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Beach Party Movies
June 10, 2007

Over the weekend, I decided to rewatch all the Beach Party movies, the American International teen film series that started in 1963 starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. Here’s the list, with IMDB links.

Beach Party/Bikini Beach cover
Beach Party/Bikini Beach
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Beach Party
Muscle Beach Party
Bikini Beach
Pajama Party
Ski Party
Beach Blanket Bingo
How to Stuff a Wild Bikini

If you’ve never seen them, go read about them and check out the cast lists. There’s something weirdly eye-catching about all of them. For instance, as the first one opens, Frankie and Annette are pulling up to a beach house, just the two of them. They’re talking about how being alone together is just like being married, only it’s really code for sex. They’ve gone away together to do it! Only Annette’s gotten cold feet, so she’s invited about 20 of their friends to crash with them. And then she wonders why Frankie takes up with the local hot foreign blonde.

Muscle Beach Party/Ski Party cover
Muscle Beach Party/Ski Party
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The second and third have Don Rickles as a beach neighbor, first running a gym and then a bar. (It’s for the kids, he says. We don’t have cigarette machines or serve alcohol, only beer and soft drinks. Different world back then.) The third also has Frankie playing a dual role as the Potato Bug, a British pop star whom all the girls go crazy over. One IMDB reviewer calls it the best of the group, and I think they’re right.

After that, the series is pretty clearly looking for new inspiration. Ski Party is simply terrible (featuring a Bosom Buddies-like drag plot for Frankie and Dwayne Hickman), and Pajama Party is a misnomer, since they’re still in bikinis by the pool until the last third of the film. Frankie’s not even in that one (although he lends a vocal cameo), replaced by Tommy Kirk as a Martian sent to find out more about Earthlings. It also has Buster Keaton, of all people, as an American Indian stereotype accompanied by a Swedish dumpling who wears little and says nothing but “Yah, yah”.

Pajama Party cover
Pajama Party
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Elsa Lanchester and Dorothy Lamour also guest-star, and the latter does a oddly catchy musical number about dance styles called “In My Day, We Never Did It That Way”. She’s still got the moves, and I think two of the backup dancers are Toni Basil and Teri Garr!

If you watch them, be generous. Realize that the second through fourth all came out in one year, 1964, which meant they were quickie productions. The songs are frothy fun, though, and the movies provide a wild glimpse into what people thought teen life used to be like. You’ll also to get to see a very young “Little Stevie Wonder” and a creepy-looking Dick Dale lip-synching in movies two and three.

But the strangest number of all is the short little ditty from Pajama Party in which Annette sings about how stuffed animals are better than boys. “A stuffed animal never talks back.” “A stuffed animal is more than a toy.” “A stuffed animal never says no.” …. ummm… how big is her stuffed lion?

It seems that many of these movies are being re-released next month in the Frankie & Annette MGM Movie Legends Collection. Sadly, given the title, they had to leave out Pajama Party (now out of print), but you do get two racing films in its place, and it’s a great value.

20 Responses  
Rob S. writes:  

Oh, that is one creepy lion.

“Just as I suspected. Connie… you’re in love with George!”

All I could think was: Of the Jungle?

 
John writes:  

Yeah, my wife and I love these movies too. What surprised us, though, were how fun they were despite the obvious negatives one could say about them and, also, how subversive they were, as well. For instance, there is a subtext through several of them that pretty much accuses rock and roll of the time of being an adult swindle that crass businessment are trying to rook the teens with and bluntly state that the teens will make up their own minds. I always thought that attitude was pretty ginchy.

These movies also turned me onto Annette’s fun music – there’s an excellent box set in existence. She’s not the greatest singer, lord knows, but she rocks pretty well – and her ska song with Fishbone in the “Back to the Beach” movie is totally excellent.

Plus, they’re just so bizarre, they come from their own place. They are not derivative of anything . . .

Good call!

 
Johanna writes:  

Rob: Bwa ha ha! George is the Martian, by the way.

John: Great points! I’m watching Beach Blanket Bingo now, and that’s the one where the manufactured singer (Sugar Kane, played by a very young Linda Evans, and managed by a slimy Paul Lynde) gets the worse of it. In between the skydiving and partner-swapping.

Musically, I recommend Summer Beach Party as a great sampler CD containing tracks from all the films. Except the BBB theme, for some reason. Oh, and “Stuffed Animal”, which is on The Best of Annette.

 
Tim O'Neil writes:  

You, Madam, are a masochist.

 
John writes:  

Beach Blanket Bingo has the GREAT closing credits with Buster Keaton and some bikini girls, right? My favorite is the one for Muscle Beach Party, which has a bongo-beating Little Stevie Wonder performing with Candy Johnson dancing around him. Now that one is so cool!

Have you ever seen The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini? It was the very last of these films – it’s totally weird, like three movies combined into one. Eric Von Zipper is in it, though!

 
The Last Visible Blog » Blog Archive » Annette Funicello knows the score writes:  

[...] Beach Movies are fabulous and brilliant. What made me finally come out and say that on this blog is this lovely entry from Johanna at Comics Worth Reading extolling their [...]

 
Craig Boldman writes:  

I’m crazy about those beach movies. “Beach Blanket Bingo’s” my favorite of the bunch. Could never figure out why Jody McCrea’s character kept changing names from movie to movie — sometimes called Goo Goo, sometimes Bonehead, and sometimes Deadhead. And then Frankie appropriated his name for the 1965 AIP Army comedy, “Sgt. Deadhead.”
Eric Von Zipper also makes a cameo in one of the Vincent Price “Dr. Goldfoot” movies.
I found it cute that Elizabeth Montgomery plays a witch, complete with nose twitch, in “How To Stuff A Wild Bikini.” Montgomery’s husband, William Asher, directed the beach movies as well as the Bewitched TV series. Gumby’s Art Clokey did the animated titles for “How To Stuff a Wild Bikini,” incidentally.
I thought “Back To The Beach” did a nice job of revisiting the concept.

 
Johanna writes:  

I’ve still got Wild Bikini to watch, and I don’t have Invisible Bikini, although I think I’ve seen it. I don’t remember much about it, though. I think I need to hunt down Back to the Beach… all I remember from that one is Pee-Wee Herman.

 
James Schee writes:  

Oh yeah, I love these movies. My mom HATED movies when I was growing up, she was always a busy person so never had the time to sit and watch an entire movie. (she preferred sitcoms or gameshows, 30 minutes tops) Yet she sat and watched these with us while we were growing up.

Didn’t one of them have a VERY young Stevie Wonder as a singer in it?

 
My Fourth of July: Head » Comics Worth Reading writes:  

[...] advising Davy to work more on his music? We’ve also coined a new rule, based on this film and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini: the best 60s movies have both Toni Basil and Teri Garr in [...]

 
This Week on TCM » Comics Worth Reading writes:  

[...] Muscle Beach Party (Sunday, 7/15, 4 PM ET) — What a great choice for a summer Sunday, especially followed up by Elvis Presley’s Clambake. The beach was never like this — pretty people and pop songs — but it should have been. [...]

 
This Week on TCM » Comics Worth Reading writes:  

[...] Day is Thursday, August 30. It starts with his mid-60s work, basically cameos, including in some beach movies. Then come the late 20s, not-very-good films. So wait until 8 PM, when the classics start. The Art [...]

 
This Week on TCM » Comics Worth Reading writes:  

[...] Party (Sunday, 1/27, 2:30 PM ET, 1964) — With Ski Party, the rarest of the beach party movies. One could even quibble whether it was properly part of that series, but it’s got the same [...]

 
Good Superhero Comics: Week of March 5 » Comics Worth Reading writes:  

[...] Robin story has art by David Bullock and Michael Cho and a version of the character who sounds like Eric Von Zipper, all faux tough guy slang. J. Bone draws the Wonder Woman/Black Canary teamup, a Playboy club [...]

 
Archie Digests for October 2008 » Comics Worth Reading writes:  

[...] did get a hoot out of Jughead finishing an earlier story with the line, “In the words of Eric von Zipper, why me? why me alla [...]

 
Hold On! A Herman’s Hermits Movie » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[...] sounds like a train wreck of a movie, if you’re a fan of teen movies of the era (especially the Beach Party films, which this somewhat resembles), you need to see it. The music and performances are quite fun (and [...]

 
Team Unicorn Parodies 60s Summer Flicks With Alien Beach Crashers » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[...] bloodier than the beach party movies I remember, but it’s got a certain wacky charm — and some nifty tunes. The geek-girl [...]

 
Tall Story: Jane Fonda’s Debut » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[...] Are, also featuring 60s college girls, or for a more seasonal twist, pair it up with one of the beach party movies for an example of what the students did in the fall. You can see some images from the film online. [...]

 
This Week on TCM: It’s Spring Break! » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[...] brings the classic beach party lineup, with the AIP Beach Party (1963), Muscle Beach Party (1964), Bikini Beach (1964), Beach Blanket [...]

 
Disney Reinvents the Beach Movie » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[…] watch it. I’m a long-time fan of the kitschy beach party movies, a short-lived genre fad of the mid-1960s (before things got really weird). Why not try to […]

 

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