BACK TO THE BEACH(1987; LYNDALL HOBBS)I had seen BACK TO THE BEACH several times as a youth, and although I enjoyed it quite a bit, I felt like I was missing something. Well, clearly I was missing out on the context of all the beach party films that Frankie and Annette made in the 1960s. I had seen none of them. I've since seen a few, but I wanted to refresh the context so I set out to watch ALL of them before I rewatched BACK TO THE BEACH again. I made it through BEACH PARTY, MUSCLE BEACH PARTY, BIKINI BEACH and BEACH BLANKET BINGO. I rather enjoy BBB, and I was getting a bit fatigued on the series so I should probably have stopped there. I didn't. I had to go one better and tried to watch HOW TO STUFF A WILD BIKINI. That was too much for my weak constitution and I was forced to wave the white flag about 10 minutes in. It's a shame too. I was sort of looking forward to films like SERGEANT DEAD HEAD and FIREBALL 500(both of which are only tenuously connected to the beach party series). Not to be. Anyway, I felt satisfied I'd given myself proper context so I eagerly jumped into watching BACK TO THE BEACH. It was quite a trip. I had forgotten how meta the movie is. It plays with both Frankie and Annette's real life careers(acknowledging the Mouseketeers, Skippy peanut butter), but also operates as if the Beach Party movies kind of really happened. It's an interesting reunion concept.
The thing I probably find most enjoyable and amusing about BACK TO THE BEACH is the nearly endless parade of cameos from old TV stars and musicians. Check out this roll call: Don Adams, Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr., Barbara Billingsley, Tony Dow, Jerry Mathers, Edd Byrnes and of course Paul Rubens(as Pee-Wee!). Also, Dick Dale and Stevie Ray Vaughn. Plus Fishbone! Speaking of Fishbone...
Oh and I almost forgot Lori Loughlin! I've had a crush on her since RAD so that's pretty shameful. Anyway, the movie as a whole is a little dorkier than I remembered, this is due in some part to the Bobby character played by Demian Slade(most notoriously known as the "two dollars" paperboy in BETTER OFF DEAD). It's not his fault, he's just given some dopey "my parent's are so lame" dialogue to spew. BttB is still very entertaining though and I like that Annette and Frankie were willing to really make fun of themselves and their personas with it. Some fun musical numbers too. Additionally, it makes for a great double feature with HELLO DOWN THERE......
HELLO DOWN THERE(1969; JACK ARNOLD/RICOU BROWNING)
When I was pretty young I recall reading a book about underwater homes. It was set up to be a wave of the future type of thing and the book(little to my knowledge then was probably written in the 1960s) seemed to indicate that we would all soon be living underwater. It was a really neat book for me(I wish I could recall the title) and really captured my imagination. I daresay it was an early influence on my decision to want to be a marine biologist(this idea got me through my second year of college where I switched to film studies). Anyway, there are those films that are really just of their time and place and viewed outside that context(or even IN that context) are just odd to say the least. HELLO DOWN THERE is one of those films. The film focuses on the test run of an underwater dwelling called 'The Green Onion" which Randall's character designed. Hard to believe it was directed by Jack Arnold, he of CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON fame(among many others). This film does come at the end of a long line of comedies (musical and otherwise) for him which effectively began with the 'comedy'(and camp classic) HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL in 1958. He did a few Bob Hope comedies along the way(BACHELOR IN PARADISE in 1961 & A GLOBAL AFFAIR in 1964) and a youth car racing 'drama' called THE LIVELY SET a few years prior to HELLO DOWN THERE. It seems to be grasping desperately for a youthful audience, so I am very curious just how well it connected upon it's first release. For now, it stands as a unique piece of cinematic fromage unlike too many I've seen. The cast alone is enough to draw me in. Between a rocking Richard Dreyfuss, a domestic Janet Leigh & Tony Randall and a blustering Jim Backus, you're pretty set. Roddy McDowall pops up as a record exec. Charlotte Rae & Arnold Stang are thrown in for extra flavor. Add 2 dolphins & some hilariously silly(and awkward) musical numbers and there you have it. Features an an opening sequence that feels equal parts INCREDIBLE MR. LIMPETGEORGE SIDNEY)
One last somewhat aquatic movie! I must admit to not being well versed in the films of Esther Williams. I am certainly aware of her and even more so since her recent passing. The Warner Archive Instant service currently has her film DANGEROUS WHEN WET available and I certainly plan on checking that one out(I believe it's one of her most well known pictures). Sadly, as much as its wonderful to see this rarity get a release, it didn't do much for me. From its opening musical number, "If This Be Slavery", I was bored with it:
It does feature one lovely underwater dance sequence that is quite memorable though. Not sure the film is worth watching just for that, but I can absolutely see its appeal. I've never seen a sequence quite like it. I'm sure this release will be a joy to Esther Williams fans everywhere and I do recommend that those folks pick it up. Others needn't bother. Mostly dullsville in this lightly comedic/musical take on Ancient Rome. Oh, there was one other decent musical number featuring elephants. That was pretty good. The only other highlight is a typically grumpy Bill Demarest in Roman garb.
All of the above discs are available from Warner Archive as MODs: