But if summer movies have a texture all their own, an airy, undemanding quality, it's no more to be sneered at than the idea of a long, tall summer drink under a shade tree. Some of the pearls of summer have became a permanent part of the culture, movies that audiences took straight to their hearts. And more times than you would have thought, an exceptional film was launched in the summer, just as if it weren't the silly season.
As mentioned elsewhere in The Movies, this summer has the heaviest saturation of sequels yet, which never seem to come with the full force and surprise of the original--how could they? As insurance, in case some of these misfire, try a look back over some of the pleasant memories of summers past. If you were to make a video collection of the best of the best that summertime--May through August--has had to offer for the past decade, excluding the obvious, the "E.T.s," the "Indiana Joneses" the "Star Wars" trilogy, et al, you might find yourself with a surprising library. Here are a few suggestions, with essential ingredients in any really off-beat summer collection starred.
For lovers of action/adventure/thrills:
"Alien" (Director Ridley Scott, 20th Century Fox, $19.98).
"Apocalypse Now" (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979, Paramount, $29.95).
"Dressed To Kill" (Brian DePalma, 1980, Warner Brothers, $19.98).
"Emerald Forest" (John Boorman, 1985, Nelson, $19.98).
"Escape from Alcatraz" (Don Siegel, 1979, Paramount, $19.98).
"The Fly" (David Cronenberg, 1986, 20th Century Fox, $29.98).
"The Long Riders" (Walter Hill, 1980, MGM, $19.98).
"Mad Max" (George Miller, 1979, Vestron, $19.98).
"No Way Out" (Roger Donaldson, 1988, HBO, $19.98).
"Silverado" (Lawrence Kasdan, 1985, Columbia, $19.98).
Plus: the unclassifiable "Koyaanisquatsi" (Godfrey Reggio, 1983, Pacific Arts, $59.98).
For films of character and/or comedy:
"Arthur" (Steve Gordon, 1981, Warner Brothers, $19.98).
"The Big Easy" (Jim McBride, 1987, HBO, $19.98).
"Body Heat" (Lawrence Kasdan, 1981, Warner Brothers, $19.98).
"Bronco Billy" (Clint Eastwood, 1980, Warner Brothers, $19.98).
"Bull Durham" (Ron Shelton, 1988, Orion, $89.98).
"Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (Amy Heckerling, 1982, MCA, $24.98).
"A Fish Called Wanda" (Charles Crichton, 1988, 20th Century Fox, $29.98).
"Kiss of the Spider Woman" (Hector Babenco, 1985, Charter, $19.98).
"The Life of Brian" (Terry Jones, 1979, Warner Brothers, $24.98).
"The Long Good Friday" (John Mackenzie, 1982, HBO, $19.98).
"Mona Lisa" (Neil Jordan, 1986, HBO, $19.98).
"Prizzi's Honor" (John Huston, 1985, Vestron, $19.98).,
"Repo Man" (Alex Cox, 1984, MCA, $24.98).
"Saint Jack" (Peter Bogdanovich, 1979, Vestron, $69.98).
"Under the Volcano" (John Huston, 1984, MCA, $79.98).
"Urban Cowboy" (James Bridges, 1980, Paramount, $19.98).
"Wish You Were Here" (David Leland, 1987, Fries, $19.98).
"The World According to Garp" (George Roy Hill, 1982, Warner Brothers, $19.98).
"Zelig" (Woody Allen, 1983, Warner Brothers, $24.98).
Then there are the mavericks of the collection, which may need a few additional comments:
"The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai" (W. D. Richter, 1984, Vestron, $29.98). Well, there are Buckaroos and there are those who hate the wild kinetic world created by Richter and writer Earl Mac Rauch about neurosurgeon/physicist/rock musician/rocket car driver Buckaroo and his loyal henchman, sworn enemies of evil. It's like SatMat stuff for the severely deranged, and I have to say it's my kind of satire. A nifty cast, great, great production design and the joy of John Lithgow's all-stops-out mad scientist, Dr. Emile Lizardo.
"Berlin Alexanderplatz" (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, MGM, $499.98). Originally made for television in 14 episodes, this one is a budget buster, hardly something to recommend lightly, yet it's one of those areas where epic and video combine brilliantly. (Director Edgar Reisz "Heimat," which also has a running time of 16 hours is another, but sadly it's not yet available on video.) Set in 1920s working class Germany, the film points the way clearly toward the upheaval to come, as Fassbinder combines haunting atmosphere with shrewd, vivid performances and exquisite camera work.