Amateur athletes and bodybuilders at the original Muscle Beach in Santa Monica, California.
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The original Muscle Beach, located south of the Santa Monica Pier, was constructed in 1934 by the Works Progress Administration with the intention of creating a park on a public beach. By the 1940s however, Muscle Beach frequently appeared as a standing joke in trade magazines and was often mentioned with innuendo in Hollywood gossip columns. For filmmaker Joseph Strick, however, the beach scene offered an opportunity to observe and document an emerging subculture of gymnasts, athletes, bodybuilders and exhibitionists. His 1948 short Muscle Beach, made with assistance from fellow filmmaker Irving Lerner, can be considered a carefree and wholesome portrait of a site that was then of questionable reputation. The film would be the first of Strick's early efforts to highlight documentary footage of Los Angeles counterculture. Written by Ulf Kjell Gür

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User Reviews

This film blew my mind
28 February 2003 | by See all my reviews

I saw this film many years ago and it blew my mind, and I have never seen film in the same light since. It took a long time for me to realise why. I think every film I had ever seen till then had been narrative, and I didn't know there could be a gripping film that didn't tell a story - that's what films did, tell a story. Muscle Beach is fascinating, but no story. I don't mean it has no structure - it has a very tight structure, but it is like a piece of music, in three movements - allegro, andante, allegro vivace (or something) The film was shot on a beach in ?California, concentrating on a set of (very) amateur athletes and body-builders. The score is written and sung by Earl Robinson, and the words and music complement (and sometimes contradict) the screen action, pithily and wittily (who but Robinson would rhyme 'therapeutical' with 'the body beautiful'?) This film gave me the most influential twenty minutes of my life. Not everybody sees it that way - my friends didn't know what I was on about - but try it and see for yourself.


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