TOM on TCM’s SPRING BREAK FILM FESTIVAL THURSDAY
It’s Beach Party night!
Here’s the lineup for Thursday April 19’s movies co-hosted by Ben Mankiewicz and me accompanied by my mini reviews from my book Hollywood Surf and Beach Movies.
8:00 pm Beach Party
Beach Party combined the Malibu surfing scenes of Gidget with the beach going teenaged vacationers of Where the Boys Are, added a number of songs, an hilarious comedy bit from Harvey Lembeck as an inept motorcycle gang leader, and started a whole new genre. Frankie Avalon, his girlfriend Annette Funicello, and their friends share a beach shack during spring break where their main concerns are surfin’, dancin’, and romancin’. Unbeknownst to them, they are being spied on by an anthropologist (Bob Cummings) and his pretty assistant (Dorothy Malone) doing a research paper comparing teenage culture to that of primitive natives. Though Beach Party is not the best of the Frankie and Annette beach capers it is enjoyable, colorful, fast-moving fun as the skies are blue, the boys are shirtless, the girls are attractive, the surfing plentiful, and the parents are nowhere in sight. It also the most earnest attempt of all the AIP beach-party films in trying to truly ape the Southern California surfing subculture even having the kids drink beer at the local hangout. In later films their beverage of choice is Coke.
Co-starring Jody McCrea, John Ashley, Eva Six, Valora Noland, Candy Johnson, Delores Wells, Ed Garner, Mickey Dora, Luree Holmes, Linda Rogers
10:00 p.m. Muscle Beach Party
The first sequel to Beach Party, Muscle Beach Party is one of the best though fans are divided. It’s surfers versus bodybuilders for control of the beach while Frankie is romanced by an Italian countess (Luciana Paluzzi), which throws Dee Dee (Annette) into a tizzy. Frankie and Annette hit their stride as the beach-loving couple, surfing is still the main sport, and the conflict between the surfers and musclemen is a nice change of pace from the surfers’ usual outlandish clashes with Eric Von Zipper’s motorcycle gang. The movie is also very funny thanks to a surprisingly subdued Buddy Hackett as a business manager and the hysterical Don Rickles playing the leader of the body beautiful. The serious film student may try to read between the lines regarding the film’s gender issues while the rest of the audience can just sit back in wallow in the acres of near-naked flesh on display.
Co-starring John Ashley, Jody McCrea, Dick Dale, Candy Johnson, Rock Stevens (aka Peter Lupus), Valora Noland, Delores Wells, Donna Loren, Salli Sachse, Luree Holmes, Ed Garner, Mike Nader, Alberta Nelson, Amedee Chabot
11:45 p.m. Bikini Beach
The third film of the series, Bikini Beach opens with a rousing title song sung by Frankie, Annette, and the cast but the movie quickly goes downhill from there. Annette’s Dee Dee falls for hot rod racing British pop star the Potato Bug (Avalon amusing in a dual role) making Frankie jealous and determined to beat the Brit in a drag race. Meanwhile an old stuffy real estate developer (Keenan Wynn) is determined to drive the surfers off the beach by proving that his chimp is more intelligent than they are. Despite it being the highest grossing AIP beach-party film, Bikini Beach is definitely one of the lesser efforts though seeing Little Stevie Wonder perform is definitely worth a look. The story is lame and unfunny, the surfing scenes are uninspired, and the obligatory drawn-out car chase sequence is sillier-than-usual. One of my least favorites.
Co-starring John Ashley, Jody McCrea, Candy Johnson, Meredith MacRae, Donna Loren, Salli Sachse, Mary Hughes, Patti Chandler, Luree Holmes, Ed Garner, Mike Nader, Johnny Fain, Linda Rogers, Alberta Nelson, Andy Romano
1:30 a.m. Beach Blanket Bingo
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 epics. Admittedly, the story centering around Dee Dee proving to Frankie that girls can sky dive as well as boys, Bonehead (Jody McCrea) falling in love with a mermaid (Marta Kristen), and a beautiful singer (Linda Evans) kidnapped by Von Zipper’s (Harvey Lembeck) 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 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 provide some of the series’ funniest moments, and a bevy of beautiful blondes enhance the action.
Co-starring Deborah Walley, John Ashley, Donna Michelle, Donna Loren, Bobbi Shaw, Buster Keaton, Salli Sachse, Mary Hughes, Patti Chandler, Luree Holmes, Jo Collins, Ed Garner, Mike Nader, Johnny Fain, Linda Rogers, Alberta Nelson, Andy Romano
3:15 a.m. Pajama Party
The fourth movie in the Beach Party series, Pajama Party, despite Frankie Avalon’s absence, is the arguably the second best of the AIP productions after Beach Blanket Bingo. A Martian (Tommy Kirk) is sent to Earth to pave the way for an invasion. He mixes in with the beach crowd where he winds up tangling with a biker gang, an Indian (Bustr Keaton), a Swedish bombshell (Bobbi Shaw), and some con artists while wooing Annette. Admittedly, the plot is lame, but Pajama Party is handsomely produced featuring the most energetic production numbers of the series thanks to choreographer David Winters. Surfing fans should stay away though—there’s nary a surfboard in sight.
Co-starring Jody McCrea, Candy Johnson, Donna Loren, Susan Hart, Dorothy Lamour, Jesse White, Mary Hughes, Patti Chandler, Luree Holmes, Ed Garner, Mike Nader, Johnny Fain, Linda Rogers, Alberta Nelson, Andy Romano, Teri Garr