GONNA HAVE A SKI PARTY
I thought I’d end my Top 5 Sixties Beach Party movies with a cold treat for these hot summer days. A few films (i.e. Get Yourself a College Girl, Winter a-Go-Go, Wild Wild Winter) switched the locale from the warm California seashore to the chilly mountaintop ski slopes. The best of the crop for me was Ski Party (1965).
Frankie Avalon (Todd Armstrong/ Jane), Dwayne Hickman (Craig Gamble/ Nora), Deborah Walley (Linda Hughes), Yvonne Craig (Barbara Norris), Robert Q. Lewis (Donald Pevney), Bobbi Shaw (Nita), Aron Kincaid (Freddie Carter), The Hondells (Themselves) Steve Rogers (Gene), Patti Chandler (Janet), Mike Nader (Bobby), Salli Sachse (Indian), John Boyer (Ski Boy), Mikki Jamison (Vicki), Mickey Dora (Mickey), Bill Sampson (Arthur), Mary Hughes, Luree Holmes (Ski Girls), Sigi Engl (Ski Instructor). Uncredited: Ronnie Dayton, Jo Collins, Paul Gleason, and Annette Funicello (Prof. Roberts). Guest Stars: James Brown and the Famous Flames, and Lesley Gore.
Frankie Avalon and Dwayne Hickman play two average college guys, who are losers when it comes to the ladies, so they masquerade as English lasses on a ski trip to discover why their chicks Deborah Walley and Yvonne Craig dig suave ladies man Aron Kincaid and what they really want in a guy. Complications ensue when the pompous Kincaid falls in love with Hickman’s female incarnation. Meanwhile, when not romping around in drag, Avalon tries to make Walley jealous by flirting with Swedish bombshell Bobbi Shaw. The first half of the picture unfolds quite briskly with excellent musical numbers performed by Avalon, James Brown, and Lesley Gore though the second half bogs down a bit with a ludicrous ski jump contest and an overlong chase sequence, standard for these AIP musical comedies.
Ski Party stands out from the rest of the AIP beach-party movies not only because of the change in locale but because of the superior production values. Credit must go to producer Gene Corman and his crew. The film is exquisitely filmed on location with some awesome ski shots. Alan Rafkin also does a first-rate job of directing and keeps the action moving. He brings some originality to the musical numbers as well. Having Frankie Avalon, Deborah Walley, Dwayne Hickman, and Yvonne Craig sing “Painting the Town” while on a sunlit sleigh ride helps elevate the song with the beautiful shots of the foursome traveling through the snow-covered back roads. “Lots Lots More” would just have been a standard song warbled by Frankie Avalon with twistin’ beach babes dancing beside him if it were not for Rafkin’s unusual camera angles capturing the curvy features of Walley, Patti Chandler, Mikki Jamison, and Jo Collins.
The musical performances by the guest stars are the standouts of any AIP beach movie. Here it is no exception. Lesley Gore sings the catchy “Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows” on the bus ride to Sun Valley. Following the release of Ski Party, the song became a hit and peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard charts. The Hondells turn up on the beach and rock on “The Gasser” and the title song. Finally, the appearance of James Brown and the Flames who come in out of the snow to perform their Top 10 record “I Got You (I Feel Good)” is truly one of the greatest musical moments in beach movie history.
Frankie Avalon and Dwayne Hickman are well paired as the wisecracking losers-in-love Todd and Craig and are very believable and amusing as the peppery English lasses, Jane and Nora. As the objects of their devotion, Deborah Walley and Yvonne Craig are only okay but they look stunning in Technicolor making it perfetly plausible to the audience why the boys would go to so much trouble to win them over. Bobbi Shaw is engaging as a sexy Swede who decides she prefers love, American style. It is nice to see AIP contract players Patti Chandler and Salli Sachse given more to do here than in the Beach Party movies. They along with Luree Holmes, Mikki Jamison, and Playboy Playmate Jo Collins look very good in their bathing suits or tight-fitting ski clothes. For beefcake watchers, there’s lean boyish-looking Mike Nader and handsome, chiseled Steve Rogers. But it is the smarmy charm of Aron Kincaid (pictured above surrounded by a bevy of beauties) as the pompous Freddie who flips for a guy in drag who steals the movie. Usually clad in dark sweaters and turtlenecks (which were a perfect contrast to his blonde hair and fair features), Kincaid is striking looking and awes every girl on screen and every girl in the audience (not to mention a boy or two).
Ski Party is avaialbel on DVD and I heartily recommend it!