Drive-In Saturday Night 2: BIKINI BEACH (AIP 1964) & PAJAMA PARTY (AIP 1964)


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Welcome back to Drive-In Saturday Night! Summer’s here, and the time is right for a double dose of American-International teen flicks, so pull in, pull up a speaker to hang on your car window, and enjoy our first feature, 1964’s BIKINI BEACH, starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello:

BIKINI BEACH is the third of AIP’s ‘Beach Party’ movies, and this one’s a typical hodgepodge of music, comedy, and the usual teenage shenanigans. The gang’s all here, heading to the beach on spring break for surfing and swinging. This time around, there’s a newcomer on the sand, British rock star The Potato Bug, with Frankie playing a dual role. Potato Bug is an obvious spoof of the big Beatlemania fever sweeping the country, with all the beach chicks (or “birds”, as he calls ’em) screaming whenever PB starts singing one of his songs, complete with Lennon/McCartney-esque “Wooos” and “Yeah, yeah, yeahs”…

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New Recipe: HOW TO STUFF A WILD BIKINI (AIP 1965)


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HOW TO STUFF A WILD BIKINI, the sixth entry in American-International’s “Beach Party” series, attempts to breathe new life into the tried-and-true  formula of sun, sand, surf, songs, and corny jokes. Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello are still around as Frankie and Dee Dee, but in this go-round they’re separated; he’s in the Navy stationed on the tropical island of Goona-Goona, while Annette has to contend with the romantic enticements of Dwayne Hickman .

Frankie’s part amounts to a cameo, enlisting local witch doctor Buster Keaton (!!) to keep those girl-hungry beach bums away from Dee Dee (while he frolics unfettered with lovely Irene Tsu !). Keaton’s magic ain’t what it used to be, so he has his daughter conjure up a knockout named Cassandra, who first appears on the beach as an animated bikini. All the boys go ga-ga for Cassandra, including a go-go ad man named Peachy Keane…

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Fun in the Sun: BEACH BLANKET BINGO (AIP 1965)


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You’d think by the fourth entry in American-International’s ‘Beach Party’ series, 1965’s BEACH BLANKET BINGO, the formula would be wearing a bit thin. Frankie and Annette are still trying to make each other jealous, Eric Von Zipper and his Rats are still comic menaces, and the gang’s into yet another new kick (skydiving this time around). But thanks to a top-notch supporting cast of characters, a sweet subplot involving a mermaid, and the genius of comedy legend Buster Keaton , BEACH BLANKET BINGO is loads of fun!

Aspiring singer Sugar Kane skydives from a plan into the middle of the ocean and is “rescued” by surfer Frankie. But not really… it’s all been a publicity stunt by her PR agent ‘Bullets’. Sugar is played by lovely Linda Evans, right before she landed on TV’s THE BIG VALLEY, and ‘Bullets’ is none other than the fantastically sarcastic Paul Lynde. But wait… Eric Von Zipper…

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Back to the Beach: MUSCLE BEACH PARTY (AIP 1964)


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The “Beach Party ” gang’s back and so’s the familiar formula in MUSCLE BEACH PARTY, second in the American-International series. It’s Easter vacation and Frankie Avalon is still horny, Annette Funicello’s still waiting for marriage, and a beautiful foreign woman is again coming between them. This time it’s Lucianna Paluzzi as Countess Julie, a rich heiress who wants to make Frankie a singing star and her personal property.

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Eric Von Zipper and his Rats aren’t around this time, replaced by a bunch of bodybuilders led by trainer Jack Fanny (the inimitable Don Rickles). Julie first sets her sights on “Mr. Galaxy” Flex Martian, but dumps him when she spies Frankie. This leads to war between the surfers and the musclemen, with the inevitable slapstick melee. Flex is played by Rock Stevens, a real-life bodybuilder who muscled his way through a few Italian peplum films before reverting to his real name of Peter Lupus and…

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Rockin’ in the Film World #3: BEACH PARTY (AIP 1963)


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Finally! The weather here in New England has begun to break, and we’re heading into summer. I even managed to get some beach time in today. TCM beat me to the punch when they aired BEACH PARTY as part of their month-long salute to American International Pictures, a blast from the past filled with sand, surf, teenage sex, and plenty of good ol’ rock’n’roll! BEACH PARTY spawned a series of films and a whole slew of imitators , but AIP did ’em first and best.

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Teen idol Frankie Avalon and ex-Mouseketeer Annette Funicello starred in most of the AIP’s, using the same plot over and over. Frankie wants sex, but Annette wants to wait for marriage. They fight, and try to make each other jealous by dating someone new, but wind up together by film’s end. Simple, and rehashed using gimmicks like bodybuilding, drag racing, sky diving, and skiing to make things seem fresh…

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Life Is A Beach #1: Beach Party (dir by William Asher)


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It seems a little bit strange that today was, for many people, the first day of Spring Break.

First off, it was cold and rainy today and, whenever I found myself glancing out a window and being confronted by the gray weather, it was very hard for me to imagine having any fun on a beach.

Secondly, for reasons that I never quite understood, the University of North Texas’s Spring Break was always a week after everyone else’s.  As a result, I’ve been conditioned to think of Spring Break as starting during the third week of March.

I always looked forward to Spring Break, despite the fact that we always got out a week late.  In fact, it was kind of nice to know that, when my friends and I got down to that year’s beach, the most obnoxious of the alcoholic frat boys would already be back in Oklahoma.  I’ve always loved the beach, which is odd because I’m scared of drowning.  Fortunately, you don’t have to swim to look good in a bikini.

Now, of course, I’m an adult and I don’t get a Spring Break.  But that doesn’t mean that I can’t relive the fun of it all by spending the next few days watching and reviewing beach movies!

For instance, earlier today, I discovered that the 1963 film Beach Party was available on Netflix.   I watched the first 40 minutes during my lunch and then, as the day progressed, I watched the rest of it in bits and pieces until finally, nearly 8 hours after starting the film, I finished it.  Needless to say, this is absolutely the worst way to watch a film like Beach Party.  Beach Party was designed to be a film to be enjoyed but not thought about.  It’s the cinematic equivalent of fast food.  Watching Beach Party in increments of 2 or 3 minutes at a time is a bit like buying a Wendy’s bacon cheeseburger and not eating it until the next day.

(Or so I assume.  I would never do that because, seriously, Wendy’s makes the best bacon cheeseburgers!)

It feels kind of silly to try to describe the plot of something like Beach Party but here goes: Frankie (Frankie Avalon) and Delores (Annette Funicello) are two teenagers in love.  Or, at the very least, Delores is in love.  Frankie, however, has a hard time saying it.  Frankie and Delores are planning on spending the weekend at a beach house where, Frankie tells her, it will be just like they’re married.  Though it’s never explicitly stated (like many films from the early 60s, Beach Party is all about the euphemisms), Frankie is obviously expecting that he and Delores will finally be having sex in that beach house.  However, Delores had the same idea so she invited all of their friends to stay at the beach house as well, specifically to keep her from giving in during a moment of weakness.

Meanwhile, Prof. Robert Sutwell (Robert Cummings) is also hanging out on the beach.  He’s an anthropologist who has a rather prominent beard.  He’s studying the sex lives of teenagers.  Since they’re adults, Robert and his assistant Marianne (Dorothy Malone) are actually allowed to say the word “sex.”

Speaking of which, that’s one thing that nobody on the beach seems to be doing.  Robert is too obsessed with his work, Marianne is too frustrated with his lack of interest, Frankie is too busy surfing and singing, and Delores says she’s not interesting in “being a woman” until she’s married.  There’s constant flirting going on, of course but, for the most part, these teenagers make the spring breakers from From Justin To Kelly look wild.  (One can only guess what would happen if any of them ever ran into the spring breakers from Spring Breakers….)

That said, I do think that I did spot Frankie and his friends passing around a joint during one scene.  According to some comments at the imdb, it was probably meant to be a cigarette that Frankie was sharing with his friends Ken (John Ashley) and Deadhead (Jody McCrea) but it sure looked like a joint to me.  Plus, Frankie was listening to beatnik poetry at the time and we all know those crazy kids loved the poetry and loved the marijuana.

Oh!  And did I mention that there’s a motorcycle gang in this film?  Because there so totally is.  The Rat Pack is led by a guy named Erich Von Zipper (Harvey Lembeck) and they pretty much show up whenever the film starts to run out of ideas…

Now, it may sound like I’m being pretty critical of Beach Party but actually, I thought it was fun in a time capsule sort of way.  This is one of those films that is so obviously a product of the time in which it was made that watching it is a bit like getting to take a ride in a time machine.  Everything about this film — from the dialogue to the cultural attitudes to the clean-cut teenagers to the music to the bizarrely modest bikinis — practically screams 1963.  As a secret history nerd, I loved the part of Beach Party.

Add to that, Vincent Price has a cameo!  That’s always fun.

Anyway, Beach Party is currently available to be watched on Netflix and Hulu.  If you can’t get to the beach this year, you can always watch Frankie Avalon getting high in Beach Party.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #100: How To Stuff A Wild Bikini (dir by William Asher)


Last night, I watched the 1965 beach film, How To Stuff A Wild Bikini.

Why Was It Watching It?

Last night, I was in a motel room in San Antonio.  Now, as I’m sure we all know, one of the great things about staying in a motel is that you get a chance to discover all sorts of strange television stations that you otherwise may not have known existed.  It was while flipping through these odd  stations that I came across the final ten minutes of Dr. Goldfoot And The Girl Bombs.  Dr. Goldfoot was followed by How To Stuff A Wild Bikini.

What Was It About?

Oh Lord, where to begin?

Okay, so Frankie (Frankie Avalon) is serving in the U.S. Navy and has been assigned to Tahiti.  However, he’s worried that his girlfriend Dee Dee (Annette Funicello) might not stay true to him while he’s gone.  Why he thinks that is a good question because, seriously, Dee Dee really doesn’t seem to be the type to cheat.

Frankie goes to the local witch doctor (played by Buster Keaton) who casts a spell that causes a magic bikini to appear on the beaches in California.  “Man,” one surfer says, “dig that wild bikini!”  “A bikini ain’t nothing without the stuffing!” his girlfriend replies.  Suddenly, Cassandra (Beverly Adams) appears, providing the “stuffing” for the magic bikini.  Cassandra has been sent to the beach to keep an advertising executive (Dwayne Hickman) from stealing Dee Dee from Frankie.

Oh!  And the witch doctor also turns Frankie into a pelican so Frankie can fly back to the beach to keep an eye on Dee Dee.

And Mickey Rooney is in this movie!

And there’s a motorcycle gang!

And … it’s a musical!

What Worked?

This was exactly the type of mid-1960s youth film that I like almost despite myself.  Plotwise, it was pretty incoherent.  Acting-wise, it was nothing special.  The songs were not memorable.  The attitudes were sexist.  The entire film felt cheap.  And yet, it was so weird and energetic and sincerely silly that there was no way I couldn’t like it.  If nothing else, watching this film is probably as close as I’ll ever get to experiencing 1965.

What Did Not Work?

After having seen several of his silent films on TCM, it was a bit sad to see how Buster Keaton ended his career.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

Cassandra had red hair, just like me!  Redheads unite!

Plus, I’ve been told that I look good in a wild bikini.

Lessons Learned

A bikini ain’t nothing … without the stuffing!