Is LADY STREET FIGHTER The Worst Movie Ever Made? (American General 1981)


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In all my years of watching movies, I’ve seen more than my share of stinkers. But nothing quite prepared me for the total ineptitude that is LADY STREET FIGHTER, starring the immortal Renee Harmon. This wretchedly made film features an incoherent script, horrific cinematography, murky sound, no direction, really bad acting, and an ersatz synth theme ripped off from Morricone’s THE GOOD, THE BAD, & THE UGLY . Let’s put it this way… when Jody McCrea (Bonehead of the Beach Party series) takes your film’s best acting honors, you KNOW you’re in for trouble!!

This senseless excuse for a movie finds Renee out to avenge the death of her sister at the hands of a gang called Assassins Incorporated, or something like that. I’m really not too sure, as the convoluted plot isn’t well defined. The movie starts off promising for Grindhouse fans with a gruesome torture scene (including a…

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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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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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A Movie A Day #87: Free Grass (1969, directed by Bill Brame)


As everyone surely knows, before they appeared as Dr. Lawrence Jacoby and Benjamin Horne on Twin Peaks, Russ Tamblyn and Richard Beymer co-starred in West Side Story.  Tamblyn played Riff, the leader of the Jets.  Beymer played his best friend, Tony, who fell in love with Natalie Wood.  West Side Story is a classic that won several Oscars.  What is not as well known is that, in between West Side Story and Twin Peaks, Beymer and Tamblyn co-starred in one other movie, a hunk of psychedelic cheese called Free Grass.

By the late 60s, both Beymer and Tamblyn had tired of their clean-cut images and, like their characters in Free Grass, had become card-carrying members of the Hollywood counter-culture.  Beymer plays Dean, a motorcycle-riding drop-out from conventional society.  Dean meets and falls in love with buxom, mini-skirted Karen (played by Lana Wood, younger sister of Natalie).  When a riot breaks out on the sunset strip, Dean punches a cop.  With the Man now looking for him, Dean needs some quick cash so that he and Karen can escape to Dayton, Ohio.

(Dayton, Ohio?)

That’s where Russ Tamblyn comes in.  Tamblyn plays Dean’s friend, Link.  Link works for a drug kingpin named Phil (played not very convincingly by Casey Kasem, of all people).  Phil is willing to pay Dean $10,000 if he smuggles several pounds worth of grass across the Mexican border.  Dean agrees but soon finds himself being pursued by two narcotics agents, played by Jody McCrea and Lindsay Crosby (sons of Joel McCrea and Bing Crosby, respectively).  Because Dean is not willing to commit murder, Link plots to kill him.  But first, Link doses Dean with LSD, which leads to the de rigueur psychedelic 60s light show.

Slow-moving and ineptly directed, Free Grass is for fans of the 1960s counterculture only.  Russ Tamblyn provides the movie with what little energy it has but Richard Beymer apppears to be just as uncomfortable here as he was in West Side Story and Casey Kasem shows why he was better known as a DJ than an actor.  Lana Wood does look good in a miniskirt, though.  Otherwise, Free Grass shows why both Tamblyn and Beymer grew so frustrated with Hollywood that they were both in semi-retirement when David Lynch revitalized their careers by casting them on Twin Peaks.

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.