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Bikini Beach

       Imagine: boys and girls sleeping on the beach side-by-side, unchaperoned. Now what kind of society is it that would allow such a thing?

-- Harvey Huntington Honeywagon III     




Gonzoid Cinema




"I swear -- if this @#%* bird craps on me just one more time..."


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Sights &

Wiped Out:
Hits the Beach.

Beach Party

Muscle Beach Party

Bikini Beach

Pajama Party

Beach Blanket Bingo

How to Stuff a Wild Bikini

Ski Party

Fireball 500

Thunder Alley


In Memoriam:

This Review is Part of a Samuel Z. Arkoff Roundtable Tribute that Originated with my Fellow Heads of Knuckle Over at The BMMB.

Read 'Em All!

Bikini Beach


When summer finally arrives, our familiar gang of beachniks and bikini-babes return to the sand and surf for more fun in the sun and corny hi-jinx. And while the others immediately head out to catch a wave, Frankie and Dee Dee hang back and talk about where their long-standing relationship is headed. Dee Dee (Annette Funicello) thinks they -- meaning him, need(s) to start planning for their future, like getting a job and settling down; but Frankie (Frankie Avalon) isn’t ready to be tied down just yet, leading to the inevitable spat, where mole hills soon become insurmountable mountains.

After the two perpetually on-again, off-again lovebirds once more separate to opposite ends of the beach, Donna Loren breaks the tension by singing a peppy song. And as Candy Johnson go-gos up a storm -- much to Deadhead’s (Jody McCrea) delight -- the gang soon discovers that the British have invaded their beloved beach, when the Potato Bug, a mop-topped British hipster, emerges from his tent to see what the commotion is all about. (Avalon again. And isn’t potato bug another name for a beetle? Oh, wait. I get it.) After giving them a song, all the girls swoon over the Bug but Dee Dee falls for him hard. Seeing this, with his jealousy getting the better of him, Frankie challenges the little English twit to a surf-off. But Potato Bug declines, saying that’s far too slow for his tastes, and then points over to his dragster. That’s the kind of speed he’s into; and between that tweak and Dee Dee's mooning, the seeds of a brewing rivalry are planted deep.

But as those two draw a line in the sand, little does anyone suspect that they’re all facing a second front in the form of Harvey Huntington Honeywagon III (Keenan Wynn) and his pet monkey, Clyde, who are currently spying on them. Making their way to the beach, Honeywagon asks to borrow a surfboard -- but its not for him ... Handing it over to Clyde, the monkey hits the surf, shoots the curl, and hangs ten with much skill. Kowabunga, Little Monkey-Dude! And while the other surfers are duly impressed, and the Bug laughs his hyena laugh at this absurd display, Honeywagon takes a few snapshots, gathers up Clyde, and then retreats off the beach. With the show over, as the crowd disperses, Dee Dee retreats, too -- into the Bug’s tent!

Holy cow! Will Frankie take up the challenge, get behind the wheel and race the Bug? If so, Will Dee Dee finally dump him for good? And just what the heck is Honeywagon and that monkey up to? All I can say for now is, well ... Here we go again!

The origins of American International Pictures string of Beach Party movies began when prolific television director William Asher took a meeting with Jim Nicholson and Sam Arkoff for something completely different. What they had to offer was another script by AIP regular Lou Russoff that was basically a rehash of their exploitative teen-angst product, like High School Hellcats and The Cool and the Crazy, that the company had been churning out since the mid-50's. Turns out Asher wasn't really interested in another take on the horrors of drugs, failed parenting and the generation gap, but took the opportunity to make a pitch of his own ... His was a novel idea for the time: a movie where the kids weren't in any trouble at all -- except for the eternal pursuit of a good time, usually with the opposite sex; and being a surfer himself, Asher wanted to base the film around the gung-ho surf-culture of southern California. Not completely sold on the idea, the producers took a gamble and rolled the dice. And when Beach Party came up sevens and started raking it in at the box-office, Asher was soon expecting a call from the AIP brass to cash in with a sequel.

That call came soon enough, but Asher quickly scuttled the idea of letting the characters mature to the next step of adulthood, thinking the sequel should be nothing more than a literal continuation from the last one, resulting in one of the longest summers in motion picture history that lasted for over three years and seven sequels and spin-offs. Actually, there were two sequels that came fast on the heels of Beach Party in 1964 -- the first being Muscle Beach Party, which, in turn, was followed by Bikini Beach.

Now, if the rumors are to be believed, Asher had actually lined up the Beatles to appear as themselves in Bikini Beach. But when the group's popularity sky-rocketed after an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in '64, they were soon out of American International's price range. Scrambling quickly, Asher and co-scriptwriter Robert Dillon reworked the script and took a big pot-shot at the now over-priced lads from Liverpool with The Potato Bug. Beyond that, by the third film, all those involved creatively had the series down to a science, and the only thing truly notable about Bikini Beach was that out of the whole series, I think it sports the best soundtrack. But like of all its similar brethren, the film is totally awesome, dude!

Following Clyde's surfing debut, the next morning's newspapers are filled with headlines and pictures comparing the surfer's behavior to that of primitive primates; all part of Honeywagon’s moral campaign to clear the beach of what he feels are a pack of degenerates. This earns him a visit from Vivian Clement (Martha Hyer), one of the local teachers, who is determined to show Honeywagon that the kids are all right ... Taking the moral crusader to Big Drag’s Bar, where her students like to hang out, inside they find Big Drag (Don Rickles) and his talking chicken hawk working on his latest painting. (They're in their abstract phase, and I'll just assume they couldn’t get a parrot.) Welcoming Vivian and Honeywagon, the resident artist then chases away a very familiar looking art critic (-- even though we can’t see his face). As his name would imply, Big Drag also runs the local dragstrip; and he thinks the kids are okay, too -- a bunch of nuts, he stresses, but okay. Meanwhile, outside the bar, Eric Von Zipper (Harvey Lembeck), along with his motley  gang of Ratz and Mice, roar up on their motorcycles. Upon entering the establishment, the goon-squad is excited to find Honeywagon; for he is Von Zipper’s new idol for ripping on them surf-bums -- the sworn enemies of the cyclists. With that declaration, Vivian sticks it to Honeywagon for badmouthing the nice kids and being the hero of this band of miscreants; and when Big Drag tries to kick them out, Von Zipper attempts to give him the Himalayan Suspenders treatment. (Actually, the Himalayan Suspension treatment -- something he learned from Bob Cummings in the original Beach Party, where you find a certain pressure point on the skull, which temporarily paralyzes the victim.) But Von Zipper accidentally gives himself the finger, and, as the others carry him off, they vow their fearless leader will return.

Later, at the dragstrip, the Bug sets a new World Record with his rail (-- a hot-rod to all you squares), but it’s quickly broken in the very next heat by some mystery driver. But it doesn't remain a mystery for long when Honeywagon appears and reveals the driver to be none other than Clyde. Seems his plan is to humiliate the kids by proving anything they can do a monkey can do better. For what purpose, you ask? Well, let's not get too far ahead of the plot. Meanwhile, seeing that Potato Bug and Dee Dee are getting awfully chummy, Frankie challenges the cackling twit to a drag race. When he accepts, there's only one problem: Frankie doesn’t have a dragster. Always ready to help (-- and make a buck), Big Drag shows him the only rail he can afford, a pile of junk, but Deadhead, Johnny (John Ashley) and the others promise to help fix it up for the big race. But first, everybody congregates over at Big Drag’s Bar, where Big Drag introduces The Pyramids, who entreat the crowd with some thunderous racing songs. Big Drag also talks the Bug into doing another number that he dedicates to Dee Dee, only the song itself turns into a singing duel with Frankie. After the song ends in victory, Frankie asks to walk Dee Dee home. When she agrees, the couple take the opportunity to have another heart to heart:


They reconcile, by way of another song, until Frankie refuses to back out of the race. And with that, feeling he'll never change his juvenile ways, and fearing this time it might actually get him killed, Dee Dee dumps him again ... Back at the bar, when the band breaks into a wild watusi number, Honeywagon instructs Clyde to join in and the monkey tears up a rug with Candy -- who finally proves his match. Taking more pictures for his smear campaign, Honeywagon feels this idiocy will put the final nail in the surfer's coffin and get them off the beach.

The next day, after doing a little digging of her own, Vivian storms into Honeywagon’s office to rip him a new one. Seems she's found out the real reason why he wants to clear the beaches is so he can expand his retirement home empire and build the Siesta by the Sea. After she gives him both barrels for stifling the old folks at his stodgy rest homes, and then ruining all the fun for the youngsters, before she leaves and tells him to drop dead, Vivian also apologies for starting to fall for the crusty old fart ... At about the same time, since Frankie refuses to back down, Dee Dee decides to ask the Bug to back out of the big race as a favor to her. But Frankie gets wind of this and disguises himself as the famed singer to short-circuit her intentions. His plan appears to be working, too, as she falls for his get-up, and when the fake Bug refuses to back out of the race, Dee Dee cranks up her feminine wiles to convince him otherwise -- until the whole thing backfires when the real Potato Bug shows up, and then, when both men refuse to back down, a furious Dee Dee dumps them both.

The next morning, things begin to right themselves at least a little bit when Honeywagon inexplicably prints a retraction on all the bad things he’s been saying about the kids. Even though he can't read, Von Zipper feels betrayed by his idol and rallies his troops to give Honeywagon the Ratz Revenge. Breaking into his office proves a bad idea, though, as Honeywagon quickly mops the floor with them; and the one-sided skirmish ends when Von Zipper gives himself the finger again. Vivian, who arrived in time to see all this, gets an apology, too. Apparently, she's the real reason behind all the retractions, and after they make up with a kiss, Honeywagon soon announces their engagement.

Back at the dragstrip, as Frankie and the gang frantically work on his jalopy, Big Drag takes pity on them and loans Frankie one of his best rails (-- knowing a grudge match will be a big draw at the gate). Getting behind the wheel of all that horsepower, when Frankie starts waxing philosophically about racing and taking control of something that can’t be controlled -- and how that's the way he wants to live life, by the seat of his pants, Dee Dee is so moved by this that not only does she want him to race and win, they also hook back up once and for all (-- or at least until the next movie). After they clear out of the garage, Von Zipper sends his Ratz in to sabotage the Potato Bug's dragster; his logic being when the Bug wrecks during the grudge-match tomorrow, everyone will blame Frankie.

On the day of the big race, after Frankie and the Bug wish each other luck and then strap themselves in, Big Drag drops the flag and they’re off in peel of rubber and a cloud of smoke. It's appears to be a dead-heat, but then we quickly realize that the Ratz hit the wrong car as Frankie’s front wheel comes off, causing him to crash. Luckily, the Bug pulls him safely away from the burning wreck as the others catch up, including Von Zipper -- who had sent his gang on ahead to Big Drag’s Bar so he could watch the carnage in peace. Cursing at his "band of stupids" in absentia for sabotaging the wrong car, not realizing that everyone can hear him, the chase is soon on, when Von Zipper commandeers a go-kart and leads a merry pursuit back to Big Drag’s Bar, where the inevitable brawl erupts between the Ratz and surfers, with Honeywagon, the Bug and his leggy lady chauffeur joining in. As the fray continues to degenerate, Clyde takes up Big Drag’s paint tubes and begins squirting everyone with acrylics before turning his skill on an empty canvas. Cranking up some mood music to accompany the brawl, The Pyramids start jamming out just as Clyde finishes his painting; and when the mystery art critic returns, he declares it a masterpiece and wants to buy it (-- and confirms our suspicions that it’s none other than Boris Karloff). With the bar nearly destroyed, Clyde finally brings the brawl to a merciful end by giving Von Zipper the Himalayan Suspenders treatment one last time, and then the movie wraps up after Big Drag introduces Little Stevie Wonder, who belts out a tune, encouraging everyone to dance and shout their way through the end credits.

The End

Bikini Beach basically does follow the same plot as the others, only this time, the rear-projection surfing is kept to a bare minimum as the scene shifts away from the beach to the local drag-strip. Beyond that, it's lather, rinse and repeat with the same old shenanigans and general corniness. Frankie still wants to go all the way with Annette, but she won’t go until they’re married; and she won’t marry him until he promises to settle down, take some responsibility, and get a job. This premise would set the conflict for all the films, as each would then try to make the other jealous, by taking up with someone else, until they inevitably made up in the end. Avalon actually does a pretty good job with his dual role as The Potato Bug, but Funicello once again appears to be no more than window dressing. She’s fine, really, but her wholesomeness makes her stick out like a sore thumb; in her defense, often being stuck as the moral center in this insanity, there just isn't a whole lot for her to do but stick out like a sore thumb.

The thing is -- it's everyone else besides Frankie and Annette that I really enjoy in these pictures. Harvey Lembeck’s Eric Von Zipper makes a welcome return after his notable absence in Muscle Beach Party. I’ve already stated my fondness for this character, and his combination of Brando’s The Wild One and all Three Stooges never fails to crack me up. Don Rickles also reprises his role [sort of] from Muscle Beach and replaces Maury Amsterdam as the proprietor of the kid's favorite hang-out, and would return again [sort of] in Beach Blanket Bingo. And I love the way his character always insults Frankie, and I’m amazed at the grief Rickles took and the humiliation he puts up with in this film. (I wonder how many times that bird crapped on him?) Cinematic kook Timothy Carey also debuts his South Dakota Slim character, as well, and the out of place werewolf in the pool room scene is Val Warren -- who won a make-up contest in Famous Monsters of Filmland, and the reward was a cameo in the film. And then there's Donna Loren, who everyone might remember as the Dr. Pepper Girl and is the victim of a childhood crush by a certain online movie reviewer.

As for William Asher, when he wasn't shooting a Beach Party movie, he was on the TV set directing Elizabeth Montgomery, his wife at the time, in Bewitched. What he wasn't doing was writing or directing any similarly themed project for another film company -- no matter how much they begged or offered, because they didn't allow the same creative freedom offered by American International. Which is why none of the big studios sun-and-fun films of that era stuck because they were bogged down by morals and life-lessons learned. Asher's pictures for AIP weren't exactly wholesome, but were still pretty harmless -- especially when looking back on them forty years later, and it really makes you wonder what all the stink and air-brushed navels was about back then. But it's that bit of an edge, along with the infectious tunes and the fun everyone appears to be having, that will be bringing me back to Asher's beach for a long, long time.

Bikini Beach (1964) American International / P: James H. Nicholson, Samuel Z. Arkoff / AP: Anthony Carras / D: William Asher / W: William Asher, Leo Townsend, Robert Dillon / C: Floyd Crosby / E: Fred Feitshans, Eve Newman / M: Les Baxter /S: Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Keenan Wynn, Martha Hyer, Don Rickles, Harvey Lembeck
Originally Posted: 10/31/01 Rehashed: 11/15/09

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.

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