The 1966 film, The Ghost In The Invisible Bikini, asks the question, “What can you do if you want to have a beach party but you don’t have a beach?”
The answer: “Find a pool!”
Seriously, a pool is just as good as a beach and fortunately, Chuck (Tommy Kirk) has a pool where his friends can hang out and listen as Vicki (Nancy Sinatra) sings a song. It’s in a big old mansion and hey, it might be haunted. It used to belong to Hiram Stokeley (Boris Karloff) and he’s dead now so he certainly won’t mind, right?
Well, what if he’s not dead!?
Oh wait, actually, he is dead. But he’s still hanging around. It turns out that he needs to do at least one good deed in order to get into Heaven. (Isn’t starring in Frankenstein enough? I mean, c’mon…..) It also turns that Hiram only has 24 hours to do that good deed or it’s off to Hell for him. Maybe he could figure out a way to help Chuck and his family win his fortune! Hiram enlists the help of his long-dead girlfriend, Cecily (Susan Hart). Cecily, we are told, is wearing an invisible bikini but we just have to take the film’s word on that because it’s invisible and, seeing as how Cecily’s a ghost, it’s always possible that only reason she’s transparent is because she’s a spirit. I mean, seriously, who knows how ghosts work?
Anyway, it’s not going to be easy for Hiram and Cecily to ensure that Chuck inherits that fortune, largely because Chuck and all of his friends are idiots. The other problem is that Reginald Ripper (Basil Rathbone), Hiram’s lawyer, is determined to win that money for himself and, if you have any doubt that he’s a bad dude, just check out his name. GOOD PEOPLE ARE NOT NAMED REGINALD RIPPER! Fortunately, even though Reginald graduated from law school and is played by Basil freaking Rathbone, he’s still an idiot and he comes up with the stupidest plan possible to get Chuck and friends out of the house.
He’s going to make them think that it’s haunted!
(But it is haunted….)
Reginald’s plan is to have his evil associates, J. Sinister Hulk (Jesse White), Chicken Feather (Benny Rubin), and Princess Yolanda (Bobbi Shaw), pretend to be monsters and ghosts in order to scare all of the teens out of the house. He also enlists his daughter, Sinistra (Quinn O’Hara), to help but Sinistra isn’t really bad. She’s just extremely near-sighted and someone thought it would be a good idea to name her Sinistra.
And then the bikers show up! This is one of AIP’s beach party films so, of course, there are bikers. Eric von Zipper (Harvey Lembeck) shows up and pretends to be Marlon Brando in The Wild One. Of course, at the time this film was made, the real Marlon Brando was filming Arthur Penn’s The Chase so I’m going to guess that Harvey Lembeck probably had more fun pretending to be Brando than Brando was having being himself….
Anyway, this is a stupid movie even by the standards of the AIP beach party films. It’s also notably disjointed. That probably has something to do with the fact that Karloff and Susan Hart weren’t actually added to the film until after the movie had already been shot. Apparently, AIP felt that the first cut of the movie was missing something so they said, “Let’s toss in a little Karloff!” Of course, Boris Karloff was such an old charmer that it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t ever really interact with anyone other than Susan Hart over the course of the film. You’re just happy to see him.
So yeah, technically, this is not a good film but, at the same time, you kind of know what you’re getting into when you watch a movie called The Ghost In The Invisible Bikini. The jokes fall flat. The songs are forgettable. But the whole thing is such a product of its time that it’s always watchable from an anthropological perspective. Add to that, you get Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone, doing what they had to do to pay the bills and somehow surviving with their dignity intact. Good for them.