Spring Breakdown: The Ghost In the Invisible Bikini (dir by Don Weis)

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.

Back to School #14: The Teacher (dir by Howard Avedis)


“She Corrupted The Youthful Morality of an Entire School!” the tagline for the 1974 film The Teacher screams out.

Uhmmm, no.

In fact, that’s probably one of the most deceptive taglines in the history of film advertising.  However, we shouldn’t be surprised that it was used.  Like The Young Graduates, The Teacher was produced by Crown International Pictures.  Crown International was all about getting people to buy tickets and they probably figured that more people would pay to see a movie about a teacher corrupting “an entire school” than they would for a film about a 28 year-old teacher having an affair with one (and only one) 18 year-old who has recently graduated high school.

The relationship is between Diane (Angel Tompkins) and Sean (Jay North).  Diane lives next door to Sean’s family.  She’s married to a man who spends most of his time on the road, racing motorcycles and only occasionally calling his wife.  Diane is a teacher but we only briefly see her standing outside of the local high school.  While Sean admits that he has always had a crush on her and, at the start of the movie, even spies on her while she’s sunbathing, it’s never made clear whether or not Sean was ever actually in any of her classes.  In fact, the only thing controversial about their eventual relationship is that there’s a 10 year age difference between them.  But that really doesn’t seem to bother anyone, with the exception of two old women who happen to see Diane and Sean out on a date.

Teacher and Not A Student

Teacher and Not A Student

That, of course, doesn’t mean that Diane doesn’t have anything to teach Sean.  As the film’s theme song tells us, “Every boy needs a teacher, to help show him the way…”

But here’s the thing.  Considering how tawdry one would naturally expect a film like The Teacher to be, it’s actually treats Diane and Sean’s relationship with a lot of sensitivity.  Tompkins and North have a lot of chemistry together and both of them give natural and believable performances.  In many ways, this film is a sincere attempt to explore an unlikely relationship.  I’ve always felt that in almost every 70s exploitation film, there’s an art film waiting to break out.  That’s certainly the case with The Teacher.

However, The Teacher isn’t just about Diane “teaching” Sean.  It’s also about a guy named Ralph, who also happens to be obsessed with Diane.  (When, at the start of the film, Sean is spying on Diane, little does he suspect that Ralph is spying on him.)  We know Ralph is a bit off because he’s always talking to himself, he drives a hearse, and he’s played by Anthony James.  You may not recognize his name but if you’re a fan of 70s and 80s exploitation cinema, you know who Anthony James is.  He’s one of those very intense, very creepy-looking character actors who would always show up playing psychos and evil henchmen.

Anthony James

Anthony James

Ralph is not only obsessed with Diane but he also blames Sean for the death of his younger brother.  It seems that Sean and Ralph’s brother were spying on Diane when, somehow, Ralph’s brother ended up falling to his death.  (If you get the feeling that literally every male in this film appears to spend the majority of his time watching Diane — well, you’re right.)  Ralph wants vengeance and, in his defense, Sean never really does seem to be that upset about the death of his best friend.

Because this film was made in the 70s, it all leads to surprisingly somber ending that will probably inspire you to reconsider any belief you may have in a benevolent God.

I have to admit that, out of all the Crown International films that I’ve recently watched, The Teacher was a favorite of mine.  Watching the film — with its constantly shifting tone and it’s mix of arthouse pretension and grindhouse melodrama — is an odd experience that epitomizes everything that I love about old exploitation films.

Thank you, Crown International, for always being you.