26 MILES ACROSS THE SEA…
Catalina Caper is awaiting for me. Island of romance, romance. This late-in-the-cycle beach movie (shot in late 1965 with working-title Scuba Party but not released until Spring of 1967) is making its Turner Classics Movie debut June 2 at 7:30am EST. Too bad TCM didn’t air during its Spring Break Film Festival. I had a lot of information on it to share.
Youthful cast includes beach movie vets Tommy Kirk and Michael Blodgett, plus Venita Woolf, Lyle Waggoner, Ulla Stromstedt, and Brian Cutler. Drive-in Dream Girl Sue Casey pops up too. Though I was not a big fan of it when writing my book, still worth a look for all you beach movie fans.
Below is my review from Hollywood Surf and Beach Movies:
A nice change in locale from the shores of Malibu to Santa Catalina is the only thing that makes Catalina Caper worth watching. Scuba diving college students on summer break get involved with art forgers, Greek mobsters, and a stolen priceless Chinese artifact. Sticking to formula there are the bikini-clad beauties, bare-chested beach boys, musical guest stars, and inane comedy bits, but the plot is convoluted and pointless. You really have to pay attention to follow the inane plot but who wants to pay that close observance to a beach movie?
Ted V. Mikels’ colorful photography is the best thing about the movie, as Santa Catalina looks very picturesque. His shots on the beach and in the ocean are also done well, as are the underwater scuba diving scenes. Tommy Kirk looks better here than he does in It’s a Bikini World, but his body is no great shakes even for 1965. Forget him and nebbish-looking Peter Duryea (Dan’s son) and concentrate on blonde hunks Brian Cutler and Michael Blodgett. Girl watchers are treated to the luscious blonde Venita Wolf and a bevy of beauties that never leave Cutler’s side all wearing some of the coolest swimsuits of the time courtesy of designer Anne Cole. Pity Ulla Stromstedt (of TV’s Flipper fame) though. She is hidden under an unflattering dark wig and definitively lives up to the nickname “Creepy Girl” bestowed upon her by the gang at Mystery Science Theater where Catalina Caper was infamously parodied. [She is picture below with Tommy Kirk.]
As with most of the later beach-party flicks, the musical guest stars are the reason to tune in. Catalina Caper offers an eclectic mix of performers. Mary Wells in her post-Motown years is not seen but belts out the catchy “Never Steal Anything Wet” over the opening and closing credits. Little Richard wearing a gold lame suit steals the show as he literally rocks the boat singing “Scuba Party.” The bland Cascades are the resident house band, while Carol Connors hardens her image and rocks on “Book of Love” leaving her good-girl Teddy Bear persona far behind.
Catalina Caper gets credit for trying to infuse the beach-party formula with more of a plot but the execution of it coupled with adult actors who are not funny in the least makes this one of the genre’s lesser efforts.
You an read more behind-the-scenes stories in my Hollywood Surf and Beach Movies. And profies on Venita Woolf, Ulla Stromstedt and Sue Casey in Drive-in Dream Girls.