Since I hate winter and am looking so forward to the start of spring I thought I would do a weekly feature on my favorite ’60s beach movies. First up:
BEACH BALL (1965)
Edd Byrnes (Dick Martin), Chris Noel (Susan), Robert Logan (Bango), Aron Kincaid (Jack), Mikki Jamison (Augusta), Don Edmonds (Bob), Brenda Benet (Samantha), Gail Gilmore (Deborah), James Wellman (Bernard Wolf), Anna Lavelle (Polly), Dick Miller (Police Officer #1), Lee Krieger, Jack Bernardi (Mr. Wilk), Bill Sampson (Announcer), John Hyden (Police Officer #2), Rita D’Amico (Wendy). Also: Lee Krieger. Guest Stars: The Supremes, The Four Seasons, The Righteous Brothers, The Hondells, and The Walker Brothers. Not credited: Bart Patton, Sid Haig, Ron Russell, and Brian Cutler.
Beach Ball was the last beach movie to be released in 1965 and it was one of the best. The producing-directing team of Bart Patton and Lennie Weinrib adapted the AIP formula to good effect. Four college dropouts living at the beach secure a student loan for tribal music studies when in fact they need the money to pay for their rock group’s instruments. When the brainy girls at the college union realize that they have been bamboozled, they rip up the check, remove their eyeglasses, tease their hair and head for the beach to try to entice the guys to return to school.
Despite the drubbing from the critics and some beach movie fans, Beach Ball is arguably the breeziest and most enjoyable of the Beach Party clones. It is also the most blatant rip off throwing in everything from surfing, skydiving, and hot rodding to a battle-of-the-bands contest and the guys in drag to match the zaniness of the AIP beach movies. The film works well because it is fast-paced, nicely photographed in color, has some funny moments, lots of beach scenes, a healthy-looking cast, and an excellent roster of musical performers most notably the Supremes, the Righteous Brothers, and The Four Seasons who are interspersed throughout the movie.
As for the cast, unlike Annette Funicello in the Beach Party movies or Noreen Corcoran in The Girls on the Beach, perky Chris Noel and the other gals are not afraid to show off their shapely figures in very revealing bikinis. Pretty blonde Anna Lavelle in particular dons the skimpiest swim suits and has some funny moments as the guy’s addled-brained beach groupie Polly. The movie boasts perhaps the most curvaceous set of lead actresses in any surf movie from the decade. For boy watchers, the guys’ sport nice physiques particularly handsome Robert Logan and blonde Aron Kincaid who gives a droll performance as ladies man, Jack. Edd Byrnes is definitely too long in the tooth to make a believable college guy but he does look swell in his swim trunks.
Surfing is limited to the opening stock footage of surfers riding huge swells and as with most beach-party movies when the actors emerge from the ocean it is calm without a big wave in sight. There are however plenty of scenes of the gang frolicking on the beach. A scene with the kids playing “Keep Away” with a football on the shore is nicely photographed and scored. The film’s major asset is the music from the catchy instrumental entitled “Cycle Chase” heard throughout to the songs lip-synched by Kincaid and the others as the Wigglers to all of the numbers performed by the rock acts. The standout is definitely seeing the Supremes singing “Come to the Beach Ball with Me” and “Surfer Boy.” Though the Motown songwriters did not come close to capturing the authentic surf sound (hell they were from Detroit and what did they know about surfing anyway?), the girls sing the catchy tunes well. Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson look great but Diana Ross is a fright with her chipped tooth and big beehive wig. Her close-ups are truly scarier than anything found in The Horror of Party Beach—another reason why Beach Ball is a must to see.