Look who’s hanging around on the beach with those bikers, surfers, hang gliders and a mermaid…
I couldn’t resist this 1960s beach party film casting, for this beach party film with Buster Keaton starring with two future Dynasty stars.
Beach Blanket Bingo Official Trailer #1 – Buster Keaton Movie (1965) HD, Movieclips Classic Trailers
I’ve spotted a mansion full of Dallas (1978-91) stars here, there and everywhere in my film and telly viewing. Now, these films and TV are like a genre of their own, especially on this blog. On a nightly basis, suggestions for future viewing come fast and furiously with recommendations from Darlin Husband for these movies, shows and episodes with a Dallas cast member.
Occasionally, I’ve spotted a Dynasty (1981-89) star in their pre and post Dynasty days. Be it the then veteran actor, John Forsythe – he played patriarch, Blake Carrington – in the TV Movie, Cruise Into Terror (1978), his on-screen daughter Fallon and his on-screen brother Ben, aka Christopher Cazenove and Emma Samms in The Lady and the Highwayman (1989) or Pamela Bellwood – who played Claudia Blaisdal – in Airport 77 (1977).
However, commanding centre stage – and rightfully deserving a paragraph of her own – with more reviews than anyone else in the Dynasty cast, Dame Joan Collins – aka Alexis Morell, Carrington, Colby Dexter… – has been seen and reviewed in films as diverse as I Don’t Want to Be Born (1975), Quest for Love (1971), The Days of their Lives (2017), The Cartier Affair (1984) and even her 1980s adverts get a mention HERE…
Today it’s the turn of those Dynasty acting talents who played Collins’ on-screen one-time toyboy husband Dex Dexter and the second Mrs Blake Carrington, Krystle in the Denver set soap. And it’s a flashback to the 1960s to see them both in a film where they star with a surprising co-star, Buster Keaton in Beach Party Bingo (1965). I kid you not… this beach party movie has Linda Evans and Michael Nader (billed here as Mike) alongside this silent movie legend…
On reading more about this film, I was keen to watch the fourth entry – of five – in this Beach Party film franchise. The film has a lot, and I mean a lot of dancing 1960s style (yay) and way too catchy, 1960’s songs and ballads (yay). These songs are sung for the most part by the leads, Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. Jackie Ward – then known as Robin Ward – provides Linda Evans’ singing voice as Linda Evans plays a pop chantress, Sugar Kane.
As this was my first viewing of a film found towards the end of a film series I first read about the earlier films. The ongoing plot appears to tell of a very chaste on-off teen romance of two surfers, where sex is hinted about in euphemisms, between the two protagonist leading teens. In contrast, songs are belted out by Frankie – then pop favourite, Frankie Avalon (see Grease (1978)) – and Dee Dee (Annette Funicello) as our loved up couple and their beach surfing buddies.
It seems for much of this franchise until this film, they’ve had an on-off romance. It’s usually off after a third party shows interest in one of them, and then on again by the end of the film. They and their buddies have an ongoing war with the middle-aged, teen wannabe, Erich von Zipper (Harvey Lembeck). Von Zipper is the “comic relief” of this series and he and his motorcycle gang, The Rats were a loose parody of the gang in Marlon Brando’s film, The Wild One (1953).
This film series began with Beach Party (1963) and the last one (so far) is Back to the Beach (1987) which reunited the two leads. Many of the characters appear in all five of these 1960s films albeit sometimes in other roles. There were 5 films released in the 1960s and one in the 1980s.
Blanket Party Bingo (1965) starts (inevitably) with a song that name drops this film title a zillion times. It’s sung by the lead characters, Frankie (Avalon) and his girl Dee Dee (Funicello) and we meet the cast as the younger cast sing and dances on the beach with comic moments.
It’s a captivating, catchy song and this was a lovely way to know who’s who before the action starts. Silently, I wished that the Mamma Mia (2008) sequel – Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again (2018) – had thought of doing in their opening credits, as this prequel with three interchangeable characters would have been easier to follow. But I digress…
These opening scenes feature a pork pied wearing Buster Keaton and he’s spotted fishing on the beach. He adds to the comedy scenes with some zany 60s style silent slapstick stuff. Firstly he inadvertently hooks a girl’s bikini top with his fishing rod and then pulls her bikini top off as he reels in his “catch”. This scene possibly inspired the makers of Carry On Camping (1969) in that scene with Barbara Windsor (ask your dad!). Then Buster paints a bikini-clad lovely and chases this young lady Bobbi (Bobbi Shaw) down the beach…
The surfing teenage gang of gals and guys – now known as the Surfers – then all spot a plane and ooh and aah as a youngish lady skydiver jumps out of it. As this woman (Bonnie) hits the sea, the teenage boys are concerned for her safety. Simultaneously a boat arrives, and this same girl Bonnie (Deborah Walley) swaps places with a young pretty pop singer, Sugar Kane (Linda Evans). Sugar is pushed overboard and then Sugar needs to be “rescued” from the sea. This is revealed – to the film audience – as just a part of a publicity stunt to advertise Sugar’s new album.
As this switch is happening, the Surfers look up and go all ooh and aahh again. This time it’s at an airship that advertises Sugar’s new pop album. Then Frankie and the dudes then hit the surf to save Sugar. Frankie believes that he saved Sugar from the “jaws of the deep”. Sugar is encouraged by her slimy agent, Bullets (Paul Lynde) to “thank him” by putting her arm around Frankie. Then Frankie’s bravery makes front-page news.
Dee Dee is not a happy bunny as Frankie gets a bit flirty with Sugar and says she has a “healthy body”. Then she’s fuming as Bonnie invites him to join her skydiving training. Sugar invites them all to her beach pad for supper and again with Bullet’s idea, she promotes her new album by singing a few tracks for those happenin’ kids who dance to it like no tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the Surfers’ beach antics are observed by Erich von Zipper and his leather clan biking cronies. Erich fancies Sugar immediately and vows to rescue her from the Surfers. Frankie is now keen to try sky diving for himself, but won’t let Dee Dee even train for it. This he says as she has better things to do like be cooking in the kitchen making him hot dogs!
Both Frankie and Dee Dee decide to try skydiving and then are caught up in the love games played by Bonnie and the pilot Steve (John Ashley). Bonnie and Steve are dating each other but try to make each other jealous with their unwitting pawns, Frankie and Dee Dee. Bonnie appears to take a fancy to Frankie, and she and Steve both flirt with our two protagonists Frankie and Dee Dee (respectively). This causes more than a bit of trouble between these lovebird couples…
Simultaneously, there are a couple subplots as their friend, Bonehead (Jody McCrea) is saved from drowning by a mysterious girl. Bonehead then discovers she has a fishtail and that she’s actually a mermaid named Lorelei (Marta Kristen). They fall in love, but as she falls in love with him. She becomes human and her tail is replaced by legs.
Then she tells him that their romance will have to be a short one. This as she can only stay in human form until midnight… so after taking her measurements (in probably the sexiest scene in the movie), he zooms off to choose her some clothes so they can go to the dance that night.
In the dead of night, Erich von Zipper and his gang break into Sugar’s beach house and “put the snatch on her” ie kidnap her. It seems quite the case of Stockholm syndrome, as Sugar actually seems quite to like Erich. So tune in, (no pun intended) to find out what happens in these storylines. These stories are told between scenes with musical numbers, skydiving and dancing.. and recurring appearances from Buster Keaton…
I did enjoy the majority of this film, though some of the characters irritated me. First, a wee shouts out to those musical tracks. The musical numbers were wonderfully performed by the cast and the film added some original instrumental tracks. Special mentions must go to Donna Loren as Donna and her all too brief appearance, singing It Only Hurts When I Cry. Although this was a lovely contribution, I found it was the most tenuous use of a song in a movie since I watched the Mamma Mia sequel.
Funicello and Avalon had a lovely musical and acting rapport and this was seen at its best in their duet. This song was performed as the couple walked along the beach, it appeared to be about them making sense of their relationship and dispelling each other’s fears and was nattily called You Think, I Think. Admittedly, I switched off mentally when Eddie and his gang started singing their song, as they felt more like a homage to the equally incompetent T-Birds from Grease and Grease 2 (1982).
I personally found Eddie and his biker gang, just as irritating in their many “comic” scenes, which I found quite puerile. For me, they were an unwelcome addition to the film, and this film could have worked without this storyline and more time given to worthier storylines. I found their comic moments jarred with the more romantic ambience that I felt when watching the rest of the film.
I did enjoy both the love stories so much more than this storyline. But I found Keaton’s visual and silent comedy scenes seemed more in fitting with the movie. His comic scenes and love story with the bikini-clad lovely didn’t encroach on other scenes and were like a running joke. These scenes complemented this often silent film actor’s slapstick talents and before you ask, he does have a few scenes where he gets some dialogue. Apparently, he had an off screen role as comic advisor.
Speaking of dialogue, all Michael “Mike” Nader fans, he plays a character called Butch in this movie. His character spends most of his time snogging some random girl and he only has occasional lines of dialogue. But on the bright side, for those of you who fancied him in Dynasty, he spends most of the film in his swimming trunks. I didn’t recognise him in the one scene when he wore a suit, and I feel this Dynasty actor – who appeared in all the films in this franchise – was underused having seen him in a bigger role. I can only hope he had more scenes in the other films.
Linda Evans was convincing as both a chantress and it was lovely seeing her “sing” in this early role. This role was originally destined for Nancy Sinatra, who later turned the part down to the storyline. In the year that she made this film, Evans starred in her breakout role on television’s The Big Valley (1965). She was just like her name sugar sweet, but not as nauseating as the angelic soap role in Dynasty.
My favourite parts of this film, were those songs and those love-themed storylines. The romantic stories were enticingly written and were quite credible – even though one was more a fantasy story – and these were engagingly acted. Avalon and Funicello were believable as a romantic couple and had a believable romantic story arc in this film. Their characters’ skydiving scenes were convincingly portrayed, and I’m now keen to learn what happened to this on-screen couple after the credits rolled in the final Beach Party film… so one day I might just check out the 1980s movie.
But I must admit my favourite storyline was when Bonehead’s short but sweet romance with the mermaid, Lorelei. This storyline was set up beautifully, as he’s saved by her from drowning. Then as he hears’ her siren call and he goes to her. After some quite endearing romantic dialogue 1960s style, he learns she’s a mermaid. Then she swims off after they arrange a date, and you spot this quite realistic-looking (fibreglass made) fishtail.
Bonehead teaches this mermaid about human life, and in some quite touching scenes, he assists her by getting suitable clothes and shoes. He also shows her how to dance in some wonderful moments where fantasy meets reality. I only wished this story had been developed further. But I’m sure you will like me and get swept away with their fish out of water tale…
Weeper Rating: 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦/10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂🙂 🙂 /10
Hulk Rating: /10
Eighth Buster Keaton Blogathon 2022, No 5
This review was added to Silentology‘s Eighth Buster Keaton Blogathon. Other film and TV reviews with this cast include Buster Keaton in The Twilight Zone. Linda Evans appears in Glitter, The Fall Guy and HERE and HERE in two Dynasty reviews. A tribute to Michael Nader in Dynasty is HERE. He also starred in Magnum. Don Rickles stars in Kelly’s Heroes and Tales from the Crypt. Paul Lynde stars in Bewitched. Frankie Avalon stars in Grease, The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. Annette Funicello in The Love Boat and Fantasy Island.