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Ultra HD : Highly Recommended
Ranking:
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Release Date: February 27th, 2024 Movie Release Year: 1980

Little Darlings - Cinématographe Limited Edition 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

Overview -

The teen sex comedy genre ran rampant through the 1980s, with various titles running the gamut between bawdy and sincere. Then there was Ron Maxwell’s Little Darlings, an understated, heartwarming precursor to the genre that treated questions of teen horniness with dignity and respect, plus it has a truly incredible soundtrack with hits by Blondie, Bellamy Brothers, Supertramp and so many more. Cinématographe, the newly minted sub-label from Vinegar Syndrome, has brought this oft-requested crowd-pleaser to gorgeous 4K UHD with a stellar transfer and a supplements package to make the years of waiting for Little Darlings more than worth it. This release easily comes Highly Recommended.

In the fleeting summer days of 1980, fifteen year old girls Ferris (Tatum O'Neal, Paper Moon) and Angel (Kristy McNichol, Two Moon Junction) attend Camp Little Wolf outside of Atlanta, Georgia as an escape from the city. Coming from different walks of life, with the privileged Ferris at odds with the scrappy, streetwise Angel, the two immediately end up in a disagreement during their bus ride to camp which is only exacerbated by their lodging accommodations once they arrive, bunking next to one another. Fueled by their competitive peers, the two enter into a contest to see who will lose their virginity first, Angel to camper from the other side of the lake Randy (Matt Dillon, Wild Things) or Ferris to camp counselor Gary (Armand Assante, Gotti). Through the trial, the two learn as much about each other as they do themselves, turning a ribald competition into budding days of friendship.

Long elusive on home video, Ron Maxwell's (Gettysburg) charming teen sex comedy/drama is an evocative, and often very funny, antidote and precursor to the more raucous (and masculine) sex comedies of its era, including the similarly loss of virginity focused Porky's and Losin' It. Written by Dalene Young (The Baby-Sitters Club) and Kimi Peck, with lush on location photography by noted Czech cinematographer Bed?ich Ba?ka (Marketa Lazarová), Cinématographe is proud to bring LITTLE DARLINGS to blu-ray and 4K UHD for the first time in the world, newly restored from archival elements and full of illuminating special features that tell the story of this contemporary coming-of-age classic.

Special Features and Technical Specs:

  • NEW 4K RESTORATION OF THE FILM
  • Audio Commentary with director Ron Maxwell
  • Audio Commentary with Millie De Chirico of I Saw What You Did podcast
  • Alternate Scenes with commentary by director Ron Maxwell
  • Hour long video interview with director Ron Maxwell
  • "Don't Let the Title Fool You: Little Darlings Beyond the Teen Sex Comedy": a video essay by Samm Deighan
  • Essays by writers Kate Hagan and Quatoyiah Murry
  • English SDH subtitles
  • 4K BLU-RAY: REGION-FREE
  • BLU-RAY: REGION-A "LOCKED"

OVERALL:
Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Region Free UHD/Region A Blu-ray
Video Resolution/Codec:
2160p/HEVC
Aspect Ratio(s):
2.35:1
Audio Formats:
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Subtitles/Captions:
English SDH subtitles
Release Date:
February 27th, 2024

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

Director Ron Maxwell has had quite an illustrious career throughout the years, and he’s probably best known for his breathlessly detailed, epic war movies like Gettysburg and Gods and Generals. Little Darlings was his feature directorial debut after helming a TV movie and one episode of Great Performances back in 1978. His background in theater and working with actors proved to be a huge benefit for Little Darlings, though that can be partially attributed to the sharp script written by Kimi Peck and Dalene Young that prioritizes self-actualization over the usual grab bag of bawdy teen sex nonsense. Hell, you can even pick single scenes out of the film and then directly compare them to the rest of the genre to discover that the content isn’t exactly dissimilar to other efforts, however, the approach and dialogue are what define this outing. 

Little Darlings follows the story of Angel Bright (Kristy McNichol) and Ferris Whitney (Tatum O’Neal), two young women forced by their respective parents to attend an all-girls camp for the summer. Angel is the streetwise, tough girl, while Ferris is spoiled and has an air of entitlement. They immediately butt heads on the bus to the camp, and their anger toward one another only increases when they’re forced to share the same cabin. But when Cinder Carlson (Krista Errickson), the queen of the camp who brags about her commercial acting, puts $100 on the first girl to lose her virginity by the end of the summer, Angel and Ferris take up the challenge proving to all their peers that they’re women who can have sex with men. 

Angel and Ferris’ respective coming-of-age experiences are so terrifically detailed that they feel like actual lived-in moments. Angel takes kindly to a hunk at a local camp, Randy Adams (Matt Dillon), and goes after him, but being forced to drop her tough girl act only makes her more vulnerable to all of the overwhelming emotions we feel when growing up physically. It’s a hugely comforting journey, one made even more comfortable by the teen-aged performers who were challenged to just be kids, not the image of horny kids that Hollywood has built up for them. Ferris’ dalliance with a handsome camp counselor named Gary Callahan (Armand Assante) ends up putting Gary’s job at risk, and Ferris soon learns the destructive power of putting one’s self before others. A lesson in selfishness made stunning by Tatum O’Neal’s incredibly conscious performance.

I hesitate to liken Little Darlings to the rest of the teen sex comedy genre because not only does it lead with empathy and understanding, it somehow both predates and criticizes the kind of horny nonsense we’d seen in other films within the genre. Backed by a soundtrack of hits that add context and heartwarming affection for its characters, it’s very easy to see why Little Darlings has been sought after so many times over the years. Like the closing credit song says, “Just let your love flow like a mountain stream. And let your love flow with the smallest of dreams.” This movie is so full of love that it’s easy to give yourself over to the warmth of it. Few films deserve that praise.

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-rays 

Get your Camp Little Wolf shirts on, as Little Darlings has finally made its long-awaited high-definition debut courtesy of Cinématographe. This two-disc (UHD66 for the 4K and BD50 for the Blu-ray) comes housed in a cloth-bound mediabook with an embossed foil title, a custom disc tray with the Cinématographe logo debossed on it, plus two booklet essays (by Quatoyiah Murry and Kate Hagen) and an adorable, movie-appropriate comic strip created by artist Nicole Testa LaLiberty. The mediabook is then housed in a slipcase with an individually numbered j-card, making for a truly incredible package for physical media fans. And as mentioned in my Red Rock West review, it sure does have that new book smell as well. Both discs boot up to standard menu screens with options to the play the film, set up audio and video, select chapters and browse special features. 

 

Video Review

Ranking:

Little Darlings makes the jump to 4K Ultra HD courtesy of Cinématographe with an HEVC-encoded 2160p presentation aided by HDR. The source used for the transfer is a new 4K restoration from the original camera negative, and you can tell from the opening credits that this is a lush film filled with texture, and the OCN truly has remarkable detail, depth and dynamic range needed to impress in 4K. Once that thick grain structure on the title cards drops, you’ll be wowed by balanced flesh tones, a very healthy, somewhat thick layer of grain, and enhanced black levels that show remarkable shadow detail. This is a very lush, pastel-filled film with a ton of bright exteriors that could easily be blown out, yet this presentation and its tight encode keeps everything stable and pleasant. The source looks to be in terrific condition as well, plus HDR really brings out the most in those lush flesh tones and even more lush exteriors at the summer camp. This is a film filled with bright colors and even brighter music, so kudos to Cinématographe for making sure this particular film got the 4K presentation it so desperately has deserved for decades.

Audio Review

Ranking:

The original 2.0 stereo track is presented here in the DTS-HD MA codec and is on the whole, very pleasing. That rollicking soundtrack immediately impresses with an aged quality that can only come from an older source, plus dialogue is crystal clear and balanced well with the music. There’s not a huge soundscape to speak for here, but the LFE counts where it should with those big needle drops and kids screaming at each other. The source looks to be in decent-to-very-good condition, with only a mark or two of damage to note, but the encode handles those moments remarkably well. You’re sure to be pleased by this terrific presentation of the original stereo soundtrack.

Special Features

Ranking:

The benefit of presenting a film in its high-definition disc debut is that you have a clean slate to work from in terms of supplements. Luckily, Cinématographe has packed this edition with worthwhile audio commentaries, a terrific hour-long interview with director Ron Maxwell, an illuminating video essay by Samm Deighan that digs deep into the many ways the film usurps its theatrical mismarketing, plus some additional scenes from the TV version in HD. Ron Maxwell provides some excellent commentary on the TV scenes as well, as the filmmaker wasn’t involved with this cut that fattened some scenes and changed songs due to license restrictions. Add on the two booklet essays and the included comic strip, and you sincerely have a great supplements package waiting for you to dig in.

4K UHD Disc

  • Audio commentary with director Ron Maxwell
  • Audio commentary with film historian Millie De Cherico

Blu-ray Disc

  • Audio commentary with director Ron Maxwell
  • Audio commentary with film historian Millie De Cherico
  • Art & Business: Ron Maxwell on directing Little Darlings (HD 54:33)
  • Video essay by Samm Deighan (HD 19:47)
  • Additional scenes from the TV version (HD 5:53)
  • Director introduction to TV scenes (HD 11:14)

Final Thoughts

Tatum O’Neal and Kristy McNichol are here to finally make your heart sing in 4K Ultra HD with Cinématographe’s new two-disc release of Ron Maxwell’s Little Darlings. Boasting a stellar transfer of a film that’s been requested for decades, plus offering a great slate of physical and digital supplements, this Highly Recommended release belongs in your physical media collection immediately. Welcome to the fold, Cinématographe! It’s nice to have you.

Order Your Copy of Little Darlings on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray