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Bikini Beach (1964)
Topic Started: May 16 2009, 03:13 PM (1,255 Views)
Laughing Gravy
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Frankie, Annette, John Ashley, Deadhead, Candy, Animal, and the rest of those surfer guys 'n' gals (many of whom appear oddly Italian for Southern California) are back at the beach for a third summer of fun; this time they lock horns with Keenan Wynn, who wants to shut the beach down 'cause the racket the kids are making interferes with his old folks home, "Sea-Esta By the Sea". So Keenan teaches his pet chimp Clyde to surf and drag race and paint, but I'm not sure why. Martha Hyer is dating him (him Keenan, not him Chimp) and I'm not sure why of that either. Don Rickles, Little Stevie Wonder, and Boris Karloff are hanging around too, but only one of them actually sings. Oh, yeah, and Harvey Lembeck's immortal motorcycle moron Eric Von Zipper is back with his Ratz & Mice. Did I forget anything? Well, Avalon plays a dual role, including the Potato Bug, a Beatles-wanna be. He is so icky it makes you long for "Beauty School Dropout". Almost. Actually, all the songs in this are lousy, although Donna Loren acquits herself with "Love's a Secret Weapon". TWife thought this was the best of the Beach Party series and Vulnavia thought it the worst, so I'll let ya'll average it out. Keep your ears open and you'll hear director William Asher's wife (Elizabeth Montgomery) reading the newspaper.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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CliffClaven
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Reflections on the beach movies:

-- Two of the funniest things in Bikini Beach: A seniors' tour bus with "Morrie's Mausoleum" as the destination, and an old lady's reference to "Barry's Nut Farm."

-- Annette, especially in Beach Party, looked older and less appealing than she did in later years, as a cute mom selling peanut butter or even as a guest on PeeWee's Playhouse.

-- Oh, and don't miss Annette's cameo in Ski Party. Between stints as the virginal teen queen she plays a cougar!

-- In the first two films at least, they seemed to assume an audience of teens and parents: explicit absence of actual sex (listen to Annette's character in Beach Party), a touch of anti-teen humor for the folks and the inclusion of middle-aged romantic couples.

-- Disney villain Keenan Wynn and what's her face in Bikini Beach? Fruity Bob Cummings and scary Dorothy Malone in Beach Party (and Annette finding Bob . . . arousing)? Mood killers for the most hormonal teens.

-- Muscle Beach Party: Don Rickles screaming "Gouge their heads!" I still try to work that into conversations.

-- Despite nearly zero coherence within each film, there's a fun sort of monster-movie continuity over the whole series, mostly centering around Von Zipper and the finger.

-- How to Stuff a Wild Bikini: For one scene,Von Zipper's gang appears in business suits -- and the two butch-looking girls are surprisingly hot as lady executives.

-- I'm glad to see troopers like Buster Keaton getting a paycheck (Keaton certainly earned his, taking better pratfalls than many of the younger actors). But Earl Wilson, very-old-school Broadway gossip columnist, playing himself as an arbiter of what's cool?
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Chandu
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CliffClaven
May 17 2009, 12:07 PM
Reflections on the beach movies:

-- Fruity Bob Cummings and scary Dorothy Malone in Beach Party (and Annette finding Bob . . . arousing)? Mood killers for the most hormonal teens.
This casting may have been because of the supposed viewer perception of Cummings as a ladies man, due to the role he played in his recent successful TV show, The Bob Cummings Show, 1955 - 1959. He played a bachelor ex pilot, turned photographer and was always surrounded by models who found him irresistable. This was also the show which introduced me to Joi Lansing, who was also featured as one of the models.
Not plane, nor bird, nor even frog. It's just little ol' me...
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CliffClaven
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For me, Cummings usually seemed to be working much too hard at light comedy -- watch him in A Night in the Tropics. I'd heard that Cummings was gay, but whimsy didn't come naturally. The result was fruity overacting. He was much better playing it straight (in both senses) in Saboteur.

Compare to Danny Kaye, who made his own almost-gay persona feel effortless -- even when storming through one of those impossible patter songs. Kaye could be way too cute, but he wasn't fruity.

Maybe it's the same deal as real-life dumb blondes trying to play dumb blondes, with their forced "comic" line readings opposite a leering Groucho Marx or other male comic. It takes special talent to PLAY dumb, or whimsical, or gay -- or even to play a non-actor (compare The Office with a genuine "reality" show).
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Frank Hale
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Respectfully don’t agree with you, Cliff.

Mr. Cumming’s movie career was tepid at best, but he really seemed to hit his stride in the self-deprecating, light comedy role of “The Bob Cummings Show”.

Great parade of bimbos, funny character actors, and double-entendre lines. That Bob wasn’t really the great ladies’ man he cracked himself up to be was the whole point of the series, so it would make sense that the idea was carried into the Beach Party film.

As to being “gay”, Bob went through 5 wives and fathered 7 children. You be the judge.
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CliffClaven
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Not having seen the series, I defer to majority opinion on that. And perhaps he WAS Errol Flynn in real life. Still, in his comedies I always had the sense of a dramatic actor doing his darndest with something outside his very respectable range. Like the infamous television production of Man Who Came to Dinner with Orson Welles, who demonstrated that light comic farce was one of the few forms he couldn't fit to his formidable talents.

Now, let's move on to the more serious matter of why they insisted on making Annette look and sound like a matron. You can't blame it all on Walt Disney's no-navel rule.
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shelbyvinje
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Taking advantage of this thread. I have a copy of every beach party movie ever made except for one. DAYTONA BEACH WEEKEND. Anyone know where I can get a copy? I have searched for years. (I also have ONE WAY WAHINI which could use an upgrade..)
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CliffClaven
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Do you have the Fox Movie Channel? Every so often they run a couple of anti-beach movies -- 60's films about the Big Kahuna-type who turns out to be a Kept Man, social diseases contracted in the sand, etc. Not outright horrific or depressing -- just not-quite-juicy morality tales about irresponsible young people who must Learn to Grow Up, dang it.
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Frank Hale
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At great personal sacrifice, I watched “Beach Party” and “Bikini Beach” this past week. What ghastly films.

I would characterize Annette as prim, rather than matronly. Don’t know how old you are, Cliff, or what your expectations are, but the early 60’s were night and day from the late 60’s. With cross-marketing considerations and the Catholic Legion of Decency still a power, it’s no surprise to me that the heroine had to be a “good” girl and that “old” couples like Cummings / Malone or Wynn / Hyer had to be trotted out. “Blow Up” and the real 60’s were still remarkably far away.

Was that Sam Arkoff who took the pie in the face in “Beach Party”?

Gravy could have fit in perfectly with that “Bikini Beach” skin-head band.
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panzer the great & terrible
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It's hard for me to understand why you did such a selfless thing, Frank. We used to endure these movies because there was a horror flick on the double bill with 'em, and because they were sure to bore our date, nudge nudge, wink wink. Why Gravy loves 'em I'll never figure out -- he just seems to crave horrible things from Los Angeles. C,mon now -- does anybody else deliberately listen to Gary Lewis, Dino, Desi and/or Billy?
Life is just a bowl of cherries, it's too mysterious, don't take it serious...
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CliffClaven
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I have a theory that the beach epics and a lot of drive-in cheapies were literally conceived as imitation movies. That is to say, they were intended for audiences that weren't paying close attention (particularly teens) so they could leave a lot out.

Plots and characters are tossed around and forgotten, and they're always implying that everything was explained or something neat happened while you were grappling with Little Suzie or waiting at the snack bar. These are the films you see on TV and assume were cut to ribbons, then find out that WAS the whole thing. "War Gods of the Deep" is a prime example.

My favorite for sheer nerve is The Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow. After a single outdoor scene there's only talk about racing (the hero accepts a dare from a thug; later he comes back and SAYS he raced him); a haunted house turns up in the last few minutes of the film and they find a guy in a monster suit; the rest looks and sounds like an old sitcom with the laughs removed. No ghost, no dragstrip, not even a hollow -- but if you saw only part of it, you'd sort of assume they were referencing things that happened in the rest of the movie.
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panzer the great & terrible
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I think you're pretty much right, Cliff, but I would add that the people who made 'em didn't know how to make a good movie in the first place. Anybody wanna show me a masterpiece directed by William Asher? The saddest thing about the beach pics is Buster Keaton's involvement. I'm sure he needed the money and all that, but imagine what could have happened if he had a hand in the script and a halfway decent director -- or if somebody at a major studio had noticed he was still conscious and decided to put him in a real movie. Trouble was, once Hollywood decided you were a drunk you were finished, unless you were one of the few willing to put up with John Ford. For whatever reason, Keaton didn't have a friend like that at the end of his career.
Life is just a bowl of cherries, it's too mysterious, don't take it serious...
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Frank Hale
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I think the saddest thing is that all those hot babes are now on social security!
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panzer the great & terrible
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They all live here, run meth labs and hit the bars at night. I bought one of 'em a drink yesterday, I'm pretty sure.
Life is just a bowl of cherries, it's too mysterious, don't take it serious...
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CliffClaven
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It should be noted that Keaton's very last years were bit better. He was still taking any job he could get, but he was getting some recognition, had a good marriage and was able to buy a nice home with the money from "The Buster Keaton Story". Also, there were some classier projects like "Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" and Samuel Beckett's "Film".

I sometimes wonder about stars who fell from the spotlight but didn't actually crash and burn. Snub Pollard, a second-string star in his own comedy shorts, stayed in the business for decades as an unsung bit player. He died while doing an episode of "The Rifleman" -- a day after promising to bring an autographed photo for series star Johnny Crawford, a comedy buff (listen to the commentary on the Weiss-O-Rama DVD set). It was a comedown, but it wasn't "Sunset Boulevard" or Dick Van Dyke in "The Comic".

I'm sure a lot of starlets and child stars simply got on with their lives, inside or outside the industry, about as happily as anyone else -- they can't ALL have ended up as E True Hollywood Stories.
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