Beach Blanket Bummers: SURF PARTY and WILD ON THE BEACH


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American International Pictures created a whole new film genre with the release of BEACH PARTY (1964). The formula was simple: take a group of attractive youngsters and put them on a beach with plenty of sand, surfing, and singing. Add in some romance and comedy. Sprinkle with veteran character actors and the latest pop idols and voila! Hollywood took notice of AIP’s success and studios big and small grabbed their surfboards trying to ride the box-office waves. 20th Century Fox was the first to jump on the hodad-wagon with SURF PARTY (1964), followed quickly by WILD ON THE BEACH (1965).

SURF PARTY begins with beautiful coeds Terry, Sylvia, and Junior arriving from Arizona to the California coast for some summertime fun. Terry (Patricia Morrow of PEYTON PLACE fame) has a brother named Skeet who heads a local gang of surfers called The Lodge. The girls meet surfing instructor Len (pop crooner Bobby Vinton) who gives them lessons and falls for Terry. Lodge wannabe Milo tries to run the pier, despite warnings from police Sgt. Neal (Richard Crane, TV’s ROCKY JONES SPACE RANGER). Neal threatens to close the beach to surfers if these dangerous antics continue. Milo busts his shoulder crashing into a pylon, but sympathetic Junior (singer Jackie DeShannon) sticks by his side. The gang hangs out at Casey’s Surfer, where bands The Routers and The Astronauts play Ventures rip-offs. Sylvia (Lory Patrick, best known as Disney star Dean Jones’s wife) has eyes for Skeet. He throws a party which ends up in a fight between him and Len. Skeet eventually gets his comeuppance, and the girls go back to Arizona supposedly older but wiser.

The problem with SURF PARTY is the film takes itself waaay too seriously. It plays like a throwback to the old 50s hot rod movies, with surfing replacing cars. The black and white cinematography doesn’t do much for the California background, but the music’s okay, with Vinton in especially fine voice on “If I Were An Artist”.

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While SURF PARTY strives to be dramatic, WILD ON THE BEACH thinks it’s funny. It’s not. To call the humor ‘strained’ is like saying Andre the Giant was kinda tall. Also photographed in black and white, this one focuses on the antics of Adam (minor singer Frankie Randall) and his pals when they’re forced to share a beach house with Lee (Sherry Jackson of MAKE ROOM FOR DADDY) and her friends because of a housing shortage in their seaside college town. Dean Parker is suspicious of “‘hanky-panky” going on at the house and sends his bumbling assistant Terwilliger to investigate. Living next door is record producer Shep Kirby (character actor Russ Bender, who even sings a country ditty called “Yellow Haired Woman”). When Shep hears a recording of The Astronauts (yep, they’re back), he’s eager to sign them up. Then the dean and his sidekick pull an early morning raid and catch the coeds cohabitating. Expulsions are threatened, but Shep saves the kids by offering his pad to the guys, and the girls can stay at the beach house. Everybody’s happy and dance away to The Astronauts tune “Little Speedy Gonzales”.

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The only thing notable about this turkey is the screen debut of Sonny & Cher singing “It’s Gonna Rain”. Otherwise WILD ON THE BEACH is completely forgettable. Both films were directed by Maury Dexter, a low-budget hack whose only interesting movie was THE MINI-SKIRT MOB, about a gang of female biker on the loose. The two flicks have all the trappings of the AIP beach epics, but none of the charm. Where’s Frankie and Annette when we need them? Not to mention the great Eric Von Zipper!!!

Appreciating Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles


the-martian-chroniclesFirst published in 1950, Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles is a collection of 28 short stories about humans exploring and colonizing Mars while those left behind on Earth destroy each other in a never-ending atomic war.  When I first read it back in middle school, it blew my mind.  When I reread it this weekend, I discovered that it still holds up.  65 years after first being published, The Martian Chronicles is still a classic of American literature.

When Ray Bradbury died in 2012, many obituaries called him a “science fiction writer.”  Bradbury always resisted that label, saying in one interview, “First of all, I don’t write science fiction. I’ve only done one science fiction book and that’s Fahrenheit 451, based on reality. It was named so to represent the temperature at which paper ignites. Science fiction is a depiction of the real. Fantasy is a depiction of the unreal. So Martian Chronicles is not science fiction, it’s fantasy. It couldn’t happen, you see? That’s the reason it’s going to be around a long time – because it’s a Greek myth, and myths have staying power.”  There is very little science to be found in The Martian Chronicles.  Humans travel between Earth and Mars via rockets and the trip only takes a matter of days.  Characters frequently ride boats down the water-filled Martian canals.  Humans have little trouble breathing on Mars and only occasionally complain about the thin atmosphere.  Bradbury is not interested in Mars as a real place.  Instead, he uses Mars as a way to explore what humanity would do if given a second chance.

The humans who come to Bradbury’s Mars all have one thing in common.  All of them are fleeing an imperfect Earth.  Some, like the members of the first three expeditions, come to Mars as explorers.  Some, like the troubled Jeff Spender, seek to learn from Martian civilization.  Others, like Sam Parkhill, come to Mars to make money.  Fathers Peregrine and Stone come to Mars in search of a new world in which to spread the word of God.  Mr. Stendahl comes to Mars to escape government oppression.  Others come to escape the wars of Earth.  Throughout The Martian Chronicles, characters deal with issues that are just as relevant today as they were in 1950.  Bradbury’s vision of human society is not a positive one, especially when compared to his Martians.

martianchronicles2All of the short stories are linked by the human characters’ struggle to come to terms with Martian society.  After killing the members of the first three expeditions, the Martian race is wiped out by chicken pox, a disease that did not exist on Mars until the arrival of the humans.  Only a few survive and go into hiding, watching as human move into their old cities and set up their own civilization.  Ghost-like, the Martians and their dead society haunt every story in The Martian Chronicles.

There are a few stories in The Martian Chronicles that have not aged well.   The Silent Towns, in which a man named Walter Gripp is horrified to discover that one of the last women left on Mars is overweight, is a mean-spirited and unpleasant story to read.  But the collection’s best stories — And The Moon Be Still As Bright, The Third Expedition,  Usher II, The Off Season, The Million-Year Picnic, Night Meeting, and especially There Will Come Soft Rains — still hold up as entertaining and thought-provoking works of speculative fiction.

In 1980, The Martian Chronicles was turned into a miniseries.  I will be watching and reviewing it later this week.

Film Review: Show Off! How To Be Cool At Parties (1986, dir. Jim Hirshfeld)


Title Screen

“It’s like drinking broken glass out of a cup made of razor blades.” – Jeff

It’s not that bad, but it’s pretty awful! It really should have been called Dumbass! How To Be The Laughing Stock Of Humanity. This is a children’s instructional video from 1986 hosted by Cosby Show’s Malcolm-Jamal Warner.

Just push that title out of the way Warner. That dog with the sunglasses is so 80's!

Just push that title out of the way Warner. That dog with the sunglasses is so 80’s!

It’s a video on how to do stupid tricks. How stupid? This stupid.

Never knew how to walk down pretend stairs before? That's how!

Never knew how to walk down pretend stairs before? That’s how!

T-Shirt Sheik! You'd be offended, but the camel goes by and you can't stop laughing.

T-Shirt Sheik! You’d be offended, but the camel goes by and you can’t stop laughing.

Levitating! This is possibly the dumbest trick in the whole movie.

Levitating! This is possibly the dumbest trick in the whole movie.

You can learn how to beatbox, pretend like a dog is trying to pull you from behind a door, sound like a bicycle horn, play air piano, etc. You just have to see this to believe it. Maybe Mel Gorham here will do it more justice then I ever could.

Mel Gorham

Mel Gorham

I can’t wait to check out some more of these instructional videos. Apparently, there’s one for law enforcement on recognizing satanic cults.

Thank you, Patti Kaplan!

Thank you, Patti Kaplan!

Film Review: Tammy and the T-Rex (1994, dir. Stewart Raffill)


Title Screen

You read the name and you know it sucks. Then that title screen pops up. Oh, my God! It looks like a 2nd grader made that, but it’s oh so perfect. You know why? Because this movie is as childish as that screen implies. The only thing wrong with it is that the title is too short. It should have been called Tammy, the T-Rex, and the African Queen. No, not because it has anything to do with the Hepburn movie, but because of this.

This!

This!

It’s two for the price of one! Not only do we get a gay stereotype, but one that is also a black stereotype. But what do you expect? The movie is made by the same guy who directed Mannequin: On The Move, which had a similar character. He also wrote and directed Mac and Me. The character’s name is Byron (Theo Forsett). So, what happens in this movie when Byron isn’t passing out or someone is saying not to bend over near him?

Testicular Standoff

Testicular Standoff

I’m not making that up! One of the two cops who shows up actually calls it that. Those are two high school guys trying to crush each other’s genitals with their bare hands. Wanna know something else? That’s Paul Walker on the right. Yep, that Paul Walker. Need it to be even dumber, since the fact that this carries on for several minutes isn’t enough. It turns out Walker, I mean Michael, is faking it because he’s actually wearing a cup. If you can’t tell whether you are holding male genitals or a piece of plastic then you are in real trouble. Why are they doing this? Well, of course for the heart of Denise Richards who plays Tammy! It’s everyone’s dream to have two men fight over them this way. Oh, and that shot of Byron above is from this scene. He seems to be turned on by it. Oh, this movie. Now comes the T-Rex.

The T-Rex

I know this is a lousy VHS print of the movie, but I can’t imagine how much worse this must look in HD. The plot goes like this. Michael shows up at Tammy’s place for a little action. Poppy Montgomery, in clearly her finest performance, sees Michael climbing up to Tammy’s room and calls in the other guy who fought with Michael earlier at school. Just as Tammy is finally gonna get a little something, in comes the bad guy with his friends in a scene reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange. They take Michael away to the Wild Animal Park. They couldn’t come up with a better name. Michael is left to get mauled by a lion. What happens next is right up there with the vagina snake scene at the beginning of Lady Terminator.

A mad scientist and his girl show up at the hospital, pretend Michael is dead, then steal his body out from under the nose of Tammy, Byron, both of which pass out on the floor, and the one member of Michael’s family who also happens to drink like a fish. Then they cut open Michael’s head and put his brain into a T-Rex. Yep, that’s how it happens. What follows is Michael the T-Rex seeking revenge on all the people who have wronged him.

The Got Milk? Guy

The Got Milk? Guy

The funniest death is easily when the guy from the original Got Milk? commercial gets killed after peeing on the T-Rex. Oh, and Michael the T-Rex also makes a phone call.

He actually tries to leave a message for Tammy!

He actually tries to leave a message for Tammy!

What follows are stupid deaths, stupid gay jokes, and one of the fakest things I have seen in a long time. Feast your eyes!

This will move you to tears.

This will move you to tears.

The ending is so absurd that I won’t even…who am I kidding? No one is going to seek this out. It ends like this.

An American Werewolf In London death

An American Werewolf In London death

Denise Richards does a sexy dance

Denise Richards does a sexy dance

And Paul Walker's brain sparks with excitement.

And Paul Walker’s brain sparks with excitement.

After unsuccessfully trying to find Michael’s body, they simple put his brain in Tammy’s room, attach it to a camera, and she dances for him. It’s amazing these movies exist. I don’t know how we made it out of the 1990’s. There’s an Italian R-rated version of this movie with a few deleted scenes. I watched them. Let’s end this review with one of them.

Like a compass

Like a compass

Comic-Con’s First Look At The Suicide Squad


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“If anything goes wrong we blame them. We have built-in deniability.” — Amanda Waller

When will studios finally realize that showing any video reel, trailer or teaser at Comic-Con’s Hall H will inevitably be leaked if no official release has been made. It’s the nature of the internet and has become a sort of ritual each summer when Comic-Con rolls around. Some studios have been better with whetting the appetite of fans by giving those who can’t make Hall H with something to see. Others seem intent on trying to control what comes out of Hall H. It’s almost as if they’re saying “sucks to be you” if one couldn’t attend Comic-Con and get a seat in Hall H.

This year it seems Warner Brothers is that studio that’s trying to stamp out all the leaked footage shown at this year’s Hall H during their industry panel. It was a panel that was seen as the best thing about the Hall H gatherings. They did the right thing about releasing the latest trailer for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice to the public and not just keeping it for the Hall H crowd. Yet, they whiffed big time by not doing the same for the Suicide Squad trailer (or first look as some call it).

Inevitably some in Hall H were kind enough to turn on their smartphones and video a rough and grainy look at the trailer which was then uploaded onto the internet. This was the first look a majority of comic-book and film fans got of Suicide Squad. Not a good look, but fans were playing this leaked footage nonstop. So, taking a page out of Marvel Studios PR playbook after the first Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer leaked in a very non-HD version, Warner Bros. has finally surrendered and released an HD-version of the Suicide Squad trailer.

All is right with the world.

Artist Profile: Robert A. Maguire (1921–2005)


Over the course of his 50 year career, Robert Maguire produced over 600 paperback covers, doing work for almost every mainstream publishing house in New York City.  After beginning his education at Duke University, Maguire served in World War II and then studied with the Art Students League.  He did his first covers in 1950 and, over the next two decades, his paintings would define the pulp genre.  Below is a small sampling of his art.  You can learn more about Robert Maguire and see more of his work at R.A. Maguire Cover Art.

Conjure Wife Death Watch Fire In My Blood Flight Into Terror Hell's Angels I Prefer Girls Muscle Boy Negative of a Nude Nude Croquet Pick-Up On Noon Street Sex Around the Clock Sucker Bait Superluminal The Blonde on the Street Corner The Machine in Ward Eleven The Sins of Billy Serene TV Tramps

What Lisa Watched Last Night #129: Accidental Obsession (dir by George Erschbamer)


Last night, I watched the Lifetime premiere of Accidental Obsession.

Caroline Cave stars in Accidental Obsession

Caroline Cave stars in Accidental Obsession

Why Was I Watching It?

After A Deadly Adoption, Trigger Point, and Lethal Seduction, it is obvious that Lifetime is on a roll.  In the future, when we look back at the history of Lifetime movies, 2015 will definitely be seen as a high point.  Naturally, how could I not excited by the idea of a Lifetime movie premiering on Sunday?  Surely, Accidental Obsession would prove to be yet another Lifetime masterpiece…

What Was It About?

After Carly (Caroline Cave) escapes from a mental asylum, she murders and steals the identity of a travel writer named Vanessa.  She then manages to meet and befriend an attorney named Heather (Josie Davis).

Within a matter of days, Vanessa has become clingy and possessive.  Not only does she regularly break into Heather’s house but she borrows Heather’s clothes without asking as well!  (Breaking and entering is one thing.  Borrowing without asking permission is something else all together!)  However, it turns out that Vanessa is not the only person obsessed with Heather.  There’s also Heather’s ex-husband, Ray (Sebastian Spence) and a private investigator named Jack (Marc Menard).

(This movie could have just as easily been called Everyone Loves Heather.)

How far will Vanessa go to have Heather all to herself?  Well, Vanessa is kind of a crazy stabby psycho so you can probably guess what ends up happening.

What Worked?

Josie Davis is a Lifetime veteran and, as a result, she knew exactly the right type of performance to give in a film like Accidental Obsession.  As well, Caroline Cave gave a good performance as the psycho Vanessa.

What Did Not Work?

Sad to say, this was definitely a lesser Lifetime film.  The film opens with Carly stabbing Vanessa to death with a huge butcher knife.  Despite the fact that Carly stabbed Vanessa repeatedly, there’s absolutely no blood seen on the knife or Carly afterwards.  It was distracting and it pretty much set the tone for the entire film.  Accidental Obsession definitely felt like a movie that was too rushed to pay much attention to details like blood.

Naturally, all Lifetime film require a certain suspension of disbelief.  Accidental Obsession required a bit too much suspending.  For the entire film’s plot to even come close to making sense, Heather had to be a total and complete idiot.  And it’s true that there are idiots out there but they usually don’t make for compelling protagonists.

There’s also a scene of totally gratuitous animal cruelty.  While I understand that the filmmakers were trying to show us how crazy and dangerous Vanessa really was, those two facts had already been pretty firmly established.  As a result, the scene just felt sadistic and unnecessary.

Finally, Accidental Obsession is way too generic of a title.  Add to that, no one’s obsession was really accidental.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

You meet someone, you try to be nice, and the next thing you know, that person is determined to be a part of every minute of your life.  Yes, Lifetime, I’ve been there…

Lessons Learned

Be suspicious of people who steal identities, want to be your best friend, and attempt to stab your ex-husband to death.  They’re probably up to no good.