It is always fascinating to discover a relatively minor work not necessarily due to the underlying quality, but rather the history that surrounds it. The 1961 romantic comedy Come September first hit our radar upon watching the Bobby Darin biopic Beyond the Sea which depicted the singer’s meeting and subsequent marriage to Sandra Dee (The Reluctant Debutante) from working together on this film. The seven-year marriage between the two was a newsworthy event at the time, but few people discuss this film that brought them together. This early Robert Mulligan (Inside Daisy Clover, The Stalking Moon) picture was released only a year before his Best Picture-nominated To Kill A Mockingbird, and despite its light subject matter it showcases a director securing control over his craft. With Rock Hudson (Giant, Battle Hymn) and Gina Lollobrigida (Solomon and Sheba) in the lead roles, this film became a solid financial hit, but it still rarely gets discussed beyond the Darin history. Perhaps it is time to shine a light back on the narrative?
Hudson plays Robert Talbot, a wealthy American businessman who typically visits his villa on the Italian Riviera every September to spend a month with his bombshell Roman mistress Lisa Helena Fellini (Gina Lollobrigida). When Robert decides to move his trip up by two months to July and fails to notify anyone until he is already in the country, he creates a flurry of excitement within those closest to him who expected more time to get everything…in order, shall we say. A fed-up Lisa was only hours away from getting married to Englishman Spencer (Ronald Howard), but she melts upon talking with Robert and cancels her wedding immediately to join him. His major domo, Maurice Clavell (Walter Slezak), is also quite taken aback by his sudden arrival since unbeknownst to his employer he turns the villa into a hotel the remainder of the year, and there are a group of teenage girls currently staying at his abode. Robert’s initial arrival at his home results in some hilarious comedy of errors, but the story really gets cooking once the truth is out.
Sandra Dee charms as Sandy, one of the young girls in the group who interacts the most with the flustered Robert. The man just wants some “alone time” with the gorgeous Lisa and all of these interlopers keep ruining the mood. The headache grows even worse upon the arrival of Tony (Bobby Darin) and his friends, who just so happened to get into mischief on the road with Robert previously. As in real life, Tony becomes an object of affection for Sandy, but the romance of the young couple lacks the spark of the older pair. Darin does not assert himself with a formidable screen presence his first time on film, but he at least delivers when it comes to him conveniently singing within the film. Dee keeps the young love believable enough through her actions alone. Lollobrigida demands the most attention when she is on screen, and you feel tension between her and Hudson despite his character exhibiting some annoying qualities. In a moment of paternal instinct, he tries to instill the importance of virtuousness within these young women, but thankfully the film addresses why this is insulting and hypocritical.
The finale of the picture devolves a bit into some more farcical elements that are amusing but betray much of what the film had established up until this point. At nearly two hours long, the film drags on for much too long, but when it is working it is very enjoyable – and it works a large portion of the time. Mulligan may need a keener eye when it comes to tightening up his picture in the edit, but in terms of visual storytelling he is doing a swell job. He captures these beautiful locations perfectly, and he choreographs movement within the frame in a way that allows energy to flow through the story. There are some outdated themes and story beats within this feature, but it is hard to hold it against it since it made sense within the time period it was made. This is a lighthearted sex comedy with a bevy of strong performers getting together for an amiable but not-too-wild time. If you expect any more than that, you will be disappointed.
Come September makes its Blu-Ray debut courtesy of Kino Classics with a digital AVC encoded 1080p transfer that appears to be derived from a really solid older master that is in good shape. Instances of print damage such as nicks and lines occasionally pop up, but overall clarity and detail is strong. The presentation is enjoyable throughout most of the runtime with image stability and delineation being handled well. This transfer maintains the natural film grain of the presentation with only minor instances of it seeming a bit thick. The picture has a few moments of noticeable softness, but colors are well saturated with the bright hues coming through. Skin tones are natural and consistent with subtle facial features easily noticeable in closeup. Black levels hold up well with very little in the way of crush. This presentation may have looked a bit better with a new master, but fans of the film will be pleased to see how good it looks.
The Blu-Ray comes with a stellar DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track that serves this film really well. The first thing you will notice is the vibrancy of the Hans J. Salter score and the clarity of the songs. Despite the strength of these elements, nothing ever overpowers the dialogue or other important information. Dialogue and background noises are represented in perfect harmony with all competing elements. This track shows no discernible age related wear and tear such as hissing or popping. All of the sound effects and music appear to be faithful to the intent of Mulligan. There are also optional English (SDH) subtitles included for the feature film. You could not ask for better from Kino Classics.
- Audio Commentary: Film Historian David Del Valle and Filmmaker David DeCoteau provided a deeply informative and entertaining commentary track in which they discuss their own history with the film, the behind-the-scenes development of the script, the reasons why Marilyn Monroe did not star in this feature, the Roman setting, the performances and much more that helps edify you. Worth a listen if you enjoy the feature film.
- Trailers: The minute-long trailer for Come September is provided here. There are also trailers provided for A Farewell To Arms, The Tarnished Angels, The Last Sunset, Trapeze, Buona Sera Mrs. Campbell, Portrait In Black, Captain Newman M.D. and The Great Imposter.
Come September is not a 5-star picture, but it provides an enjoyable enough time to consider it a worthwhile viewing experience. Outside of Darin, the cast brings a lot of excitement and amorous energy to the proceedings. Robert Mulligan captures the story quite well, but a more ruthless hand in the editing room would have benefited this picture. Kino Classics has released a new Blu-Ray featuring a solid A/V presentation and a great commentary track. If you are a fan of the talent involved, you should not be disappointed with this purchase. Recommended
Come September will be available to purchase on Blu-Ray on October 19, 2021.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Kino Classics has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.