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  Bikini Beach I'm No Teenage Icon, I'm No Frankie Avalon
Year: 1964
Director: William Asher
Stars: Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Martha Hyer, Don Rickles, Harvey Lembeck, John Ashley, Jody McCrea, Candy Johnson, Danielle Aubrey, Meredith MacRae, Delores Wells, Paul Smith, Donna Loren, Stevie Wonder, Keenan Wynn, Timothy Carey, Boris Karloff
Genre: Musical, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: It's the holiday season and the usual gang have rushed back to the beach to pass the time sunbathing and surfing. Frankie (Frankie Avalon) is keen to get close to Dee Dee (Annette Funicello), but she mentions something about getting married, which was far from the first thing on his mind. Meanwhile, on the beach itself there are a couple of new arrivals who were not there the last time the gang showed up: first, the British recording sensation Potato Bug (also Avalon) has plans to compete in the local drag race, and second, a chimp which entertains the assembled with its surfing antics...

A surfing chimp? Just one of the reasons Bikini Beach was one of the most ridiculous, and therefore one of the best, of the Beach Party movies churned out for a few years in the mid-sixties as long as they were lucrative, and as this was possibly the cheapest it was also possibly the most profitable of the series. It brought back some of the cast who had been in the first two instalments, along with the regulation stuffy vintage star who represented the older generation, in this case Keenan Wynn as Harvey Huntington Honeywagon III who is the owner of the man in an ape costume, er, I mean the obviously authentic primate and whose character's surname in a bizarrely off-colour in-joke refers to a filming location's portable convenience.

What Harv wishes to prove is that today's teens, and presumably today's twentysomethings pretending to be teens, are a bunch of morons and that evolution is headed backwards, so that we are destined to wind up on the mental level of a chimp. Of course, not every chimp can surf, or in this instance drive a Rolls Royce either, so it may be that he is has his thumb on the scales of his thesis, but he has a secret agenda to all this doing down ver kids and that's because he wants to take over the beach and use it for his lucrative old folks home business. Not that Frankie and Annette are aware of this, and indeed it's not completely clear whether they are at the end of the movie either, but that was down to a plot packed to the gunwales with incident.

Then there's Potato Bug: can you guess who he might be a spoof of? Avalon's hatred of The Beatles was well-publicised, so he took his star vehicle as the ideal opportunity to take them down a peg or two by sporting a long wig in the style seen by the Fab Four, plus a gap in his front teeth and a pair of round spectacles - not to mention Frankie's uncanny imitation of their accents, or it would have been if they had been from somewhere in the posh Home Counties with a liberal dash of Dick Van Dyke Cockney for good measure. The effect said more about Avalon than it did any of the British Invasion, and there's a hint of venom in his portrayal that far from nailing his target tended to show him up as spiteful.

Naturally, this made the film all the more interesting from a historical point of view, and it didn't stop with Avalon's songwriters thinking that lots of "oooh!" in a song immediately made it a dead ringer for a John Lennon and Paul McCartney composition. Don Rickles appeared as Big Drag, a budding Jackson Pollock who wants posterity to look back at his artwork as "A real Drag", and in addition he owned the local bar where he only sold beer and soft drinks to the surfers, then held the drag races where Frankie can compete against Potato Bug (because drag racing was huge in Britain, of course). To sweeten this xenophobic pill, there was some fine surf rock courtesy of The Pyramids, who reacted to the Beatles by shaving their heads, Annette got to trill her regulation ballad, and Stevie Wonder turned up for the post-brawl comedown where goofy biker Harvey Lembeck was yet again foiled (neatly taking down Honeywagon's disdain as idiotic by agreeing with everything he says). Incredibly silly from beginning to end, but do you know? It is fun. Music by Les Baxter.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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