When I was younger, I eagerly read all of the “bad movies” books by Harry and Michael Medved: The Fifty Worst Films of All Time, The Golden Turkey Awards, The Hollywood Hall of Shame, and Son of the Golden Turkey Awards. Although my teenage brain enjoyed all the mean-spirited snark, many of the films they wrote about were very hard to see in the early 1980s, so I just took their word on a lot of things… probably too many things.
Forty years later, I can watch almost any goddamn film ever made on my goddamn phone, and I continue to discover that the Medveds were better jesters than film critics. As Patrick and I have already pointed out in our award-winning podcast on Plan 9 From Outer Space (the film the Medveds named the worst of all time) that Ed Wood film—indeed, most Ed Wood films—are goofy fun, and far from the worst.
Fuck off with your hate and intolerance, Medveds!
True, The Horror of Party Beach catches a lot of shit, not all of it from the Medveds. It currently enjoys a 0% rating at Rotten Tomatoes and a score of only 2.8/10 at the Internet Movie Data Base. Gosh, I know that these are serious times, but doesn’t anyone have any appetite for dumb fun anymore?
The Horror of Party Beach not only defines dumb fun, but it may have INVENTED dumb fun. Produced on a shoestring budget by B-movie auteur Del Tenney (Psychomania, Curse of the Living Corpse, and I Eat Your Skin), The Horror of Party Beach tries with all of its might to combine two genres that were popular in the early 1960s: horror and beach party movies. This movie is like when your kid makes you breakfast on Father’s Day, and it’s pancakes with macaroni and cheese in them, and he’s like, “Daddy, you love pancakes and macaroni and cheese!” and you choke down a little bite and say, “Mmmmgggrrrhh-- these are great” but really you’re just happy because he tried, and at least he didn’t burn down the kitchen. And 78 minutes later you look at the plate, realize that you’ve eaten all of your macaroni-cakes… and that maple syrup and mutant monsters make everything taste good.
When Tina’s body washes up on the beach, all hell breaks loose. Local scientist Dr. Gavin (Allan Laurel) investigates. More teenagers are attacked. The monsters terrorize dozens of girls at a slumber party. Dr. Gavin’s maid Eulabelle (Eulabelle Moore) blames the attacks on voodoo. Will Dr. Gavin figure out a way to dispatch the marauding beasts? Will hep music combo the Del-Aires ever play their lively rock-and-roll… on the beachfront… for the enjoyment of countless teens… again?
There are so many things to like in this unassuming little film that I can hardly list them all:
• It is both disconcerting and entertaining to see a beach party movie that is filmed in black and white and takes place on the East Coast. We take the sunny skies and suntanned bodies of the AIP beach party films for granted—The Horror of Party Beach looks and feels like a beach party held in a Soviet Bloc country on a grim, overcast day. The only swimsuit colors available are black, white, and dust.
• For a low-budget beach party movie, the film contains a surprising amount of gore, most of it achieved with chocolate syrup. Yum!
• The film features the cool garage-band sounds of the Del-Aires, who enjoy a permanent gig at the beach playing for all the groovy kids. One of their songs, “The Zombie Stomp,” is insanely catchy.
• As “DVD Savant” Glenn Erikson put it, “The Horror of Party Beach is a generic low-grade monster show with a difference—it's made with at least some spirit and it knows exactly what it is [….] Even though the monsters crash the party and slay every pajama'd girl in sight the tone of the movie never drops below giggle-level [….] In other words, it's silly fun.”
You can also order the “Horror of Party Beach Bundle” direct from Severin Films, which includes a beach ball and a monster pin. If I have one quibble with this release, it’s only that I wish it had come out earlier in the summer so I could get more use out of this lovely beach ball. I think a poolside screening of Horror of Party Beach would also be fun. Dancing to “The Zombie Stomp” would be mandatory.
(Fascinating to see a fledgling filmmaker go the DIY route by combining two popular genres. It’s like a restaurant that makes its house dressing out of oil and… I don’t know… sand… or more oil, but a different kind of oil? Salad dressing metaphors are hard.)
(The monsters are not so much scary as inexplicable: did they all eat a bunch of gardening gloves?)
(A surprising amount of gore for an early 1960s film.)