BEACH BLANKET BINGO (1965)
Frankie Avalon (Frankie), Annette Funicello (Dee Dee), Deborah Walley (Bonnie Graham), Harvey Lembeck (Eric Von Zipper), John Ashley (Steve Gordon), Jody McCrea (Bonehead), Donna Loren (Donna), Marta Kristen (Lorelei), Linda Evans (Sugar Kane), Timothy Carey (South Dakota Slim), Don Rickles (Big Drop), Paul Lynde (Bullets), Buster Keaton (Himself), Earl Wilson (Himself), Bobbi Shaw (Bobbi), Donna Michelle (Animal), Mike Nader (Butch), Patti Chandler (Patti), Andy Romano, Alan Fife, Jerry Brutsche, John Macchia, Bob Harvey, Alberta Nelson, Myrna Ross (Rat Pack), Ed Garner, Guy Hemric, Duane Ament, Ray Atkinson, Brian Wilson, Mickey Dora, Ned Wynn, Frank Alesia, Phil Henderson, Johnny Fain, Ronnie Dayton (Beach Boys), Linda Benson, Mary Hughes, Salli Sachse, Linda Merrill, Luree Holmes, Laura Nicholson, Linda Bent, Chris Cranston, Mary Sturdevant, Judy Lescher, Pat Bryton, Pam Colbert, Dessica Giles, Stephanie Nader, Jo Ann Zerfas (Beach Girls). Guest stars: The Hondells.
In the immortal words of Eric Von Zipper, Beach Blanket Bingo is “nifty.” It is the best, the zaniest, the quirkiest, and most fondly remembered of the Frankie and Annette fun-in-the-sun teenage epics. Admittedly, the story centering on Dee Dee proving to Frankie that girls can sky dive as well as boys while vying for him with a redheaded tease, Bonehead falling in love with a mermaid, and a beautiful singer kidnapped by Von Zipper’s biker gang is far-fetched. But it contains some very funny lines mostly delivered by Don Rickles as Big Drop and Paul Lynde as an acid-tongued press agent whose verbal sparring with Frankie Avalon is one of the movie’s highlights. Lots of colorful beach scenes are intermingled with stock sky diving shots. All your AIP favorite stars are here, the songs are bouncy and light, an array of guest comics provides some of the series’ funniest moments, and a bevy of beautiful blondes enhance the action.
Frankie delivers one of his best performances but poor Annette who proved she could act in Muscle Beach Party really has nothing much to do, as her character seems resigned to the fact that her boyfriend has a roving eye. Deborah Walley, usually cast as the good girl, surprises as a vixen who uses Frankie to make her boyfriend John Ashley jealous. Jody McCrea finally gets to stretch his acting muscle as Bonehead and his scenes with Marta Kristen (Judy Robinson on Lost in Space) as a mermaid are touching and bittersweet. Linda Evans is darling as the naïve Sugar Kane and stands out whenever she dons a bikini. It is these two sexy blondes along with Playboy Playmate Donna Michelle as man-hungry Animal and the rest of the bikini-clad beach girls that make Beach Blanket Bingo a winner with girl watchers. For boy watchers it is the same old crew but at least shirtless surfer boys Mike Nader and Johnny Fain get lots more screen time and even raise an eyebrow or two when Nader inserts a frankfurter into the eager mouth of Fain while Donna Loren sings about an unrequited love. Scenes like that make me want to go hmmmmmmmm.
Another big plus for Beach Blanket Bingo is the music score. The songs are some of the best from the series beginning with the title song—the grandest opening number of all the beach-party movies. The up tempo tune is sung in such a light and bouncy manner by Frankie and Annette that you can’t but help want to jump to your feet and dance along. They also do well with their second duet, the popular “I Think, You Think.” Pretty Donna Loren expertly belts out the heart wrenching “It Only Hurts When I Cry” and The Hondells rock out on “The Cycle Set.” Every beach-party movie has one clunker and here it is “These Are the Good Times” crooned by Avalon as if it were 1950 rather than 1965.
On the down side, as with most of the beach-party movies, Beach Blanket Bingo does not do surfers any justice and doesn’t even bother to insert any stock surfing footage. The other wrong note in the film is John Ashley. After playing Frankie’s buddy Johnny in Beach Party, Muscle Beach Party, and Bikini Beach, his being cast as Avalon’s jealous rival Steve throws off the continuity of the series. But despite its minor flaws, Beach Blanket Bingo is the apex of the beach movie genre. However, little did anyone know at the time that this would be the last beach pairing of Frankie and Annette (Frankie only makes a cameo appearance in the next film, How to Stuff a Wild Bikini). Thankfully, Beach Blanket Bingo (as well as all the AIP beach movies) is available on DVD and turn up frequently on Turner Classic Movies.