"Just remember, she might be pint-sized, but she's quite a woman." The original surfer girl gets her own three-film DVD collection, dippy fun from a more innocent time. 1959'sGidget
made real surfers nauseated, but it's a kicky movie with some great lounge-era lingo. Sandra Dee, perkiness personified, plays the curious teen who breaks the gender line in surfing. She's also got the attention of surf-happy Moondoggie (James Darren) and the big Kahuna (Cliff Robertson), the latter the prototype of the surf bum who roams the globe in search of the endless summer. The film actually kicked off the great boom in surfing popularity (the Beach Boys and theBeach Party
movies followed), much to the chagrin of purists. It was based on a novel by Frederick Kohner, who was inspired by his daughter's experiences.
Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961) puts Deborah Walley in the title role. She's no Sandra Dee, but at least there are shots of Walley doing her own surfing stunts. The action's in Waikiki, and Gidge is pursued by a confused Moondoggie and a famous dancer. They are played by James Darren and Michael Callan, and having the two 1960s male ingenues in the same movie suggests a weird collision of matter and anti-matter. The spark goes flat in Gidget Goes to Rome (1963), with yet another new actress (Cindy Carol) paired with a loyal James Darren. It's closer to Three Coins in the Fountain than the sandy beaches of Malibu.
DVD caveat: none of the films is in widescreen. The sequels don't suffer ...