"Beach Party" was the first of of a series of seven related AIP beach party films. The others are Muscle Beach Party, Bikini Beach, Pajama Party, Beach Blanket Bingo, How to Stuff a Wild Bikini and The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini.
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Millionaire Harvey Huntington Honeywagon III tries to prove to his colleague Vivian Clements that his chimp, Clyde, is more intelligent than American teenagers. Meanwhile Dee Dee is torn between Frankie and British recording star, the Potato Bug. Eric Von Zipper shows up to aid Harvey's anti-teen campaign. Big Drag shows up with others in a gag bit part. Written by
It's a colorful southern California summer of 1964.
Frankie Avalon (as Frankie) hears nature calling him to Annette Funicello (as Dee Dee); but, she hears only wedding bells. In short order, the "Beach Party" gang goes ga-ga over popular English superstar Frankie Avalon (in a dual role, as "The Potato Bug"), arriving to fill out a romantic triangle for Mr. Avalon and Ms. Funicello. Newspaperman Keenan Wynn (as Harvey Huntington Honeywagon III) is also on hand; accompanied by his ape "Clyde" (Janos Prohaska); Mr. Wynn sets out to prove the "sexually preoccupied" teenagers are akin to monkeys. Adult beauty Martha Hyer (as Vivian Clements) thinks Avalon and company are just having a good time. Don Rickles (as Big Drag) and Harvey Lembeck (as Eric Von Zipper) help add drag racing and motorcycle fun.
Returning more to the initial entry's "Beach Party" formula makes "Bikini Beach" an improvement over the series' recent dip into "Muscle Beach Party". The script is relatively snappy, and amusing. "Clyde" and "Frieda" have a great scene together; for example, when "Clyde" plays with Rickles' bird, in the dragster's beer joint (strictly for kids, Rickles explains, as he serves only beer and soda). Avalon's dual role is nicely played; and it is a timely, welcome nod to the mid-sixties musical "British invasion". Funicello, with a decent amount of navel displayed, is always charming; however, the added hair was unnecessary. The regular "teenagers" are attractive, and Ms. Hyer performs exceptionally well.
Director William Asher uses bewitching wife Elizabeth Montgomery well; she reads the beginning of a newspaper article, and voices the French "Lady Bug". Despite the presence of Stevie Wonder, the Pyramids, and the Exciters; performing songs by the usual writers, the soundtrack is derivative, and unmemorable. Look for Gary Usher, Roger Christian, and Mike Nader among the "Beach Boys". Mr. Nader once told me he was in these movies, and now I see him.
****** Bikini Beach (7/22/64) William Asher ~ Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Martha Hyer, Don Rickles
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