I am finally catching up with the movies TCM ran during its Spring Break Film Festival and was pleasantly surprised to see that they aired a pristine letterboxed print of It’s a Bikini World (1967) starring Deborah Walley and Tommy Kirk. It is too bad Ben Mankiewicz and I didn’t get to introduce this one, as I had some interesting anecdotes about it.

It’s a Bikini World features an interesting premise, a great lineup of musical talent, and a spirited cast but the extremely low budget production values hamper the movie.  There’s a new beach babe on the shore and when she rebukes the advances of the local Casanova, he masquerades as his nerdy brother to get even with her.  Meanwhile he competes against her as his real persona in a serious of athletic competitions.  It was very novel in 1965 to feature in a film aimed at teenagers a determined independent-thinking heroine.  This was years before the Women’s Liberation movement and this Feminist slant shows that Stephanie Rothman was a director and screenwriter ahead of her time.

Deborah Walley who by 1965 matured into a shapely young woman plays the determined Delilah with spunk and vigor while Tommy Kirk makes for a good conceited foe in their battle-of-the-sexes.  However, Kirk’s Casanova persona surrounded by bikini-clad beach babes quickly turns laughable every time he takes off his shirt.  He is out of shape even by 1967 standards, and should have been mandated to pump some iron at the gym before filming began.  Bob Pickett plays the Jody McCrea/Deadhead best friend role with a big grin and a droll touch.  Bikini-clad Suzie Kaye now sporting blonde hair delivers some amusing lines with flair and as always blonde Lori Williams (of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! fame) is dancing away on the shore and in the clubs. Sid Haig plays Daddy the hip owner of the kid’s hangout and sponsor of the competition.

Directed by a woman, Stephanie Rothman, she  keeps the pace moving briskly but lets the end competition sequences run on much too long dragging down the movie.  Everything from skateboarding to camel racing is thrown in.  Though bound by limited budget, she adds some surreal touches to the film.  Whereas the expected gaggle of bikini-clad girls are present, Rothman throws in some unexpected titillation such as guy-girl wrestling on the beach.

As with most of the later beach movies the musical acts make this worth while viewing.  The groups all perform their own hit records.  Standing out are Eric Burdon with The Animals in their post-Alan Price lineup doing “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” which became an anthem for Vietnam War protestors, and garage rock band The Castaways, looking all of sixteen, singing their lone hit, “Liar, Liar.”  The Gentrys, sounding like Paul Revere and the Raiders, sing “Spread It on Thick,” which should have been a big hit but it never cracked the Top 40.

It’s a Bikini World is an entertaining curio if you are looking for something a bit different in a beach movie. On an interesting note, AIP knowing the beach movie craze had come and gone, refused to release the movie in 1966 and it was distributed by a subsidiary company, Trans American, sneaking into drive-ins in Spring 1967.


Comments: 3

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  • John Black

    Yes, it was good to finally see it letterboxed. I think the film has one of Tommy Kirk’s best performances. He’s qute amusing in a dual role, vaguely reminiscent of Frankie Avalon’s dual performance in BIKINI BEACH.

    • I agree it was entertaining but just out of shape to play the athletic Casanova on the beach.

  • Bikini Beach is a 1964 teen film directed by William Asher and starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello . The film belongs to the beach party genre of movies, popular in the 1960s. This is the third in a series of seven films produced by American International Pictures (AIP).

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