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|Index||24 reviews in total|
Despite lots of musclemen in the supporting cast, "Muscle Beach Party" could maybe use some steroids. The first follow-up to "Beach Party" is a bit lackluster and talky, and the pacing drags. Frankie (Frankie Avalon) and Dee Dee (Annette Funicello, no longer 'Dolores') feud over another woman who's out to snare the cocky surfer-boy (when Dee Dee tells Frankie how selfish he is and that all he ever does is 'take', the movie touches on some surprisingly prickly teen emotions). But the witty lines and funny repartee of "Beach Party" have mostly been replaced by wan slapstick and too many characters (and too much of Don Rickles). Candy Johnson does her version of dancing ("Man, she's really got the power!"), "Little" Stevie Wonder sings "Happy Street", and the surfing footage is fun, but Harvey Lembeck's Eric Von Zipper is AWOL (there wasn't room for him, what with Luciana Paluzzi as a millionairess, Buddy Hackett as her manager, and a dozen musclemen lining the beach). Annette is lovely singing forlornly as Frankie paddles out to sea, but she's far too patient with him (in one scene alone, he makes up with her, then drops her, then makes up again!). Not the strongest entry in the series, but with a few colorful compensations. **1/2 from ****
This Beach movie actually tells a story, asking the question - would
Frankie be happier surfing all over the world as the singing protégé of
a rich woman who wasn't Dee-Dee? But don't worry - it's conveyed in
short snatches of hipster-y dialog ("Solid-gold surf boards don't float
too well!") between songs, hijinx, and some well-edited surfing
Enjoy the "leisurely" pace - footage of the kids' cars arriving at the beach, establishing shots of the beach at night, even the kids settling in for a night of sleeping and no hanky-panky... (Frankie doesn't believe it, either.) Annette gets another good slow song - which, unfortunately, Frankie also decides to sing later on. Frankie's fast song is better,and Stevie Wonder sings a joyful "Happy Street". (And then sings it again in the closing credits.) I just wish Dick Dale had done a guitar solo instead of singing..
Buddy Hackett is a lot of fun, but also gets a poignant point-making monologue at the end. Peter Lorre does one of the better end-of-the-movie cameos as "the Boss," and there's the usual turns by Don Rickles and Morey Amsterdam. For the ladies, there's a line of genuine California beach muscle-men, including future "Grizzly Adams" star Dan Haggerty. (He jiggles his chest muscles and whistles!)
And I think Annette is actually wearing a two-piece!
Perhaps unappreciated in its time, William Asher's 1964 saga about the tribulations of living jobless and care-free on California's sunny coast, surfing whenever "Surf's up," and dancing for no apparent reason at all (whether it be on the beach or in some restaurant), really captures teen angst during the sixties. Frankie Avalon shines as "Frankie," the glossy-haired, young, ambitious, and maybe a little naive, leader of the beach gang. His counterpart, "Dee Dee," played by Annette Funicello, gave an Oscar-caliber performance. Through a heartbreaking scene that opens with Frankie surfing at night, Dee Dee loses Frankie to an older, richer woman. During the entire film, when I wasn't laughing hysterically at the shear absurdity or chuckling over the image of a producer actually signing on to such golden garbage, I was cheering for Annette. Why Frankie ever decided to ditch his one true love is a mystery. Also noteworthy is Don Rickles' performance as a man-breeder, Buddy Hackett's role as the sensible accountant, and an introductory appearance by "Little" Stevie Wonder. This film comes highly recommended.
A tidal wave of a surprise here: Director William Asher, on hiatus from the television show "Bewitched," delivers a tightly packed surf romp. Very interesting twist: "Little" Stevie Wonder appears and sings two songs, one with surf-guitar guru, Dick Dale--and his Dell Tones. Cowabonga. And that's not all. Frankie Avalon is the hero and he smokes. And it's pot! (Watch closely for this.) Groovy. He also sings and swings with a bevy of beauties in Morey Amsterdam's coffee house. But the biggest surprise for me was the performance by Buddy Hackett. Controlled. Sympathetic. How many times have you left the living room screaming after viewing Hackett, sometimes wearing a god awful-looking Neru jacket and maybe appearing on "Hollywood Squares" or the "Tonight Show, talking some totally incomprehensible nonsense that he thinks is funny? Plenty. But here he plays his role straight and it pays off. And in spades, too. Wannabe Bond Girl Lucianna Paluzzi, always underrated in my opinion, is superb as the spoiled "Contessa." She nails the tiresome, hoary part with an effusive zest for life. Down on the beach, the enemy is massing for battle. The muscle men have a cranky leader in Don Rickles. He is clever and devious, but the strong men fall squarely into the "knucklehead" category. Strangely, one fellow resembles Kevin James from "King of Queens" on the boob tube. Donna Loren, always a joy and no relation to Sophia, wails the title tune. She has a soulful sound and a much better "clause" in her contract than superstar Annette Funichello. How else could you explain the fact that Loren doesn't have to sport a swimsuit? Funichello has to model a sexy, white mesh-bikini. So enjoy the sun and music. And away we go all you surfers and beach bunnies. Surf's up!
Despite it's title, "Muscle Beach Party" is a pretty weak entry in Beach Party series. This time around, Frankie, Annette and the gang battle with a group of Muscle men led by their trainer, Don Rickles. All the while, an Italian Countess is trying to steal Frankie from Annette. Unlike the others in the series, "Muscle Beach Party" seems to have an overall negative tone. Every character seems angry at somebody. Most of the film's good moments belong to Buddy Hackett. Harvey Lembeck as Eric Von Zipper isn't around this time and he is missed.
Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello witness the invasion of their
beach - by a troupe of "Muscle Men" being trained by Don Rickles (as
Jack Fanny). Buddy Hackett (as S. Z. Matts) wants "Muscle Man" Peter
Lupus (using the name Rock Stevens) for his wealthy client Luciana
Paluzzi (as Judy), but she gets a hankerin' for Frankie...
The soundtrack songs are a highlight, appropriately sounding like Brian Wilson's Beach Boys; moreover, Frankie and Annette are joined by Dick Dale and Stevie Wonder. Morey Amsterdam should have been retained as a series regular. The Eric Von Zipper motorcycle gang is missing. The regular players are still fresh, but the elements are not up to par, relatively speaking. It's a fair "Beach Party" film; obviously, it's not as good as the first.
*** Muscle Beach Party (3/25/64) William Asher ~ Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Don Rickles
No one sits down (or should sit down) to a Beach Party film expecting
anything high-brow or even challenging. These are the epitome of fluff,
corniness and escapism. Title credits play out over a kooky, mildly
amusing drawing of various caricatures soaking up the sun and sand then
the stars of the film (Avalon and Funicello) and their cronies are
shown en route to the beach. Immediately, it's clear how times have
changed as the teens are crammed into old-time convertibles with more
than a few of the kids hanging onto the sides or backs of the vehicles
with nary a seatbelt in sight! Without even stopping off to the
bathroom to brush their teeth, the kids set up their patchwork of
sleeping bags on the floor of the hacienda (with a couple of hanging
blankets separating the girls from the boys!) As the gaggle of kids
begins to surf and sun themselves into heaven, a parade of beefy, tan,
oily bodybuilders comes out to strut their stuff. When the coach
(Rickles) steps on one of the beach bums' towels, a rivalry is kicked
off with one of the teens (Ashley) unwillingly providing the
demarcation line of the beach with his behind! From a fancy yacht
anchored offshore, heiress Paluzzi sets her sights on the most prime
slab of body-building beef (Lupus) and enlists her helper (Hackett) to
secure him for her. Before she can even recover from an evening in the
considerable arms of Lupus, however, she's already moved on to scrawny,
but cute Avalon, much to Funicello's dismay. From here, things get
increasingly complicated (and silly) as the film builds to an all-out
fracas at Amsterdam's night club. Naturally, it all works out in the
end with everyone winding up happy. Interspersed with the shenanigans
are several musical numbers, some better than others. Various songs
come out of people's mouths while their sitting on the wide open beach,
yet they sound like they were recorded in the bottom of a steel barrel.
Avalon is as tan and boyishly handsome as ever, even if his character
can sometimes be a real lout. Funicello has a few amusingly indignant
moments as she lays into Paluzzi for stealing her man. Oh, and her hair
moves once or twice during the course of the film, too. Paluzzi (at
about the 12 minute mark on her 15 minutes of fame) gets to wear a few
fun 60's get-ups and tries to inject a little feeling into her
man-eating role. Fans of Rickles and Hackett may derive some pleasure
out of seeing them in action. Rickles seems to get more opportunities
to mug here than Hackett. There's a lot of eye candy for both men and
women. Lupus and his muscular friends are often seen in TIGHT satin
shorts and Ashley is always cute. Funicello wears a mesh two piece that
shows why IL' Walt Disney was nervous to let her be seen in a bikini.
No one anywhere, ever, danced like Johnson. She goes bananas in a
couple of fringed outfits. The camera lingers occasionally on some
healthy, nubile young bodies in motion. These films can provide some
real surprises now that a little time has passed. For one thing,
everyone assumes that these flicks are squeaky clean, and they are, but
Avalon is shown smoking (Smoking!) Also, the lily white cast really
tears into Paluzzi with all sorts of slurs towards her Italian
background, continuously referring to pasta and pizza where she's
Then there's the ungodly product placement, which many people feel is a more modern hazard of the cinema. Every other frame has someone drinking or standing next to Dr. Pepper! As for the music, Wonder does an admirable job in his first film appearance, but everything that comes out of Dale's mouth is worthless. He can't sing and has no charisma at all. Future celebs Nader and Haggarty can be glimpsed in the beach and bodybuilder scenes, respectively. Lorre had intended to appear in the next Beach Party sequel but died before he could do so.
Maybe it's for the obvious reason - no Eric Von Zipper and his Rats and Mice, with the strange substitution of bodybuilders as the bad guys - but I think of this one as a slight step down from the others. (At least it had Alberta Nelson, in a different part.) Until reading the listing here, I never recognized Dan Haggerty, without the long hair and beard. I did recognize the bodybuilder named Larry Scott, thanks to countless comic book ads. This movie had Luciana Paluzzi as the heiress who collects men - the only small problem for me is that, I've always typecast that actress as a "femme fatale" of the physically dangerous kind (instead of that kind), because of the Bond movie Thunderball. One strange thing is that the Delores character hurls some mild anti-Italian remarks at that character - I know I'm talking about "Delores", not "Annette", but it's still strange to hear those lines from someone named Funicello. And of course this one goes for just a little seriousness, unlike the others - "Frankie" as a kept man! Maybe the best one-time character was Buddy Hackett's. And I couldn't say enough about Don Rickles, in any role.
There's a lot of reasons this is my favorite beach party film: Don Rickles, John Ashley, Buddy Hackett, Dick Dale, Morey Amsterdam -- all the best elements are here. Add into that a bizarre cameo by horror legend Peter Lorre, who plays an aryan superman (???), and you have quite a mix! Good, clean fun, suitable for anyone, and suitably strange for a modern party. I'm a big sucker for Don Rickles' comedy, so maybe that's why I like this one so much, but it's even zanier than "Beach Party", so only "Beach Blanket Bingo" comes close for me in this series.
Just began watching as a goof, was expecting to lose interest. But ended up being well entertained by the goofy surfer tomfoolery, Italian muscle-man star. the Contessa was well played. Anette was disappointing but Frankie was in good form. The appearance of Stevie wonder singing "clap your hands" sealed the deal. Don Rickles is always a cool presence. And there was even a surprise appearance of Peter Lorre at the end. Of course I ended up fast forwarding through several boring musical numbers but having the power to ignore the boring parts gave the rest of the movie high praise from me for being pretty entertaining. Peace
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