For Those Who Think Young

I remember when Back to the Future part II was released in 1990 there were many people who complained about the huge amount of product placement on display in that film.  There were strategically placed references to Texaco, Nike, Pepsi, Pizza Hut, and many others.  Personally, I never had much problem with this; but apparently some people were greatly offended.   I wonder what these same folks would’ve thought of this forgotten film from 1964…a film whose very title is taken from a Pepsi commercial jingle.

For Those Who Think Young was released in 1964 and was most likely an attempt to cash in on the success that American International Pictures (AIP) had experienced the previous year with their first Frankie and Annette film “Beach Party.”  It takes place around the campus of a southern California university where the students do just about everything except go the class.  As the film opens, we are introduced to rich kid Gardner Pruitt III, played by James Darren.  Everyone knows him as “Ding” as in “Ding-a-ling,” which seems more like a nickname you would give the doofus character rather than the big man on campus every girl wants to date.  Don’t worry though, the doofus character has his own bizarre nickname…”Kelp,” played by a pre-Gilligan Bob Denver.  Kelp is essentially Ding’s willing manservant.  Ding has the hots for…well, essentially every girl on campus, but he especially has the hots for Sandy Palmer, played by Pamela Tiffin.  And, honestly, who can blame him?  The former teen model Tiffin is quite beautiful, but her character has no interest in Ding.  And, quite frankly, who can blame her?  Ding comes across as, well…a jerk, and his ultimate goal seems only to be to get Sandy to join him alone at his apartment.

So, it seems like this is going to be pretty standard fare…beach partying college kids trying to hook up.  There’s a cast of hip young supporting characters, led by Nancy Sinatra, and the occasional musical number, including a bizarre one involving a face painted on Gilligan’s chin.  But, the film suddenly brings in another story that throws everything off.  It seems that Sandy has been cared for all these years by her two uncles played by comedian Woody Woodbury and everyone’s favorite center square Paul Lynde.  These two do their musical act in a broke down club near the campus alongside a PG rated stripper played by another future Gilligan’s Island castaway, Tina Louise.  When they’re told they are about to do their last gig, Woody decides to just sit behind the piano, with a bottle of booze, telling jokes and acting drunk.  For some reason, truly lost by me, the act becomes a hit.  We then fast forward what has to be several weeks into the future…the club has been revamped into the Surf’s Up Club and Woody Woodbury is the headliner each night.  He sits behind the piano (which he almost never plays) dressed in a cap and gown (why, I’m not sure) with drink in hand telling jokes.

Woodbury himself was a comedian who released a string of popular comedy albums in the late 50’s and early 60’s.  It would appear that the producers of this film simply allowed him to do his act for the camera.  There are several extended sequences of the film that are devoted to Woodbury’s act.  They get so long, in fact, that the viewer starts to forget about the Sandy and Ding storyline.  Woodbury’s comedy style is different than what we would associate with most standup comedians now.  He doesn’t tell funny stories, he tells jokes…many of which seem to focus on characters who are out of their mind drunk.  The audiences on screen sure seem to think it’s funny…maybe it was in 1964, but it doesn’t work today.  The makers of the film seem to have taken a great deal of pride in “introducing” Mr. Woodbury to the film-going public, but his long comedy act sequences really bring down the rest of the film.  Soon, much more time is spent on his character as he spars with a pretty young college professor, played by Ellen McRae (who we would later know as Ellen Burstyn), who is out to prove that Woodbury’s club is serving alcohol to minors.  The only connection this all has to Sandy and Ding is that Ding’s wealthy grandfather is manipulating the college board of directors in an attempt to get at Uncle Woody and thus break up the young couple.

I’ll admit, the fact that the title of this movie came from a Pepsi ad was lost on me as I started watching the film.  That slogan was used originally between 1961 & 1964, a little before my time.  Even though it was revived with help by Britney Spears in 1999, I still didn’t make the connection.  But I definitely noticed the very prominently placed Pepsi dispenser in the Surf’s Up Club, not to mention the scene where Sandy very matter-of-factly stops Ding from ordering her an adult beverage and says “I’ll have a Pepsi.”  But these college kids don’t just have at thing for Pepsi…Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors also seems to be a favorite.  One whole scene takes place in one of their ice cream shops, with the big #31 logo plastered all over the place.  Especially obvious is the shot where Bob Denver and Nancy Sinatra sip from the same milkshake with the logo on the cup very precisely pointed directly at the camera.  But it is a bit odd to consider that such attention was paid to product placement, yet Woody Woodbury’s drunk humor doesn’t really seem like the sort of act that a wholesome, family-oriented company like Pepsi would want to associate itself with…especially in 1964.

As Beach Party movies go, there’s not a lot of beach or party in For Those who Think Young.  Had the film spent more time with the college kids, it may have been a lot more fun.  Instead, too much time is spent on a comedy act that has not aged well.  But the film is still interesting to look at as an example of how other studios tried to copy the success of Frankie and Annette.

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