel face of the eighties we choose to remember, DIANE FRANKLIN is like the darker, deeper, more complicated truth hiding behind that candy coated mask. Not to take anything away from the RINGWALD but while she was constructing happy endings reliant on the acceptance of others (see the classic JOHN HUGHES triptych), FRANKLIN was forging a fickle opportunist heartbreaker (THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN), a tragic incestuous victim of demonic sororicide (THE AMITYVILLE HORROR 2: THE POSSESSION), a fish out of water French exchange student in a suicide comedy (BETTER OFF DEAD) and a vapid video vixen who unsuccessfully battles a mutant from space (TERRORVISION). In her made for television efforts she has the rare distinction of playing both the honorable final girl (DEADLY LESSONS) and the evil menace that must be destroyed (SUMMER GIRL).

I can’t say SUMMER GIRL’s “Cinni” is my favorite FRANKLIN creation (that honor belongs to AMITYVILLE’s Patricia Montelli) but the mesmeric psycho with delusions of grandeur surely adds gravitas to FRANKLIN’s oeuvre and mystique. As it turns out, I’m not all that happy with my newfound knowledge that Cinni is ultimately foiled by party-pooping nonbelievers so I have decided to revert back to my false recollection and continue to see her as that dark goddess on a cliff looking down at us mere mortals triumphantly.

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Caffeinated Joe
8 years ago

Sounds great! She was one of the reasons why Better Off Dead stands out. And I had no clue her and Darby made another movie together!

8 years ago

I loved the scene in Better Off Dead when a project was due and everybody else is pulling out accordian folders etc and all John Cusack has is a piece of paper with gum stuck in it. Pretty much sums up my high school career.

7 years ago

I’ve been looking for this for ages! I watched this as a kid when TBS used to air it back in the late 80s/early 90s.

Another one that TBS used to air called Children of the Night just popped up on Youtube in full. It’s a fact based account of a sociology student who worked with teen sex workers in Hollywood. I haven’t watched it since I was a kid, so I can’t vouch for the quality, but at the time I really liked it.