The duo's 1963 'Beach Party' was the first of five 'Beach' movies produced by American International, and it established Funicello and Avalon as the king and queen of adorably dumb teenage flicks. Icons, even! For guys who grew up watching 'The Mickey Mouse Club,' Annette Funicello was probably their first girl crush while for the girls Frankie Avalon embodied the perfect helmet-headed hunk of pre-Beatles pop culture.
The duo's 1963 'Beach Party' was the first of five 'Beach' movies produced by American International, and it established Funicello and Avalon as the king and queen of adorably dumb teenage flicks. Icons, even!
The story is simple enough. A geeky anthropology professor (Robert Cummings) and his secretary (Dorothy Malone, later of 'Peyton Place' fame) are studying the mating habits of that exotic American subspecies, the Teenager. Turns out surfing is involved (at least in the California genus). Motorcycle gangs seem to be the overriding evil force. And above all, dancing is essential to their survival.
There's also a raft of bonus cameos here. Not only do you have Morey Amsterdam, the human joke machine, picking up an extra paycheck in-between seasons of 'The Dick Van Dyke Show,' but also TV staple Harvey Lembeck as biker boss Eric Von Zipper. Lembeck probably never dreamed it would be his most indelible role.
So yes, we've been making fun of Frankie and Annette for decades. But that doesn't mean there isn't some nutritional value buried in this cheesefest. Besides some truly goofy dialog ("Deadhead, how could you be hungry at a time like this?" "A man doesn't live by love alone"), we also get to groove on some great surf-guitar music courtesy of Dick Dale and the Del-Tones, which has of course held up amazingly well over the years.
That said, 'Beach Party' is a guilty pleasure that's best enjoyed when you want to indulge yourself in pure kitsch. It's the kind of flick that made 'Mystery Science Theater 3000" necessary, and it's always good for a chuckle when you're in the mood for sand, surf and silliness.
Watch 'Beach Party' on SlashControl!