Lifeguard is 70s background fodder, nothing more

Sam Elliott Lifeguard Parker Stevenson rev

This week’s Throwback Thursday entry should indeed be thrown back … thrown back in the water. Or you could use it as 96 minutes of aimless white noise.

 

Little Known Fact: Lifeguard was originally developed as a cheesy ABC Afterschool Special.

*quickly checks files in the event he could possibly be misinformed*

Hokay … I might be a tad off on that statement.

All right, all right! I’m completely off: Lifeguard was never pegged as an ABC Afterschool Special. (Question: Who remembers ABC Afterschool Specials? Come on, show of hands.)

But viewing the 96 minutes of film, you could easily mistake this atypical Southern California vehicle — with its often cheesy dialog and sometimes eye-rolling situations — as an after school entrant. But with the caveats of lots of T&A (and some of that bare-skinned to boot), a throwaway performance by a 70s Playboy Playmate () and a first full film (give or take) for the then-newbee Kathleen Quinlan.

Seriously … if not for the boobs and ass and occasional epithets, you could picture this as background noise while doing your homework snacking on cheese and crackers. It’s fodder more than anything else with little to sink your teeth into. It’s beach scenes we’ve been subject to ad nauseum from Jaws to Baywatch. (To be fair, writer Ron Koslow did mix it up a bit with some comicalness in the form of a dude exposing himself to beach-goers and an incident with a yahoo hiding out in the women’s restroom.) It’s lots of scantily clad females bouncing around. And it’s our hero Rick Carlson (the ever-mustachiod Sam Elliott, Mission: Impossible, Mask) bipping and bopping about in his Corvette or in his shorty-short lifeguard trunks. It’s a laughable lifeguard contest with predictable results. And it’s a practical guffaw-inducing “Moon River” playing at a high school reunion. (Wow.)

(Lifeguard is) background fodder more than anything else with little to sink your teeth into.

Inexplicably, one of the kickers about this film was a statement made in someone’s review (I’m guessing that was the case) about Elliott’s role in the film: “Star-making performance.” Because, honestly, there isn’t a hint of “star-making” going on in this film. (Unless you want to count the eye candy Elliott unintentionally flaunts throughout the hour and a half.) I have no idea where the writer of that line on the DVD case came up with it. S/he must have been desperate to inject interest at the behest of Paramount Pictures’ promotion of the film. I’m confidant hush money was exchanged beneath a table somewhere to get the statement put out there.

The story revolves around a too-old-but-still-in-shape Rick Carlson (Elliott) who’s been a lifeguard most of his life. Approaching his mid-30s, he seems to be shuffling through life with not many cares — doling out warm smiles and advice to beach-goers, schtupping the in-town-for-the-night stewardess who just arrived from somewhere across the country and generally being Mr. Nice Guy while coaching new trainee Chris (Parker Stevenson). Thrown into the mix is a 15 year high school reunion that not only causes him some internal thought about his situation, but rekindles a past relationship with his school sweetheart (Anne Archer) who puts new ideas in his head. As if there weren’t enough straws to grasp at, into this little hotbed of activity we have the under-aged Wendy (Quinlan) who has the worst sort of crush on Rick. Of course, this results in a regrettable (kind of) bedding he ultimately regrets (kind of) and she wishes to continue.

… nothing stands out in this lost 70s film – not the characters, not the music … not a single thing.

Exciting stuff … huh? I can practically feel you champing at the bit.

Well … regardless of your champing ways, I was hard pressed to find anything that stood out in this lost 70s film — not the characters, not the music … not a single thing. There are hints of interest around various corners as it progresses but, when those corners are turned, one finds nothing but dead ends.

At one point, Rick confesses to his charge Chris: “All the weirdos seem to end up down here. By the end of the summer it’ll all seem normal …”

I guess. I mean … if you consider “normal” pointless and throwaway …

Lifeguard was generously provided to CliqueClack by the Warner Archive Collection for review.

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

8 Comments on “Lifeguard is 70s background fodder, nothing more

  1. I remember after school specials. Wasn’t there one about the kid who was a bed wetter and his mom would hang his pee-pee sheets out of his bedroom window? It starred the same kid who was James at 15 then 16.

  2. I cannot believe you didn’t mention ROAD HOUSE as Sam’s true movie hit *snort* He was totally badass while 5 guys waited in line for their turn to get knocked out by him. sheesh http://youtu.be/u2Ub96Ir_4A

  3. This reviewer is so amazed that “Moon River” would be played at a high school reunion in 1976 and he even ends the thought with “Wow!” This is just for the reviewers information, High school reunions like to play music that was popular when the people attending the reunion were in high school. A high school renion that took place in 1976 might play “Moon River” because that was an Oscar winning song that would have gotten lots of radio play in 1961, I’m glad I could clear that up for the “reviewer”. Wow.

    • Contrary to popular belief (mostly from my colleagues, associates, family, friends, random passersby … hokay, everyone … get off me), I like to think I’m a learned person, one who continues to learn every single day. (It’s a silly goal of mine as I wake up each morning.)

      I’m of the mind that, in so doing, it will help keep me sharp and on my toes. (I respectfully request comments from the peanut gallery be left unsaid, thank you very much.) I firmly believe it will keep my mind engaged, that it will keep the Alzheimer’s at bay (should it ever decide to raise its ugly head) and, in a small way, it makes me feel better about myself.

      In so doing, I’ve learned quite a few things to which I’ve never been privy.

      And there’s one thing I can emphatically state is not one of those early morning things learned: That music popular during the time of one’s graduation year is often played during one’s high school reunion.

      Now, despite never having been to any of his own reunions, this reviewer is quite aware of the above. How I know this, I cannot rightly determine, but it’s a given. I’ve seen it in film, heard it talked about by others, witnessed it on paper and more.

      I know well of the song “Moon River.” I’m well aware it was composed and written by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer, respectively, that it was first featured in Breakfast At Tiffany’s (though I’ve never seen the film) and that it won an Oscar (and a Grammy for Mercer) and that it’s been covered time and again by a bevy of diverse artists, groups and other including Shirley Bassey, Vince Guaraldi, The Killers and (one of my favorite versions) Morrissey as well as having been featured on the likes of The X Factor and Mad Men, a show I’ve never seen. (See first paragraph above.)

      I was not “so amazed” that “Moon River” was played, thus the “wow” I ended the paragraph with. The intent with which that “wow” concluded the thoughts was based each of the eight sentences that preceded it. You, Bill, chose to believe otherwise based on what you read. Here it is again … take a look at it in that context and you might see what I mean:

      “Seriously … if not for the boobs and ass and occasional epithets, you could picture this as background noise while doing your homework snacking on cheese and crackers. It’s fodder more than anything else with little to sink your teeth into. It’s beach scenes we’ve been subject to ad nauseum from Jaws to Baywatch. (To be fair, writer Ron Koslow did mix it up a bit with some comicalness in the form of a dude exposing himself to beach-goers and an incident with a yahoo hiding out in the women’s restroom.) It’s lots of scantily clad females bouncing around. And it’s our hero Rick Carlson (the ever-mustachiod Sam Elliott, Mission: Impossible, Mask) bipping and bopping about in his Corvette or in his shorty-short lifeguard trunks. It’s a laughable lifeguard contest with predictable results. And it’s a practical guffaw-inducing “Moon River” playing at a high school reunion. (Wow.)”

      But understand: I can completely see how someone could conclude that that final sentence would elicit the “wow.” Not a problem – people read things in different ways. In part. As a whole. Sometimes out of context. With preconceived notions. Based on a single sentence.

      Regardless, I appreciate your response. Thank you for taking time to comment on the post.

      Back to me learning something new everyday. Here’s what I gleaned from reading your comment (please know I could be completely wrong in this summation): The only thing you got out of six and a half hundred words?

      Well … you’re comment answered that question …

  4. Yes, I remember ABC Afterschool Specials, and I think you do them a great disservice by comparing them to “Lifeguard.” Check out the 1981 “The Wave” and you might agree.

  5. The question remains, what was “guffaw inducing” about “Moon River” playing at the reunion? YOU are the one that said it, and I’m curious what that meant. I see by your reply you are familiar with the song and the fact that it won the Academy Award, but you still do not make it clear why you even mentioned “Moon River” in your review.

    Also you mentioned a “Lifeguard contest” that was “laughable.” Why is it so “laughable” that Lifeguards would have a contest involving running and swimming? I really am curious because in half the reviews I read there are so many points that never seem to even make sense. I think reviewers just like to say things to fill up the page and couldn’t care less if the point is even worth making.

    • Hmmmmmm … I guess you didn’t see my comment above, Bill.

      The “wow” wasn’t directed specifically at “Moon River” playing … but at some of the rather inane events I detailed making up the film. The “wow” was more an exasperation – which, apparently, I did not convey with enough *umph* so as to not point it at any one particular item.

      The lifeguard contest in the film was laughable to me for its cheesy quality, not because there was a contest in and of itself. There are times when I rely on the intelligence of the reader to understand some of the things I state, the dopiness of that scene being one of them. Other times, elaboration is needed to bring a point across. But I didn’t feel there was the need in this case; in my opinion, if you’ve seen the film the event speaks for itself.

      I try and make points that make sense when I do a review … and I even get it right some of the time. I leave it to the reader as to whether the things I say are simply words that fill a page and whether they make a point come across. I can’t think for the reader nor can I interpret fully what they might be reading at the time.

  6. I don’t think you even read your own reviews. You specifically said Moon River was “Guffaw Inducing.” That was your sentance and you can’t explain what that meant. If you meant that lots of other things were “guffaw inducing” then why did you then end it by saying “guffaw inducing Moon River”. Why can’t you just explain what was so odd about Moon River playing. Also you make the point that you that you depend on the intelligence of the reader, well I depend on the “reviewer” being able to actually make a point that means something. I still don’t understand what your point was about the Lifeguard contest being “laughable.” You write “It’s a laughable lifeguard contest with predictable results.” The reader is just supposed to somehow know what that means? What were the predictable results of the Lifeguard contest in the film. You are not a very good writer, it you just guess that the reader somehow can read your mind.

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