Beach Party Time?
By: Rio Johan
BEACH PARTY MOVIES were an American 1960s genre of feature films created by American International Pictures (AIP) with their surprise 1963 hit, Beach Party, and copied by virtually every other studio. Precursors to the genre were Columbia Pictures 1959 release Gidget, starring Sandra Dee as teenage surfer girl Gidget and James Darren as her beau Moondoggie; 1961’s Gidget Goes Hawaiian starring Deborah Walley as Gidget; and Gidget Goes to Rome (1963) starring Cindy Carol as Gidget. American International’s films took the Gidget idea, added more music and far more bikinis, and removed nearly all references to parents.
Elvis Presley’s Blue Hawaii in 1961 is also the same basic architecture. Another precursor to the genre was Where The Boys Are, in 1960, which was significantly more serious but still aimed at the same audience. The films helped popularize surfing and surf music, and they often included on-screen performances by well-known pop groups.
Although termed “beach party film genre,” several films of the genre do not actually include surfing, or even scenes on the beach. Some critics define a “classic” AIP series of seven films produced by American International Pictures – whereas others, including Stephen J. McParland in his 1994 book, “It’s Party Time – A Musical Appreciation of the Beach Party Film Genre,” include the AIP films Ski Party, Sergeant Dead Head, Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine and Fireball 500 in the genre, along with non-AIP, non-beach product such as C’mon Let’s Live a Little, Wild Wild Winter and Village of the Giants. In fact, The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini is defined here as a “classic” beach party film – although a beach is never seen onscreen.
The final entry in the original AIP series was The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini, released in 1966. The end credits for the 1965 AIP spy-spoof Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (with Frankie Avalon), advertises this film with its original title (The Girl in the Glass Bikini) and intended stars, Funicello and Avalon. However, both actors passed on this film, appearing instead in AIP’s car-racing themed Fireball 500. The lead roles were given to Tommy Kirk and Deborah Walley, with an almost all-new supporting cast (including singer Nancy Sinatra). This time the “formula” did not work. The movie—which was more of a haunted-house comedy than a proper beach film—bombed at the box office and the series was retired by AIP. Fireball 500 was followed by another racing film, Thunder Alley, also starring Funicello.
Avalon and Funicello starred in Paramount Pictures’ Back to the Beach in 1987, playing off their original roles and subsequent careers. The movie became a hit, and there was talk of making a sequel, but with the beginning of Funicello’s trouble with multiple sclerosis, this never came to be.
(Taken from Wikipedia)
Unavailable on MUBI:
A Swingin’ Summer (Robert Sparr, 1965)
Catalina Caper (Lee Sholem, 1967)
C’mon Let’s Live a Little (David Butler, 1967)
Daytona Beach Weekend (Bob Welborn, 1965)
Get Yourself A College Girl (Sidney Miller, 1964)
Muscle Beach Party (William Asher, 1964)
One Way Wahini (William O. Brown, 1965)
Sergeant Dead Head (Norman Taurog, 1965)
Surf Party (Maury Dexter, 1964)
The Fat Spy (Joseph Cates, 1966)
The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (Don Weis, 1966)
Village of the Giants (Bert I. Gordon, 1965)
Wild on the Beach (Maury Dexter, 1965)
Wild Wild Winter (Lennie Weinrib, 1966)
Winter a Go-Go (Richard Benedict, 1965)
09Leslie H. Martinson
15Robert Lee King