Monday, May 13, 2013

Clyde's Movie Palace: Beach Party (1963)

Written by Lou Rusoff
Directed by William Asher

I’m not sure if there’s any real purpose to revisiting the Beach Party movies.  I don’t remember them as being very good, and in most cases my memory banks have been implanted with the recognition that they were a terrible way to spend about an hour and a half.  But then again is it fair to write about them as if they were any other film of any other genre you might watch at the movies or on DVD?   The Muscle Bikini Beach Blanket Party Movies were strictly a product of their time.   Approaching them in that manner may be the only way one could possibly give them a fair trial.
Beach Party, and it’s four follow ups and endless  imitators, had one single minded goal:  Entice  hot blooded American teens out of their homes and downtown to the theater, or out to the drive-in movie so that the studio could make a quick profit on films that gave new meaning to the words, “shoestring budget.”   

They did achieve their stated purpose for a while until even teenagers and young adults began to tire of the repetitiveness, lack of originality, and because there were other more pressing things to worry about from the mid sixties to the early seventies.  There was a party of a different kind going on over in Southeast Asia known as the Vietnam War, and you never knew when Uncle Sam was going to give you an invitation to pack your gear, grab your gun, and head over to become one of tens of thousands lambs to the slaughter to come home in a body bag.  And believe me, it weighed heavily on a lot of kids, including myself as the death toll climbed endlessly upward with no end in sight.  Kind of hard to be interested in Frankie and Annette frolicking on the beach with that hanging over your head.

I’m also a firm believer that if you are a true film buff, you should watch at least one of these films, maybe two because they are part of a bygone era and in a way are their own commentary on the times from which they sprung.  So not having seen Beach Party in probably thirty or more years, and with one of its stars, Annette Funicello having passed away recently, I decided to make use of my Amazon Prime Membership and take another look to see if aging like a fine wine would make me see it in a new light. 

Frankie “No Last Name” (Frankie Avalon) and Dolores “No Last Name” (Annette Funicello) two clean cut All American Kids (ages 24 and 21 respectively) head to the beach to spend some quality alone time together.  Dolores appears to be brimming with anticipation.  But appearances can sometimes be deceiving. 

Dolores:  It’s just you and me.  All alone. Frankie:  Exactly.
It’s just like we’re married.Frankie:  Exactly

Frankie is a man who expresses himself in as  few  words as possible with as few syllables that he can get by with.  It also does away with the Shakespearean theory that brevity is the soul of wit.  But I’m not sure that Frankie’s “exactly” is on the same page as Dolores.  Reading between the lines, one can sense she’s hinting at something a little more substantial than a quick rendezvous between the sheets. 

Frankie literally swoops Dolores off her feet to carry her across the threshold as if they had  just tied the knot for real at the Elvis chapel in Vegas.
Dolores:  Like there’s nobody else in the whole world.
That’s right.  Nobody else. 
Just you and me.  (and as they cross the threshold) just you and me.
Frankie:  Exactly.
Where have I heard that conversation before?  Oh yeah, about a minute and a half ago.  At this point Frankie plants a big wet one on Annette then proceeds to tumble and stumble over the other great big bunch of nobody else’s laying around the cabin.  The other nobody’s are beach creatures and cretins named Deadhead (Jody McCrea), Ken (John Ashley), Tommy (Bob Payne), Big Boy (Duane Arment), and a few miscellaneous muscle bound meat heads laying wrapped around each other on a mattress on the floor.  No, this isn’t a 60’s version of Brokeback Beach Bums.   Get real.

Not that it wouldn’t have been such a bad idea.   And honestly, who knows what was REALLY going on before Dolores and Frank arrived for their pretend almost like being in holy dreadlock honeymoon.   
It doesn’t take long for Frankie to put two and two together and figure out that it was Dolores who invited every surfer east of Hawaii along for the pretend honeymoon after the pretend wedding.  No, she isn’t into share and share alike.  This is Annette in the 60’s we’re talking about so get your mind out of the 21st century gutter. 

“I didn’t want you to get lonely,” she tells Frankie.  So much for Frankie’s “Exactly” but you didn’t  have to be a clairvoyant to figure that one out. 

Frankie thought the main summer course would be a giant serving of Dolores, while she considered herself no more than an appetizer at best. 

“You know it’s more fun with the whole gang,” she tells him. 
“Not for what I had in mind,” he retorts. 

Dolores views the extra companions she invited as protection because “when we’re alone, I just don’t trust myself with you.”  Being left alone could lead to all kinds of problems down the road, such as a little Frankie Jr. running around with his little
Frankie Jr. surfboard wearing his little Annette mouse ears.  My suggestion would have been to dispense with the surfer dudes,  head over to the nearest pharmacy and say hello to Mr. Trojan.  And just to be a bit safer than only having a few safes, they could have requested that their doctor scribble a prescription for those new fangled birth control pills put on the market just three years before this crowd headed to their ocean front property.

Oh wait,
Annette was Catholic.  Just strike everything out of your mind all the way back to where I wrote “My suggestion.”  I guess what it boils down to is whether or not any of those options would be a whole lot cheaper and easier than the care, feeding, and beer drinking of every surfer dude  on your party list.

Frankie chases Dolores around the room threatening to put an end to the surfer sleepover when he stumbles through some blankets hanging on a rope that are hiding…yep, you guessed it.  A mattress and bed full of
pajama clad shapely females.   These would be the surfer dudettes.

Later everybody heads out to the sand and the surf.  The guys grabbing their surfboards to capture some tasty waves, while some of the girls sit around not doing much of anything except reading.  
It’s also obvious to anybody that a major crack has developed in the Dolores and Frankie’s relationship.  They will spend the majority of the rest of the movie glaring and scowling at each other, their friends, and anybody in between.  

We finally do get to see some real life honest to goodness surfing.  And like all of these movies there’s the real kind, and the studio in front of a blue screen kind.  The latter being the method of choice for young Frankie which helped keep American International Pictures insurance premiums to a minimum.

Interestingly, there actually are some real lady surfers in these scenes.  There are even girls and guys on the same surfboard catching a wave or two together.  So why were Dolores and her friends left to stagnate on the Beach?  I don’t know, unless producers Arkoff and Nicholson couldn’t find any stunt doubles that resemble Annette.  After all, Ms. Funicello was one of a kind and there are no substitutes.  It doesn’t explain why they didn’t put her in front of a blue screen along with boyfriend Frankie though.  Oh I forgot.  They’re in full blown contemptible glare and stare mode.  Still, maybe another blue screen set up just wasn’t in the budget. 

Unbeknownst to the surfers, surfettes, and girls on the beach, they are all being photographed, filmed, spied on, and eavesdropped on by one Professor Sutwell (Bob Cummings with a ridiculous shaggy beard).  He is aided by his assistant, Marianne (Dorothy Malone), who may be the only sane person in this film.  Sutwell claims he is studying Developmental Biology in Human Beings.  Marianne thinks he is just a peeping tom getting his rocks off from watching females get their tan on.   
Sutwell wants to write a book with the title The Behavior Pattern of the Young Adult and It’s Relation to Primitive Tribes.

I suppose so, but that’s a lot of words to get on the cover of one book.  I like Marianne’s idea better.  Her title is “Teenage Sex.”  Eventually they’ll settle on The Sutwell Report, a best seller if there ever was one. 
Sutwell:  You know Marianne, it’s fascinating how the behavior patterns of these young people are similar to the other tribes we’ve observed.
Oh come on, Professor, these are just normal American Kids.
Sutwell:  American? Yes.  Normal? No.  Marianne, they’re a true subculture.  They live in a society as primitive as the Aborigine of New Guinea.  Now listen to this.  Quickly. (He hands her the headphones to listen to some surfer talk).
Voice 1: 
Can you dig his action?Voice 2:  His action?  He was hanging ten when he was trying to shoot the pier.  And dinged his board just when he took air.
  Maybe you’ve got a point.
Sutwell:  You bet I have.
Marianne agrees to help him under one condition.  After Sutwell writes his book on sex, he has to read it, live it, and learn it.  As for the Aborigine of New Guinea, I don’t know if they ever saw this particular Beach Bamboozle Movie, but I’m sure implying they are as primitive as the American Teenager would be a huge insult to them.  There is nothing as primitive as the American teen.  Not then.  Not now.  Not ever.  It’s in our genes to be primitive teenagers before we become primitive adults.

Thanks to Sutwell’s eavesdropping, we find out what Dolores’s real problem with Frankie is when she lets the cat out of the bag to her friend Rhonda (Valora Noland). 
Dolores (to Rhonda):  Did it ever occur to you that there’s something else in life besides getting a boy.
Rhonda:  Like what?
What’s the problem.  Is Frankie giving you the cold treatment or something?  You can’t really blame him.  He brought you down here to be alone and you turn the place into a teenage flophouse. 
Well, at the last minute I got cold feet.
Rhonda:  I wish somebody had wild times for me. 
Dolores:  I want Frankie to think of me as more than just a girl
There’s something else?
Dolores:  Yes, a wife.
A wife?  You’re not even a woman!
Dolores:  But I’m close.  And I’m not getting any closer until I’m a wife
I wonder what she meant by that?  Just how close and chummy did Frankie and Dolores get?  Second base?  Third Base?  And why didn’t we pick up on that little throwaway comment back in the 60’s?  What you’ll find out is that there are a lot of little things like that going on in this movie that seems to have gone unnoticed over the years.

Unbeknownst to Dolores, but known to us through the courtesy of some more of Sutwell’s eavesdropping, we learn that Frankie really does love Dolores more than just wanting to become her sex instructor.   With the help of the intellectual prowess of his surfing buddies, he hatches a plan to win Dolores back.  

The plan:  He’ll  lavish attention on Hungarian Goulash bombshell bar dancer, Ava, played by Marilyn Monroe wannabe but no way in your wildest dreams is that ever going to happen, Eva Six.

The gang gets together at “Big Daddy’s” to rock to the tunes of Dick Dale and the Del Tones, they are secretly joined by Professor Sutwell who wants to do some first hand undercover research, and later joined not so secretively by Erick Von Zipper (Harvey Lembeck), motorcycle gang leader of the Mice (the girls) and the Ratz (the guys).  And if you were hoping Von Zipper was the next Brando, Parks, or Fonda, you’ve just been punked.  Zip spends a lot of time telling his disciples how stupid they are, overlooking the fact that he’s the most incompetent one of the bunch.  I guess that’s supposed to be some kind of comedic irony but who would notice in a movie like this?

I’m not sure if you can say that Frankie’s mindless jealousy gambit really works.  But we do get to watch as he works up a sweat with three or four of the gals besides favored hot tamale Ava.  Dolores mostly sits at her table and fumes, but I’m not sure she is jealous so much as she is pissed off.  When she gets up to leave, she stumbles right into the lap of Von Zipper, who develops an instant crush, much to the chagrin of Dolores.  But have no fear.  Sutwell manages to rescue her simply by giving Erick the finger.  Yeah, you read that right.  See the movie for details.

And now that Sutwell has become her knight in shining armor,  Dolores develops an instant infatuation with the grizzled faced professor.  I think it’s the Florence Nightingale effect that Doc Brown taught us about in Back to the Future.  Now you know why it’s important to know your film history.  Where else can you learn about psychology in particular and life in general in such an entertaining environment? 

With the tables turned, it’s Frankie who is consumed by the Big Green Jealousy Monster when Sutwell offers to walk Dolores home.
At first, Dolores mistakenly believes the professor thinks his good deed should be rewarded by her doing more than giving thanks.  Like, maybe the almost a woman thing.
SutwellDolores, I’ve got to confess something to you.  You’ve suddenly become very important to me.  And I’m interested in finding out more about you. 
You see I’m an explorer.  (makes a motion with his hands) I explore.  You understand.
(Sarcastically)  Yes, I understand.
You’re my first contact. 
(Turning away)  Really?  At your age?
Sutwell:  Yes.  And to men of my age first contacts are terribly important.
Oh I know.  Contacts the most important thing in the whole world.
Well, I wouldn’t exactly say that. 
Dolores:  (Turning back around, surprised) You wouldn’t?
(Chuckling)  No.  Dolores:  You’re so right!  I guess old men seem to always know so much more.
There you go.  I knew there was something I really liked about Dolores besides the fact that she’s pretty when she pouts.  She hit the nail on the head.
Sutwell:  Oh, I don’t know.  We old codgers make mistakes too you know.
Okay, so what does that old coot know?  If he’s so smart, why is he stuck in a movie like this with a bunch of overage overripe teen heartthrobs instead of still working for Hitchcock?  And from the Beach the old coot will land back on TV in  a series nobody remembers to this day except that Julie Newman was a pretty hot robot in it.  

Dolores:  Not very often I bet.  You’re so distinguished and you study people.
Sutwell:  Yes, that I do.
Dolores:  Are you a doctor, like “Dr. Shootser”
Sutwell:  W..w…well when I…Dr Shootser?
Dolores:  Yes!
Sutwell:  Wait a minute.  Don’t you mean, Dr. Schweitzer.
Dolores:  Oh, is that his name?
Sutwell:  Yes, I think he’s still using it.  You see..
Dolores:  And you’re so exciting.
I’m not even going to comment on the higher educational system of the early sixties.  Unbeknownst (there’s an amazing amount of Unbeknownst in this movie) to lovesick Dolores and not so lovesick Sutwell, Frankie and friends are eavesdropping.  And no, they aren’t studying Developmental Biology in Human Beings like the professor.  They just want to make sure Dolores isn’t giving away any almost a woman free samples before Frankie has a chance to test drive the merchandise himself, thus letting Dolores graduate from being “almost” to the real deal.

Dolores agrees to help the Professor with his research.  Only I think that Dolores still believes he’s studying female anatomy, and not social behavior of primitive tribes.  Then again, when any of us get in between the sheets we can all be a little primitive at times. 

But the fact is, for most of the movie, you’ll never really know if Dolores is really smitten with the Professor, whether Sutwell is becoming Smitten with Dolores although he is adamant he is not (despite blowing her a kiss), or whether neither one of them are actually smitten with one another although Frankie is sure they have both fallen in love.  What we do know, and the only ones who seems to know what’s on their own mind are the assistant Marianne and Erick Von Zipper.  Strike that.  Erick Von Zipper has no mind so it’s impossible for anything to occupy it. 

Frankie confronts the Professor over Dolores and threatens to punch his lights out because he loves her and wants to drag her off on his surfboard.  Frankie has it out with Dolores, professes his undying love to her just seconds before she finds out that he did the same thing on the beach with the Hungarian Meathead…..I mean meatball….I mean stew….uh…Ava.  It’s also the first time and only time in the movie that I hear Frankie call Dolores, Dee-dee, so now I can dispense with that Dolores horseshit for the rest of this review. 

After this movie, the Dolores name would be dumped entirely  and it would just be Dee Dee for the sequels.  Except one time when she played in her Pajama's with Tommy Kirk and here name was Connie.   By the time Ski Party rolled around, Annette was a college professor and Frankie was chasing after somebody else. 

Dee-dee sings a duet “Treat Him Nicely” with herself in a mirror although we never see both Dee Dee’s at the same time.  No room in the budget for that special effect. 

Dee Dee continues her fling with Professor Wire Brush while trying to convince him it’s time to mow the lawn growing under his chin.   Frankie tries to escape the clutches of Ava.  Marianne overhears Sutwell and Dee Dee which kind of pisses her off.  Von Zipper seeks to extract revenge on Sutwell for giving him the finger and mucks it up.  Then thanks to misinterpreting a situation, something that has happened but ten or fifteen times up to now,  everybody becomes convinced that the Professor and Dee Dee are doing the nasty.  But wait!  There’s more!   Much more!  And we haven’t even gotten to the airplane ride yet!

But unfortunately for you this isn’t an infomercial, and you’ll have to find out how this mess finally irons itself out.  And let’s not forget the most pressing question of the whole film.  Who is Big Daddy, why is he here, and what earth shattering life changing secret will he reveal to us all?  And does any of this stuff really matter? 

I do have that answer for you and it’s a resounding no.  Not one iota.  There are half hour TV sitcoms from the sixties with more plot depth, twists and turns than this.  And if anybody should know, director William Asher would. 

Asher, whom was best known for his television career, brought the same type of good clean wholesome brainless fun to the big screen that served him well on a weekly basis.  He also brought the same kind of low brow comedy shenanigans that might have worked well on a 19 inch black and white portable TV every week with him.  Blown up on the big screen and extended to an hour and 40 minutes, sitcom sensibilities are not so hot.  

His biggest hit was Bewitched, which ran for eight years and starred his wife at the time, Elizabeth Montgomery.  His film career consisted mostly of directing the five beach movies.  He also directed Fireball 500 which was sort of like a beach movie without the beach.  These films were made fast and cheap, and that’s the real reason Asher was hired.  He didn’t really bring anything innovative or worthwhile to the Beach Movies, and if that’s a bit harsh, sometimes the truth is what it is.  The formula worked through five films:  Cheap + Fast + Mostly Stupid = Early Sixties Teens $$$$$$$. Yes, it was successful as far as that went.  But as with anything, how much more successful could they have been with just a little bit of effort?

As for Frankie and Annette, let’s be honest.  They weren’t signed to do these pictures because of their thespian abilities.  That’s not to say that either star was lacking completely in talent in that regard, it just means that these pictures didn’t require that attribute on your resume.   You  just had to look good in a swimsuit. 

However, they did bring some other things to the Beach that  some actors and actresses never achieve in a lifetime.

First, was name recognition.  Everybody knew who Frankie Avalon was, as he had already become a teen idol, and Annette was so popular in the 50’s and 60’s, you didn’t even have to use her last name.  Teens could already identify with them.  When you talked about “Annette” it goes without saying that she was one of a kind and you simply dispensed with the Funicello part.  To those of us who grew up with her, she always will be just Annette.

What they also brought to the screen was the likability factor.  As far as that goes, Frankie and Annette’s cup did runneth over.  Having just watched the film again for the first time in probably thirty or forty years, that may be it’s biggest asset.

For Robert Cummings and Dorothy Malone, this was probably nothing more than an opportunity for a quick paycheck.  The entire film shoot only lasted three weeks, and they couldn’t have been needed for more than half that time.  Malone even less as her role is much smaller. 

But they were professionals, and you never get the sense that they thought the material was beneath them.  In fact, they appear to be having as much fun as Frankie, Annette, and even Harvey Lembeck.  My biggest gripe is that the whole silly business of turning Cummings into a bearded bespectacled geek wasn’t necessary.  It gets worse when later in the movie he is forced to wear the stupidest hat ever concocted for any film since Carmen Miranda wore a fruit basket on her head.  Then to top off the indignities, they had poor Bob wear the weeniest bathing suit since Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis were in drag for Some Like It Hot.   All of this nonsense was both an unnecessary detraction and a distraction.

Here’s why.  Annette, under the cockamamie direction of Asher, spends much of the first half of the film looking sour and dour.  This of course is because she’s supposed to be feuding with Frankie, although Frankie gets to have a ball surfing, dancing, singing, and necking with Ava.  (Asher:  Frankie, you go have some fun.  Annette, you sit on the beach and look like your puppy died.)  It comes off as a double standard, but in the early sixties, wasn’t everything?  Come to think of it, it’s a problem we still have to this day and if your friendly GOP representative has his way ladies, you can count on having it etched into law.

There is almost zero chemistry between the two of them through much of  the movie, but since they made four more of them, I guess they got their act together later.  I do know after watching the first ten or fifteen minutes of Muscle Beach Party that they do let Annette finally get on a surfboard.  But, seeing as how Netflix has failed me again by removing it from streaming and not having it available on disc, I probably won’t get to finish that one.   

It’s not until Professor Sutwell rescues her from the mitts of Erick Von Zipper that she actually gets a chance to act and show that indeed, ex-mousketeers do have a pulse.  If the whole older guy good looking professor story had been exploited throughout the picture instead of waiting until the film is half over, it would have been far more interesting.  In fact, I didn’t time it, but I do believe that Dolores spends more time conversing with Sutwell than she does with Frankie during the entire movie.  And their conversations are far more entertaining then any of the other dialog stitched into the screenplay. 

So I guess that brings me to Harvey Lembeck’s Erick Von Zipper.  I suppose the whole inept motorcycle gang leader was funny in the sixties, but paint me as having missed the boat then and now.  I just wanted the whole bit done and over with.  And hey, I have nothing against low brow slapstick.  But it has to have a certain amount of surprise and innovation to it.   The whole Zipper thing has none of that and is just a bore.  Take one gag, and repeat 50 times is the philosophy at work here.  It’s not even worthy of being Larry, Curley, and Moe stuff. 

But Lembeck hung around for four more films, so there must have been something totally hilarious that I’ve missed over the years.  No, it’s just that once they had tried the formula for this film and it seemed to work, why mess with success for the sequels?  

On the other hand, there is the chance that the whole giving the finger bit was a sly double meaning thumb nosing at adults.  I have no way of knowing and since none of the participants left alive are on my doorstep for me to interview, we may never know if such a thing was intentional or unintentional.  Either way, it doesn’t make it any less dull. 

I bring this up because there were other times during the film when it seemed to be winking at the audience it was intended for.   Some of the up close and personal guy/gal surfing maneuvers like the one pictured here went on far too long to be just a coincidence.  But you watch the movie and judge for yourself, along with this picture.  

After watching the sequence several times, I don’t think he ever intended to put that girl on his shoulders although I think that was the idea.  The waves weren’t that high, and a far cry from Waimea.  But he rode her all the way to shore like that as if he was the Lone Ranger on Silver.   

Then there was the sequence of events that had me watch the following segment five or six times.   During one of the musical numbers by Dick Dale and the Del Tones, we see Frankie and his friends seated around the table passing something around.  I don’t care if it was just a cigarette, although there is no indication that it was.  What is obvious is that if you’re paying attention, they were once again either having some fun with their target audience (teenagers), or perhaps they were just trying to put one over on Asher to see what they could get away with.  I kind of hope it’s the latter, because I have this picture of the actors getting together later and going into hysterics at their “prank”.  Frankie Avalon probably knows, but I can find nothing to explain it anywhere.  The closest I got was this discussion on IMDB when some Eagle eyed  viewers caught the same thing I did when they watched the film on Turner Classic Movies.  I’ll let you decide for yourself.

There is one cast member whom I have the utmost respect for.  That’s Jody McCrea, who would play the same character throughout the series (although somehow Deadhead becomes Bonehead for How to Stuff A Wild Bikini).  Think of Deadhead as being Jethro Beaudine with 75 per cent less brain power.  Doing it in one film is bad enough, but reprising the character four more times and totally killing any chance at all of a decent acting career would have been torture if it had been me.  Along with Bob Cummings, he was the only other cast member who could actually surf, although that ability wasn’t utilized here at all for either actor.

I don’t know if Eva Six could surf but my guess would be probably not.  I don’t think surfing was a thing in Budapest back in the day.  She had starred with Avalon in a film called Operation Bikini before appearing here.  She has one more film to her credit, a small part in 4 For Texas with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, and then that’s all she wrote for Eva Six.  What happened after that?  Your guess is as good as mine.    

Speaking of under utilized, you have one of the quickest,  sharpest tongued  comediennes and comedy writers in 1960’s Hollywood with Morey Amsterdam, and then you give him absolutely nothing to do?  To make matters worse, you then dress him up in some idiotic dipshit hats and outfits just as you did Cummings.  Why even bother putting him in the film?  Honestly, sometimes I wish I could time travel and go back and give someone a piece of my mind.  Or just find out what in the hell somebody was thinking.  Here’s a small bit of minutiae for you though:  Morey Amsterdam would later co-star in a segment of The Love Boat with Annette, along with his co-star from The Dick Van Dyke Show, Rose Marie.

Will somebody tell me what the hell was the appeal of Candy Johnson?  In this movie she is listed as “Perpetual Motion Dancer.”  In subsequent films she was given full credit as “Candy.”  And she dances.   In a go go dress with yards of fringe.  And then she dances some more.  And even after all these years I just don’t get it.  So explain it to me.  When the Beach movies were done, so was she.  Ms. Johnson passed away in October of 2012 with no other credits to her name that I can find.

But I guess that’s one of the reasons I watch this stuff.   It’s so I can give it the attention I didn’t give it way back when which enables me to correct my misconceptions and rehash some old ones.   I didn’t hate Beach Party in this viewing the way I did the first time I saw it when it aired on network television.  And despite Beach Party having graduated from the 1963 class of lameness and brainless, I got quite a bit of enjoyment watching the cast go through their paces and checking out the old pros and some young upstarts.  

It was fun seeing Cummings and Malone carry on like the troopers they were.  I especially enjoyed Malone, who won a best supporting actress award for some stellar work in Written on the Wind and played a trapped housewife in one of my favorite but mostly forgotten disaster type movies, The Last Voyage.  In the next year, Malone would helm the TV version of Peyton Place. (a book, a movie, and a series I hope to get to in the future).   Cummings,  was no slouch either, having done some good work on TV and  in Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder.  His scenes with Annette are good, but could have been better.  Maybe he should have put the plane on auto-pilot and they could have ditched Frankie forever.  Besides Dial M, Cummings starred and co-starred in numerous  other films such as My Geisha with Shirley MacLaine, again with MacLaine in What A Way To Go, and as a smarmy embezzler in a remake of Stagecoach.

Now I’m told that Harvey Lembeck was great on The Phil Silvers/Sgt. Bilko show.  I cannot attest to that fact one way or the other at this time, but I will check into it.  It’s a series that I only have very vague memories of.  But what’s good for the army isn’t necessarily good for the beach.

I was also under the impression that Annette Funicello had never worn so much as a two piece suit until later in the series or even showed her navel.  This film proves the point that just because something becomes legend (check her out in the marquee at the top of the page), it doesn’t mean that’s exactly what happened.  But for that matter, just about all the swim suits in this film are very tame compared to some of the bikinis that would show up in future films.

And if you’re watching and waiting for the unveiling of the mysterious Big Daddy, and his big revelation, I can only say that who he is was more impressive than the words that actually come out of his mouth.

Watching Beach Party and trying to put all these half asshenanigans into their proper perspective, I enjoyed myself and would recommend any true film buff to do the same.  That doesn’t mean it’s a good film.  Far from it.  You will find a couple of handfuls of little things that will probably bring a smile to your face, and other things that probably weren’t meant to be laughed at but you will anyway.  Being a true film buff does not mean you get to sit down to Casablanca or Citizen Kane every night.  And if IMDB ratings are any indication, then this was not only the beginning, but it was also the best of a pretty lame bunch with it’s lofty 5.5 out of ten rating. 

But my rating is the only one that counts here.  All things considered, how should I rate thee?     Wait a minute.  Hold on.  Big Daddy is about to speak some words of wisdom.  And what does he say? 
Big Daddy says, C-.  I won’t argue with the Big Daddy!  And one last thing before I go.  Those who think many of these older films good and bad will always be easily accessible better think again.  Some of the Beach Party movies are already out of print.  Just yesterday Netflix pulled what they had from instant streaming, and it may be that Amazon did as well.  I’m tempted to get the Box Set, because I really would have liked to do a write up of Ski Party, which was may favorite of all these films.  But I’ll mull that over.

This trailer, as many of them do, make the film appear much better than it is.







1 comment:

  1. Great review!

    We're linking to your article for Beach Party Tuesday at

    Keep up the good work!