Hi there, and welcome back to another traditional review, and the oldest film I’ve reviewed thus far, Beach Party, from 1963. I’d actually never heard of this film until Ruth over at Silver Screenings (you can read that review here) roped me into doing it. Then again, I don’t wish to sound as though I’ve been forced to do anything, and I’m sure this movie will be waves of fun. Get it? Waves? Because, like, beaches and stuff?
Okay, so let’s begin. Beach Party is a 1963 musical/comedy film directed by William Asher (director of such films as Beach Blanket Bingo and Johnny Cool) and starring Annette Funicello, Frankie Avalon, and Bob Cummings.
As the film begins, we see some footage of a beach with the colorful credits of our stars overlaid to the beat of some pretty sick drums. I truly appreciate the colorfulness of the title. A lesser movie would’ve stuck with one color, this movie has 4.
We start the first musical number, and if I love one thing, it’s 60’s musical numbers. Even if the back projection is horrendous. Also, I’d drive that car.
We see that our two leads, Dee Dee and Frankie, are off on summer vacation in a beach cabin. And by “beach cabin,” I mean that they’re sometimes in a place that vaguely resembles California and sometimes in front of a terrible projection screen.
Frankie isn’t happy that the cabin is full of like 30 other people, but how could we have the titular “beach party” with only two people? Huh, Frankie? Yeah, I thought so.
Frankie and pals go surfing with some of the most unbelievably bad back projection outside of Dr. No. I mean, it’s absolutely hideous whenever Frankie is shown surfing and they can’t just film extras surfing.
We see that a creepy man, Professor Sutwell (Bob Cummings), is spying on this “beach party” from afar, which is pretty creepy. Even worse, he spends the whole time laughing and acting like a “Peeping Tom,” defending it by saying that he is writing a book on the interactions of young adults as compared to primitive tribes.
He begins to listen in on a conversation between Dee Dee and her friend that exemplifies the sexist attitude of the 60’s. “I want him to see me as more than just a girl.” “As something else?” “Yes, a wife!”
Wow. 60’s era sexism, ladies and gentlemen. Let’s all give a big round of applause to that little exchange.
There’s another music number, this time with the Professor watching and making strange creepy comments. I can just imagine how much fun this movie was to make, just filming a bunch of people dancing and having fun.
But Frankie’s still not having fun. You know, because he thought he’d be alone with Dee Dee. To get back, he’s going to hit on someone else. This isn’t going to turn out well.
We cut to a club where Cappy (Morey Amsterdam) reads of a poem that seems to be improvised, or at least poorly scripted, and then we have another 60’s musical number, this one performed by the Del-Tones. Unfortunately, these musical numbers are getting repetitive. Almost boring. But not quite. Not yet.
Most of the movie so far seems to be so much pointless fluff. Okay, now the plot returns as Frankie tries to seduce the waitress. Then, a most wonderful character, and the villain of the piece appears, Harvey Lembeck’s Eric Von Zipper, who refers to people as “you stupid.”
He’s there to cause trouble, because, as we all know, bikers are evil. Suddenly, the Professor shows up to do some close-up observation. We start off with something unique as a musical number starts off with just drumbeats, but then we cut into more of the same thing. Look, I like 60’s musical numbers, but these are too similar, too homogeneous for my taste. I probably won’t remember more than one of these songs.
It seems that Frankie’s plan is working, as Dee Dee is unhappy, but Eric Von Zipper takes an interest in her and starts to, as the Professor puts it, “molest” her. Yeah, that’s not acceptable, Eric. Eric then punches the Professor, which leads into the biggest mess of sound effects as he breaks the Professor’s microphone. The Professor then puts Eric into “time suspension,” leading into the image of him shown above. The Professor escorts Dee Dee home. There seems to be a hint of a (at the very least one-sided) romance between the two. Really creepy. I’m legitimately freaked out here. And man, is he dense. Of course, Frankie saw the whole thing, but he fails to do anything about it.
For some reason, everyone in this world misinterprets the word “contact.” Okay, then. And I’m still legitimately creeped out by the strange suggested romance between Professor Sutwell and Dee Dee.
Frankie continues to fail at life as he continues his failed tactic of romancing the girl from the club to garner Dee Dee’s attention. We see that the Professor is wearing a quite ridiculous get-up. Frankie’s friends come over and start to mock him, trying to get him to surf. He crunches some numbers in the sand in order to succeed. He still fails, though, many times, and I’m glad that he does and that this movie doesn’t take the all-too-often taken route of “Because you can crunch the numbers, you can actually succeed in sports”, until it does, because he forgot to carry the two. Wow. The Professor goes to visit Cappy in his club to ask him about his science stuff. He tells him that the kids are crazy and follow Big Daddy, some sleeping weirdo with a hat covering his face. Suddenly, Frankie shows up and starts yelling at the Professor that Dee Dee is his girl.
We cut to a beach party where Frankie confronts Dee Dee. He tells her he loves her and they kiss. She forgot about the Professor pretty quick. The girl from the club (I don’t care enough to look up the name) shows up and she screws everything up, making me wonder how Frankie thought this could possibly work out well for him. We start a slower, different musical number that is mildly inventive, starting off with the reflection singing, but that section ends pretty quickly. This song is different, sure, but it’s also exceptionally slow, boring, and reliant upon me caring about the characters and their feelings and interactions and the drama of the piece, which I honestly don’t. Also, Dee Dee’s thoughts are all over the place, sometimes liking the Professor and sometimes Frankie.
We cut to the professor, who is wearing a ridiculous hat.
He heads off to the party, and asks his assistant to use his long range microphone to record it. We cut to the party, and Frankie’s still unhappy. Ditch the other girl then, if you’re so unhappy. Some of the gang set the Professor’s hat on fire. Good, I grew tired of looking at it. There’s a really strange chant that happens here before the crowd disperses to, well, I’m sure you can guess. This leaves Dee Dee and the Professor alone by the fire. Dee Dee (by the way, I’m well aware of the fact that her name is Delores by now in the movie, it’s just quicker and easier to type Dee Dee) gets him to shave his beard with a 60’s electric razor.
We see the Professor’s assistant spying on a bunch of teenagers, well, you know, and I have to say, this is exceedingly weird and uncomfortable, no matter what 60’s music you overlay.
We see that the Professor has shaved his beard and looks way, way different. Also, the romance is so, so, so uncomfortable and strange. But luckily, the Professor is insistent on not being distracted from is work, until he’s not. He promises to take Dee Dee on an airplane ride the next morning. Before that, though, we see that the Professor’s assistant, Mary Ann, has quit because of his ludicrous actions. We then see Eric Von Zipper (now unfrozen) and gang looking for the Professor and finding the girl from the club. His gang, the Rats, makes a plan to take down the Professor, by having two of them hold his fingers, and then beating him up. Unfortunately they’re not quite sure what house he’s in, so he guesses incorrectly and ends up in the house where Dee Dee is. The Professor shows up and accidentally takes out Eric with a surfboard. It’s comedic, really, how inept this guy (Eric) is.
We see the Professor and Dee Dee flying the next day, and he teases her that he was in the Spanish-American War, when it was actually World War II. Which means he’s about 20 years older than her, since he’s, at the youngest 38, and she’s, at the oldest, 18-20. This is weird.Dee Dee feels sick and literally turns green. And I mean the actual definition of “literally,” not the stupid definition.
Mary Ann criticizes the Professor for going native and he uses her to get rid of Dee Dee’s affection for her. This works out well for him, and it turns out that he actually likes Mary Ann. Happy ending for him, it seems.
Dee Dee is still unhappy, though. Frankie goes off to give the Professor what-for. They find his research notes and are displeased with this discovery. The Professor and Mary Ann head off to Cappy and try to hide from the crazy kids. But it seems that there’s no refuge from their wrath. And suddenly, Eric Von Zipper shows up again. Whoop-dee-do. Because he’s totally going to accomplish something after failing to do so so many times. Right. The beach kids start doing ring-around-the-rosey to protect the Professor from Eric and the Rats. They start fighting…well, they start vaguely struggling in what could generously be considered a poorly choreographed bar fight. All of a sudden, there’s pie throwing involved, and a tour group shows up. Frankie and Dee Dee reconcile, and it seems that all conflict has been resolved, except for Eric, who surrenders. He asks to learn the time suspension thing, but accidentally does it to himself. Big Daddy wakes up, and it’s Vincent Price!
He tells them the word, which is remarkably not bird, but “The pit. Bring me my pendulum, kiddies. I feel like swingin’.” That was a weird couple sentences to type. All conflict is resolved and it seems that all that’s left to do is wrap it up, which the movie does. The Professor, it seems, is sticking with Mary Ann, and Eric Von Zipper is still horrifically incompetent and can’t get his bike to start. We get a good old fashioned “The End” title card. Well, “The End, Almost.”We end with clips in the middle of the credits that we already saw earlier in the film, making me wonder why they’re included. Sure, you can show a movie clip for each member of the cast, but why would you? Okay. That’s it for the movie.
And what a movie! Well, maybe not what. A movie, at the very least. What do I think of it? Well, it’s not terrible…but it’s not terribly memorable, either. I don’t think I’d ever watch it again, but I don’t hate it, either. It’s just not really to my taste. A thoroughly blandish, average-ish movie, which is why it earns a C.
And so ends that. It was…interesting, was it not? This Friday, we’ll see the 3rd installment in the “My 100 Favorite Films” series, and then, on Sunday instead of Monday will be my contribution to the Classic Movie History Project Blogathon (which you can read about here or here), as I take a look at Batman: The Movie (1966) and explain to you young grasshoppers why Adam West is a Batman for the ages.