Seasons Come And Seasons Go: ‘Spring Night, Summer Night’ Reviewed

by Rachel Bellwoar

Carl (Ted Heimerdinger) isn’t the first movie character to ever want to get out of the small town where he was born. What’s funny (and not funny haha) is he leaves Canaan for Columbus fairly early on in director Joseph L. Anderson’s Spring Night, Summer Night. He stays away for five months, too, which isn’t an insignificant amount of time — especially if you’re pregnant, as Jessie (Larue Hall) is when he comes back. In film time, though, Carl’s absence is the comma between “spring night” and “summer night.” He’s back before viewers even know that he’s left and, if it weren’t for Jessie showing and people asking Carl where he went, it might not have come up at all.

By cutting all of the scenes of Carl in Columbus (and there were some – Flicker Alley includes them on a behind the scenes featurette), Anderson makes Carl’s follow through a moot point. Sure, he left Canaan when he said he would but it’s like “If a tree falls in a forest…” If no one saw Carl in Columbus, was he ever really there?
He was in Canaan on that spring night five months ago, though, when Jessie got pregnant. Now they have to decide what they’re going to do. While it’s possible that Virgil (John Crawford, though not the John Crawford on IMDB) isn’t Jessie’s biological father, Virgil thinks he is, which means Carl is Jessie’s half-brother. And though Jessie has managed to dodge him so far, Virgil is convinced that marriage is the answer and won’t stop digging until he finds out the name of the baby’s father.
Spring Night, Summer Night isn’t a complicated story, but it is one that hinges on the details. When the film doesn’t define who Jessie and Carl are to each other, for example, it’s a major sticking point. They might be stepsiblings. They might be half-siblings, too, but then the difference in the details becomes incest.
There’s also the question of whether or not Jessie was raped. Watching the film today, it feels like she was, but Jessie looks shocked when Carl tells her, “I wasn’t that drunk. I knew what I was doin’.” After a pause, she replies, “I coulda stopped ya.” The conversation ends after that.
Brian Blauser, David Prince, and Art Stifel were the cinematographers and even in the film’s lighter scenes, like a dance, there’s a claustrophobia that adds to the sense that Canaan is a place where people get stuck. Carl’s stepmom (Marj Johnson) talks nostalgically about California, while Virgil has a monologue about his time in the army. Instead of judging them, Spring Night, Summer Night finds a way to spotlight their humanity; whether it’s Carl’s stepmom standing up for herself when she’s called a “bitch” or Jessie’s friend, Donna (Betty Ann Parady), not minding when the strap on her bathing suit keeps falling down.

Flicker Alley have gone above and beyond with this release. The bonus features build on each other, too, like getting to see how they filmed the motorcycle scenes after hearing about them in another featurette, or learning about how they got people to act as extras for the dance by handing out fake quarters. Spring Night, Summer Night was originally distributed as an exploitation film called Miss. Jessica Is Pregnant, so there’s a featurette on how the two films are different. There are even “making of” essays on the “making of” featurettes — that’s how comprehensive this release is, and Franklin Miller (whose credits on the film include co-writer and producer) revisits some of the locations with his wife, Judy (who was in charge of continuity) and Peter Conheim, who worked on the restoration.
Spring Night, Summer Night is available now on Blu-Ray and DVD from Flicker Alley.

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