Tag Archive for 'Beach'

Bikini Beach

Bikini Beach (7/20/13) TCM (1964 **1/2) Directed by William Asher, starring Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Keenan Wynn, Don Rickles and… Little Stevie Wonder? An eccentric millionare intent on closing down the beach plus a British heartthrob sensation named The Potato Bug invariably adds up to an exciting drag race. This was the third film in the Frankie & Annette Beach series, and the backstory is that the part of The Potato Bug was originally meant to be played by none other than The Beatles themselves! Can you imagine what that film might have been like? When the Beatles became too big for supporting roles (going on to star in A Hard Day’s Night (1964)), they dropped out and Frankie Avalon wound up playing both “himself” and The Potato Bug. It’s worth mentioning, however, that several shots employed an double named (according to Imdb) Ronnie Dayton. Today, the effect would have undoubtedly been executed using digital techniques. Finally, it’s as clear as fine Waterford crystal that Avalon’s “Bug” served as a key inspiration for Mike Myers’ International Man of Mystery, Austin Powers.

Where the Boys Are

Where the Boys Are (7/14/13) TCM (1960 **1/2) Directed by Henry Levin, based on the novel by Glendon Swarthout, starring Dolores Hart, George Hamilton, Yvette Mimieux, Jim Hutton, Paula Prentiss, Frank Gorshin and Connie Francis. Four Midwestern co-eds spend spring break in Fort Lauderdale, where one of them puts her theories of human sexuality into practice. This was a fun and relatable film, with a relatively solid cast. Connie Francis (in addition to singing the film’s now-classic theme song) did a surprisingly effective job as the bubbly, man-hungry Angie. It’s always hard to watch movies from fifty years ago without judging the prevailing moral code of the times, and the film was tainted somewhat by its heavy-handed early-1960s “good girls wait until after marriage” message. Interestingly, the film seemed to want to have it both ways, showing Dolores Hart’s character as having progressive views, yet the film still offered up a cautionary tale that reinforced traditional values. I can’t help but wonder how many parents saw this film and told their daughters: “There’s no way in hell you’re going to Florida for your spring break, young lady!”


Gidget (7/14/13) TCM (1959 **1/2) Directed by Paul Wendkos, based on the novel by Frederick Kohner, starring Sandra Dee, James Darren, Cliff Robertson and Yvonne Craig. When diminutive, less-than-endowed Francie Lawrence is rescued from evil seaweed by a handsome surfer boy named Moondoggie, she decides to become a little surfer girl. I watched this film eight years ago and at the time I gave it a one-star rating and wrote it off as one of the creepiest films I’d ever seen. I’m not sure what’s changed within my soul in the interim, but this time around I was able to watch Gidget through considerably less jaded eyes and appreciate it as a fairly sweet, well-intentioned film. Even my interpretation of Cliff Robertson’s beach bum character’s motives with respect to Gidget’s virginity were completely different this time around. One possible explanation for my change of heart is that I previously watched it in pan-and-scan form and this time I watched it letterboxed, which may have changed some of the nuance. However, the scenes of Gidget learning to surf with her instructor’s faces planted firmly in her cute little tush remained fairly eyebrow-raising.

Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine

Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (7/3/12) TCM (1965 **) Directed by Norman Taurog, starring Vincent Price, Frankie Avalon, Dwayne Hickman, Susan Hart and Jack Mullaney as Igor. Hapless S.I.C. secret agent Craig Gamble (Avalon) teams up with wealthy playboy Todd Armstrong (Hickman) to foil an evil scientist’s plot to get rich via gold-plated love dolls. This film was clearly one of many that inspired Mike Meyers’ Austin Powers series, and his Dr. Evil shared much in common with Vincent Price’s titular (ha ha!) character, including his skills with well-proportioned android construction. While I enjoyed the film’s parade of gold-plated bikinis and a couple of cute cameos, the film had some serious problems in the story department: Its two male leads, Gamble and Armstrong, were too similar, and though we were initially introduced to Frankie Avalon’s character, the movie suffered from a lot of “who’s story is it?”-itis.

Pajama Party

Pajama Party (7/3/12) TCM (1964 **1/2) Directed by Don Weis, starring Tommy Kirk, Annette Funicello, Elsa Lanchester, Buster Keaton, Harvey Lembeck, Jesse White and Susan Hart. A Martian teenager with the unlikely (but awesome) name “Go Go” travels to Earth to pave the way for an alien invasion… but somehow he falls for a groovy chick and winds up dancing the mashed potato at a pajama party instead. God bless Tommy Kirk, who was considerably better here than he he was in a similarly beach-themed film made just a few years later, Catalina Caper (1967). There seems to be some disagreement on the internet as to whether or not Pajama Party fits into the official “Beach Party” series. While Annette played a character by a different name (“Connie” here instead of “Dee Dee,” two other characters from the main series (“Eric Von Zipper” and “Candy”) appear. Still, this movie was better than I expected, with plenty of gratuitous shots of shaking bottoms and early career appearances by Teri Garr (as Teri Hope) and early MTV sensation Toni Basil. Finally, with the Martian-themed premise, is it any wonder I kept thinking of the 1978 Saturday Night Live sketch in which Carrie Fisher played a “Beach Blanket Bimbo” named Princess Leia and sang “I’m a Teenager (from Outer Space)?”

Ride the Wild Surf

Ride the Wild Surf (6/28/12) TCM (1964 **1/2) Directed by Don Taylor, starring Fabian, Shelley Fabares, Peter Brown, Barbara Eden and Tab Hunter. Jody Wallis (Fabian) and two of his California surfing buddies fly to Oahu to ride the giant waves at Waimea Bay. After recently watching Tommy Kirk in Catalina Caper (1967), I was relieved by Ride the Wild Surf‘s relatively high production values. It was obviously intended as a star vehicle for Fabian along the lines of Elvis Presley’s Blue Hawaii (1961). Unfortunately, playing “Elvis” meant Fabian’s character was essentially a dickhead with a chip on his shoulder for most of the picture. Yeah, he had a real “stick” up his ass. (That’s a little surfer jargon joke.) It was hard to believe that Shelley Fabares still wanted to be his girl after the crappy way he treated her. In a modern film, it would probably mean her character was motivated by suppressed memories of sexual abuse as a child. On a considerably lighter note, it was great fun seeing Barbara Eden (who I met last year at an autograph show in Burbank!) in a minor, pre-Jeannie role. Her comic timing and expressive face made her the best thing in the film, and it was obvious why Eden went on to become such a popular and beloved TV star.

Catalina Caper

Catalina Caper (6/12/12) TCM (1967 *1/2) Directed by Lee Sholem, starring Tommy Kirk, Del Moore, Sue Casey, Lyle Waggoner and Little Richard. Don Pringle (Tommy Kirk) spends a carefree SCUBA party weekend on Santa Catalina Island and gets entangled in a shady… well, I guess you’d have to call it a “caper.” This is not a good movie, and it absolutely deserved to be skewered on Mystery Science Theater 3000, though that’s not the version I watched. Tommy Kirk, who I met recently at an autograph show in Burbank, was famously in Old Yeller and later played the lead in Disney’s Shaggy Dog. I hate to say it but he looked at times like he was either sleep-deprived or on meth… or whatever the 1967 equivalent was. Unfortunately, the film wasn’t closed-captioned and the sound was particularly atrocious, so much of the dialogue was hard to hear. But I don’t think I missed too much of the plot. So what did the film have to offer? Besides a surreal fish-out-of-water performance by Little Richard, the entire film was actually shot on location on Catalina Island, so if you’ve ever spent a day there (I have), it was fun to see so many familiar locations.

Barefoot Adventure

Barefoot Adventure (4/20/12) TCM (1960 ***) Written and directed by Bruce Brown, with original music by Bud Shank, featuring surfers Robert August, Del Cannon and others. Whether the beach location was in Southern California, Northern California, Oahu or Maui, Bruce Brown and his 16mm camera were there to capture the hot surfing action. Bruce Brown is best known for his 1966 surfer documentary The Endless Summer, which followed Mike Hynson and Robert August around the globe. But Brown had made several surf-centric films before that, including Barefoot Adventure. The version I saw on TCM included a videotaped introduction by Brown himself, who explained that while he’d found tapes of the terrific jazz soundtrack, the original tapes of the voice-over narration had been lost — if they ever existed, that is. You see, in the early 1960s, Bud Brown exhibited his films himself by renting out Elks lodges and high school auditoriums, then projecting the films as he provided the narration over a P.A. system. Hearing that “backstory” really made me smile. Anyway, for this version, Brown recorded a new narration, doing his best to remember what he’d said decades ago, but also occasionally letting the passage of history color what he said. It was also interesting to see his early technique and experiments with storytelling. His surfing footage was interleaved with goofy comedy footage that was charming in its innocence. I’m embarrassed to say it, but those corny skits of his were awfully similar to some of the film and video I shot back in my early 20s.

Palm Springs Weekend

Palm Springs Weekend (9/1/10) TV-TCM (1963 **1/2) Directed by Norman Taurog, written by Earl Hamner Jr., starring Troy Donahue, Connie Stevens, Stefanie Powers, Robert Conrad and Jerry Van Dyke. During the Easter weekend and the week of spring break, college kids descend upon the sleepy town of Palm Springs for love, sex and bare-knuckled brawling. A couple months back I watched Frankie and Annette’s Beach Blanket Bingo (1965), and this film nominally falls into the same category as that. I appreciated that even though Palm Springs Weekend was a lighthearted teen-exploitation romp, the direction, acting and production values were surprisingly professional.

Beach Blanket Bingo

Beach Blanket Bingo (6/13/10) TV-TCM (1965 ***) Directed by William Asher, starring Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Linda Evans, Don Rickles, Paul Lynde and Buster Keaton. There’s a girl singer, some skydiving, a mermaid and a creepy guy with a secret lair. Also, there’s a lot of other singing and shots of dancing girls’ bottoms. This was the fifth (out of seven) film in the “Beach Party” series, and I can understand why they were so popular. The movie seemed to exist in the same innocent, music-filled world as the Elvis Presley films.