Beach Blanket Bingo (1965)
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Annette looks great, Frankie even seems to have a tan and the late, great, John Ashley adds to the fun.
This isn't Shakespeare, but the script is clever, and this probably has the best songs in the series, with the great Les Baxter actually having a hand in the songs and their arrangements in addition to his usual scoring duties.
By all means catch this one if you like the series, and if you aren't familiar with it, I would recommend starting here. You won't be bored!
Plotwise, we still get Frankie (Avalon) and Annette (Funicello) bickering but, rather than because one of them is being 'preyed' upon by an interloper, both of them are in this case (and, coming via members of a skydiving troupe who're supposed to instruct the "Beach" gang in just that type of sport, creates a few welcome sparks of high-flying tension). As always, the manager of the exciting but potentially dangerous 'entertainment' is played by Don Rickles whose character name, or moniker, has gone from Jack Fanny in MUSCLE BEACH PARTY to "Big Drag" in BIKINI BEACH (both 1964) to "Big Drop" in this one! Annette's fling, then, is John Ashley (usually seen as a surfer!) while Frankie's is spunky Deborah Walley (whom I recently watched in the Elvis Presley vehicle SPINOUT ) since Ashley and Walley were married to one another at the time, I guess this is why they made the former a rival to Frankie instead of a pal for this particular entry!
Another important change in the nonsensically-titled BEACH BLANKET BINGO (by the way, exuberant dancing blonde Candy Johnson easily the most resistible element in the two earlier films from the series that I watched, is nowhere to be seen in this one!) concerns the character played by Jody McCrea: while his nickname has unaccountably gone from "Deadhead" to "Bonehead", he's now given two separate romances (which means that his former grating comic relief persona has been considerably diluted). The first involves singing starlet Linda Evans (miles removed from her signature role in the 1980s TV series DYNASTY!), ostensibly engaged in a skydiving stunt to promote her current record but actually doubled by Walley, and the other with real mermaid Marta Kristen, who's really the one that saved McCrea from drowning but the feat is once again attributed to the naïve but spoilt Evans by her conniving and sardonic manager Paul Lynde! While we do get an appearance from another screen giant here comic genius Buster Keaton, then going through a much-deserved renaissance this is rightly credited at the very start instead of relegated to the end credits, since it's a relatively bigger role than either of Peter Lorre's or Boris Karloff's cameos (one in each of the previous "Beach Party" films I'd checked out). Even so, his character could have been better integrated into the plot since, playing Rickles' girl-chasing assistant, he's not given anything particularly inspired to do: it's fitting, for instance, that Keaton be involved in the speeded-up chase towards the end (by now a typical component of the series intended to mimic the style of Silent comedies) but the same can't be said of his cavorting with a trio of anonymous-looking girls during the final credit roll!
Two welcome presences (actually both returns from previous entries in the series, though allowed greater stature than before) are those of Harvey Lembeck as Eric von Zipper self-pitying leader of the motorcycle gang "The Rat Pack"(!), who idolizes Evans to the point of kidnapping her and Timothy Carey as the nasty "South Dakota Slim" (though, regrettably, without his werewolf companion from BIKINI BEACH: it's strange how this actor brings such intensity to his portrayals that he seems to be permanently on acid or something and this goes for mainstream fare as well, such as CRIME-WAVE , which I watched just a few days prior to this one). By the way, both these actors are involved in the film's two biggest belly-laughs: engaged in a billiards game at a pool-hall already featured in BIKINI BEACH, its walls are adorned by portraits of notorious dictators! and, with Lembeck taking forever to make his next move, Carey acidly quips that he's shaved twice since von Zipper's last shot!; the latter, then, enters a trendy nightclub by smashing through the front door on his motorcycle (as is Lembeck's fashion) only to land, in this particular case, head first in an aquarium! Besides, the element of surrealism which surprisingly entered the series with BIKINI BEACH is also present here in the form of the fanciful mermaid subplot as well as von Zipper's ghastly yet amusing fate during the climax at a sawmill (which, again, evokes the cliff-hanging serials from the Silent era).
Even though the plot is nitwit (intentionally, after all), the cast is wonderfully silly. And what a cast it is: Frankie and Annette establish that this is a genuine teen-beach romp, Harvey Lembeck is a riot as the Marlon Brando wannabe who worships Marlo Branden, Don Rickles and Paul Lynde provide two different forms of wicked insult humor, Buster Keaton gives us his unique dead-pan slapstick, and we even have a pretty little wet mermaid for Bonehead (definitely Freudian).
Musical numbers, faked surfing and parachuting shots, sand, salty air -- it's a true treasure of a seemingly "innocent" time gone by even though the film was made after America lost its innocence and was getting wrapped up in what would become the Viet Nam disaster. But forget all that. Take a trip into the never-never land of the beach and get yourself a good tan, moondoggie!
The beginning of the movie starts straight away.
The plot kicks in right from the start, making the movie exciting from the off.
As the film starts to get towards the middle part, the plot really begins to thicken.
Between the start and middle of the film is arguably the best bit.
As the title suggest it's definitely Beach Blanket Bingo rather than GravyTrainBingo.com and the beach scenes are really funny by all accounts!
Getting past the middle of the film, the excitement really begins to build.
The suspense continues until the final few scenes, which are gripping to say the least.
As the final few scenes take place you know that you have watched a movie and a half.
The main male lead actor, and supporting actors, are very good unquestionably.
The lead female actress is superb, and deserves an award.
Definitely recommend getting on the gravy train and watching Beach Blanket Bingo!
The budding relationship between Evans and Avalon of course arouses the jealousy in Annette. Their pal Jody McCrea who plays Deadhead and as you can imagine not the sharpest knife in the drawer or riding the waves gets a romance with Mermaid Marta Kristen in this one.
Beach Blanket Bingo is not all that bad. Frankie Avalon was a teen idol who could actually sing as his career which is still going shows. The songs aren't bad for the type usually featured in these films.
But what makes Beach Blanket Bingo a treat is seeing such fine performers as Paul Lynde, Buster Keaton, Timothy Carey, and most of all Harvey Lembeck in his usual role of Erich Von Zipper leader of the most inept motorcycle gang around until John Quade took that title in Every Which Way But Loose. When Lembeck decides that Evans ought to be the gang pinup girl it's the beach kids versus the motorcycle crew.
And Frankie and Annette make a lovely couple once again.
But watch out for Timothy Carey's grotesque South Dakota Slim. In retrospect, he's like a forewarning of the Vietnam-Watergate calamities to come— a menacing figure crashing the beach party's beautiful bodies. It was an inspired piece of casting and happenstance. Now, I'm not about to mock the movie's silliness since my own preference runs toward The Three Stooges. At the same time, it looks to this drop-in like the film's probably as good as any of the Beach Party bashes of that long ago sunny era. For many, the movie's got to be a trip down carefree nostalgia lane.
Another interesting (to me, at least) question: Is this where William Asher first saw/met Paul Lynde? Were the seeds for Uncle Arthur (Who would appear a couple of years later on BEWITCHED) planted in the sand of BEACH BLANKET BINGO??
The music is lightly pleasant - especially when sounding like Brian Wilson's Beach Boys, as in "Cycle Set", for example. Mermaid Kirsten's was the storyline I found the most enchanting. Kirsten the Mermaid was on "Lost in Space" as Judy Robinson. Michael Nader could have had a bigger part. As far as the low points, it's difficult to pick one - there are so many weak elements of "Beach Blanket Bingo" - possibly, it's Eric Von Zipper's solo song.
** Beach Blanket Bingo (4/14/65) William Asher ~ Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Paul Lynde, Marta Kirsten
Frankie and Annette made quite a few of these Beach Party movies during the beach fad. Pretty much every one of them is the same story recycled with a few changes. This is just Frankie and Annette and friends having a good time while a B-level pop star uses the kids as a chance to gain publicity to advance her career while another one meets up with mythology come to life. Skydiving is also on the menu.
The movie isn't bad and pretty much everyone comes out as likable: Frankie, Didi, Bonehead, and Havey Lembeck's painful go as Erich Von Zipper; an English-mangling German biker. Paul Lynde plays himself practically and actually is pretty good. Buster Keaton, however, is a tragedy. The greatest silent film star from the U.S. is reduced to playing a dirty old man. Don Rickles was cracking the same tired material in 1965 that he uses today. Still, the women look great, the guys actually look like they belong, and the songs are decent. If you've seen one Beach Party movie you've seen them all, but if you haven't seen one before, might as well be this one.
The actors deserve our respect for not only agreeing to work for peanuts, but also for filming during the chilly days of November so the film could be released the following spring, all so the American public could enjoy watching these kids' seemingly happy summer vacations. This was never meant to be a serious project to impress the Motion Picture Academy, just plain Summer fun with great 60s California Sound, just prior to the sudden impact of "Flower Power", Mama's & Papas, etc.
"Beach Blanket Bingo" also features the talented singer Donna Loren in a bit part as herself. Beach Blanket Bingo is the name of the game!
By this point, the series is beginning to look for new areas to explore (having already dealt with surfing, water skiing, body building, etc., in earlier entries), so that's why this "beach" film seems to be so focused on sky diving. In fact, the shift away from the beach scene to the hippie scene in the late 60s would spell the end of the series only a year or so later.
Beyond the sky diving, the film actually extends some of the supporting characters beyond the limited schtick they had been given previously. Stock villain Eric von Zipper (Harvey Lembeck) is given tons more screen time--and even gets his own musical number for the first time! And Bonehead (Joel McCrea, Jr.) not only gets his own subplot, but his story veers the film into a sort of bittersweet romance--something most people would never expect to see attempted in the broad farce that structures these films...much less pulled off!
"Beach Blanket Bingo" is no masterpiece--but, of its kind, its pretty great!