Girls on the Road (VHS)

Woah, what?  What what what?  Now and then, if you're actually interested, you'll come across forgotten oddities like this beauty right here.  Got this from a friend for a pretty penny, pretty much paying for the cover and expecting to sell it immediately after watching based on what little you can find about it online, but was pleasantly surprised after it was finally popped in the old VCR.  WTF isn't the proper acronym in this case, nothing can prepare you for Girls on the Road, on many levels.  Not the levels you'd expect from this lead-in, either, on levels that are completely unexpected.  If you know a little, you know from looking at the cast listing that it features Dianne Hull, known for her work as Pippi Longstocking, and a few other actors/actresses who have been in some pretty legendary films and television shows including Dark Shadows and Twin Peaks.  Sad that no one remembers any of them from this one.  Girls on the Road, known under it's official release title of Hot Summer Week, was one of a number of 1970s drive-in throw-aways that you'd see if you were one, not sleeping, or two, possibly also one, not having sex.  If you stopped in-between frenzied love sessions to give it a second glance, you'd find that, surprisingly, this film is actually quite good.  Most would say otherwise, but they're missing the bigger picture here.

  

Back in the 1970s, the love and peace of the 1960s was dying, or had yet to realize it was dead.  The Vietnam War, the ramifications of the Hippie movement, serial killer "culture" on the rise, all of those things were revealing that the naive America of the 1950s was far gone, and the reality of what we really were was rising steadily to the surface.  It was the time when America was done with the honeymoon, with three kids, and wondering what in the Hell happened.  One of the things you'd often find in films from the late 1960s or at the time this one was originally released, 1972, was the concept of the beach trip.  Most films of this type were pleasant in nature, with generally unrealistic presentations of teenage love and barely the amount of peer pressure you'd find at preschool, let alone in this kind of setting.  Some B-movie directors, however, went a different route, and this is one of them.  The director isn't worth naming because he never did anything of lasting worth, or even two-second worth, but whatever he was doing at the time of this he should have kept doing.  Unfortunately he died before that could have happened.

 

Girls on the Road has a pretty simple plot and structure.  It's a coming-of-age film involving two teenage girls who want to "let loose" as they take a beach trip and they progressively get involved in more and more shady things as they begin to shed their "daddy's little girl" mentality.  Karen and Debbie, our two main characters, are almost opposites, and the classic stereotypes for two teenage, female friends.  One is more intelligent and bookish, the other more of the cheerleader type with a better figure and better looks.  What happens isn't even that unique for the time.  They pick up a hitchhiker who's a handsome, young, but mentally ill Vietnam veteran, take a drive and get caught up in a local Hippie cult commune at the beach, and then the killing begins.  Of course, the viewer is supposed to assume the vet, but you know it's one of the hippies.  What plays out isn't what you'd expect.  The ending isn't even really a twist, not at all, you essentially see it coming from halfway through the film.  There isn't even any real gore, sex, or violence to speak of, so it barely counts as an exploitation flick.  Hell, the only real exploitation you get is via Uschi Digard, who's only in the opening credits.  Where this movie really shines is not in its underhanded creepiness, no, where it shines is it its representation of a coming-of-age theme via two very believable actresses.  The surprising back-and-forth between the leads, their inner conflicts over each other, the main man and his mental struggles in a society he doesn't understand, the girls' desire to become officially women via a sexual experience, their desire at higher purpose, all of these things which were culturally significant in the 1960s, 70s, and even to teens today, are very, and we mean very, accurately portrayed here.  Goofy, yes.  Poorly directed and awkward, yes, but Girls on the Road has a deeper cultural significance under its shoddy surface, something which is, even today, very poignant, revealing, and honest.  For that, it's worth more than a single watch and hey, can't beat that axe-murderer cover.

 

Written by Stanley Stepanic

Girls on the Road
Unicorn Video
4 / 5