That’s right, I said it. Bikini Beach is the best beach party movie. I can hear what you, gentle reader, are asking: “Isn’t trying to choose the best beach party movie a hopeless task, like arguing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? The American-International Studios ‘beach party juggernaut’ was an embarrassment of riches. Why chose?”
Because that’s just the kind of difficult work we do here at F This Movie!. What is the best beach party movie? Why, Bikini Beach. How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Multitudes.
Muscle Beach Party was a step in the wrong direction and Bikini Beach was a course correction. You know, kind of like From Russia With Love and Goldfinger in the James Bond pictures. Although many people consider these lightweight romps interchangeable, there is a discernable difference between above-par beach party (APBP) and below-par beach party (BPBP).
Bikini Beach has the best guest stars. Yes, I am sad that Buster Keaton missed this outing, but the inclusion of Boris Karloff more than makes up for that. Jody McCrea, Candy Johnson, John Ashley, Donna Loren, Don Rickles, Timothy Carey, and Harvey Lembeck all return from previous installments; Bikini Beach even ups the ante by throwing in Little Stevie Wonder.
But there is something else going on here that we can see with the benefit of hindsight. First of all, we get to see the standard reaction of many people to the Beatles in 1964. The Potato Bug songs are full of extraneous “Wooooo’s” and “Yeah Yeahs” and not much else, but they are still fun in spite of themselves.
Second, it was the British Invasion that effectively ended the reign of teen idols like Frankie Avalon on the pop charts, so Avalon is unwittingly lampooning the phenomenon that ended his teen idol career.* The irony is that in his portrayal of the Potato Bug, Avalon shows so much spark and a talent for comedy that the rest of the beach party movies barely exploited. Usually Frankie Avalon was like the Marilyn Munster of the series—a glass of lukewarm water served alongside a feast of crazy hijinks and colorful characters. He is the Zeppo of the Beach Party movies.
That Thing You Do!
* Actually, Frankie Avalon’s career is far from over. He still tours and often hawks his Limoncello and Tiramisu cakes on In the Kitchen With David, my favorite show on QVC. #foodie4life #scrubdaddy #spurtle #temp-tations
(Thrilling that a paper-thin premise could support this many installments.)
(I get chills just thinking about beach party movies. No, really—they were all filmed in the winter with the cast only pretending it was hot outside.)
(Lots of fun stunts, especially during the film’s go-cart race finale)