Wednesday, November 5, 2008

William Asher (dir.) & Samuel Z. Arkoff (prod.) - Beach Blanket Bingo (1965)

I never imagined that beach party films would be a genre that I'd come to have an interest in - although I did have a lot of time for Charles Busch & Robert Lee King's erotic beach horror spoof Psycho Beach Party (2000), and I'm not averse to the more interesting manifestations of tiki culture, despite it's overtones of neocolonialist appropriation.

But having recently spent a lot of time listening to surf rock (despite the best efforts of Quentin Tarantino to put me off by featuring it prominently in his overhyped, unoriginal films) I thought it best to go to the classical sources of surf culture, so to speak, despite the fact that the music on display is much more sixties pop than surf per se. BBB happened to be staring up at me from the shelves at my local film purveyor, and so became the first candidate. It features the two major stars of the beach party series, teen idol Frankie Avalon as himself, and notorious Mousketeer Annette Funicello.

I have to say, there's not actually a lot of surfing in this one, which didn't particularly bother me. Each of the films is loosely set around a different activity, with this, the fifth instalment of the Beach Party series (made over the course of only two years), being nominally about skydiving (giving the opportunity for some nice romantic war-of-the-sexism duologues). I'm a general fan of sixties 'genre' pieces in music, fashion and film, and in this aspect BBB doesn't disappoint - the DVD transfer is nicely done and the colours are gorgeous.

It's hard to know how much of the camp is completely intended, and how much isn't. The villain of the piece, Eric von Zipper and his motorcycle gang, actually verges on frustrating, being even less realist in his acting than the other characters (oh, except for the character who's a mermaid, that is) with some 'humorous' catchphrases which I found irritatingly unfunny despite their awful B-movie characteristicicity (if you'll allow me the word). The musical numbers are randomly dropped into the plot; and at one point we seem to have suddenly left the world of teen movies and found ourselves in a James Bond, then in a horror spoof. The randomness of all of this is rather endearing in itself.

Ultimately, although at an hour and a half my full attention was a little overstretched, I'll definitely give the other films in this series a go for something lighthearted with all the genre, period and B-grade thrills that the aficionado could desire.

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