Bikini Beach is a 1964 American teen film directed by William Asher and starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. The film belongs to the beach party genre of movies, popular in the 1960s. This is the third in the series of seven films produced by American International Pictures (AIP).
theatrical release poster
|Directed by||William Asher|
|Produced by||Samuel Z. Arkoff|
James H. Nicholson
|Written by||William Asher|
|Music by||Les Baxter|
|Edited by||Fred R. Feitshans, Jr.|
|Distributed by||American International Pictures|
|Budget||$500,000 or $175,000|
|Box office||$4.5 million (US rentals)|
School is out and the teenagers head for the beach. All is well until millionaire Harvey Huntington Honeywagon III (Wynn) comes around, convinced that the beachgoers are so senselessly obsessed with sex that their mentality is below that of a primate – especially Honeywagon's wunderkind pet chimp Clyde, who can surf, drive, and watusi better than anyone on the beach. With the teenagers demoralized and discredited, Honeywagon plans to turn Bikini Beach into a senior citizens retirement home.
Meanwhile, foppish British rocker and drag racer Peter Royce Bentley, better known as "The Potato Bug" (played by Frankie Avalon in a dual role), has taken up residence on Bikini Beach. Annoyed by Frankie's reluctance to start their relationship towards marriage, Dee Dee becomes receptive to Potato Bug's advances. In a jealous rage, Frankie challenges The Potato Bug to a drag race, in hopes of winning Dee Dee back.
- Annette Funicello as Dee Dee
- Frankie Avalon as Frankie / Potato Bug (Peter Royce Bentley)
- Keenan Wynn as Harvey Huntington Honeywagon III
- Martha Hyer as Vivian Clements
- Harvey Lembeck as Eric Von Zipper
- Don Rickles as Big Drag
- John Ashley as Johnny
- Jody McCrea as Deadhead
- Candy Johnson as Candy
- Danielle Aubry as Yvonne, the Lady Bug
- Elizabeth Montgomery (wife of director William Asher) as the voice of Yvonne, the Lady Bug
- Meredith MacRae as Animal
- Delores Wells as Sniffles
- Donna Loren as Donna
- Janos Prohaska as Clyde
- Timothy Carey as South Dakota Slim
- Little Stevie Wonder as Himself
- Alberta Nelson as Puss/Alberta
- Boris Karloff as Art Dealer
In a FILMFAXplus (April/June 2004) interview, director William Asher revealed that the script was originally written for The Beatles. According to Asher's claim, the group had agreed to act in the film but later dropped out as their rapidly growing fame (especially after their 1964 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show) caused their fee to exceed the film's budget. Asher was forced to rework the script. Frankie Avalon's dual role as an English singer named "The Potato Bug" was created to replace the four Beatles in the story.
United Artists had signed a three-movie deal with the Beatles in late 1963. This casts doubt on the veracity of Asher's claim.
According to Avalon, AIP "did a survey because they wanted to know how much surfing they should put in these pictures after the first and second one. It really wasn't the surfing that was the attraction in those films. It was the fun and the puppy love between Frankie and Annette."
Don Rickles plays Big Drag, proprietor of The Pit Stop, a teen hangout where several musical numbers are performed. He also manages a garage for dragsters and is the announcer at the Bikini Beach Drag Strip. When Frankie says he looks familiar, Big Drag admits he was once Jack Fanny, his character from the earlier film, Muscle Beach Party.
Pop singer Donna Loren appears for the second time. She was previously in Muscle Beach Party, and also appeared in Pajama Party and Beach Blanket Bingo. She sang at least one solo in each movie. Little Stevie Wonder, also from Muscle Beach Party returned for a bit part as well.
Unusual character actor Timothy Carey appears briefly in this film as "South Dakota Slim", and has a larger part as the same character in Beach Blanket Bingo. His character is replaced by "North Dakota Pete" (played by Len Lesser) in How to Stuff a Wild Bikini.
Nineteen-year-old Val Warren, who is billed as Teenage Werewolf in the film’s closing credits, was the first prize winner in Forrest J Ackerman's Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine's National Horror Makeup Contest (beating out Rick Baker, who would later go on to win three Oscars for makeup artistry). Included in first prize was a trip to Hollywood and an appearance in Bikini Beach. Warren stated in a reply to the Los Angeles Times report of Ackerman’s death, “When director William Asher requested that I growl during my brief sequence, my ever-protective agent, 'Uncle' Forry quickly reminded him that said role had now become a 'speaking part' and, as such, I was entitled to a cast credit as well as the Screen Actors Guild pay standard of an additional 250 bucks. When Asher consented, Forry, like the big kid he was, expressed his delight by turning to face me with a beaming smile and an exaggerated wink.”
The dragsters used in the drag racing scenes (shot at Pomona Raceway) were very popular - and successful - at the time. They include: Dean Jeffries' "Manta Ray", Larry Stellings' "Britannica", the Greer, Black and Prudhomme fuel dragster "Freida" - driven by Don Prudhomme, 'TV' Tommy Ivo's fuel dragster and four-Buick-engined "Showboat" dragster - the one Clyde drives to a new speed record. Ivo was also a technical advisor for the film, as well as go-kart champ Von Deming - billed in the credits with the title, "West Coast Go-Kart Champion".
The surfboards used in this film (as well as the earlier Muscle Beach Party) were by Phil of Downey, California - aka Phil Sauer, the maker of "Surfboards of the Stars". Sauer was also the stunt coordinator for another beach party film that used his surfboards, Columbia Pictures' Ride the Wild Surf, which was released the following month. Sauer was even portrayed in that film as a character by Mark LaBuse.
Guy Hemric and Jerry Styner wrote several songs for the film:
- "Bikini Beach" - performed by the cast;
- "Love's a Secret Weapon" - sung by Donna Loren;
- "Gimmie Your Love" - sung by Avalon;
- "This Time It's Love" - sung by Funicello;
- "Because You're You" - sung by Avalon and Funicello.
Hemric and Styner also wrote two songs that featured The Pyramids doing back up:
- "How About That?", - sung as a duet by Avalon; and
- "Happy Feelin’ (Dance and Shout)" - sung by Little Stevie Wonder.
- “Record Run”
- "Bikini Drag" - Instrumental
- "Gotcha Where I Wantcha" - written by Jack Merrill and Red Gilson.
- The Potato Bug name is a not-so-subtle reference to The Beatles. The character is a permutation of John Lennon, albeit with a persona based on British stereotypes as perceived by Americans, and made popular by English comics like Terry-Thomas.
- Keenan Wynn's character's surname, "Honeywagon" is a reference to the so-named portable toilets used in the film and television industry and at campgrounds and marinas - thus Frankie's reply upon hearing Honeywagon's name: "I'd keep that quiet if I were you."
- Timothy Carey's pool-playing character's name "South Dakota Slim" is a play on the pool shark character "Minnesota Fats" that Jackie Gleason played three years previous in the film, The Hustler.
- Boris Karloff's cameo (seen only from behind until the end) is a riff on Vincent Price's commercials for "the Vincent Price Collection of Fine Art" being offered at Sears at the time. Price wore a similar costume (red cape, black hat) in his commercials, and after appearing in Beach Party doing a similar gag (and a few other AIP films over the last year), the audience would assume they would be seeing Price again, thus creating a punchline when fellow spookster Karloff is revealed.
Eugene Archer of The New York Times panned the film as "a horrible juvenile comedy." Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "A couple of truckloads of good-looking healthy kids, plenty of singing and dancing, and solid comedy from some old pros add up to two hours of mindless relaxation at theaters and drive-ins everywhere." Variety stated, "Introduction of some first-rate satire is so overloaded with coatings of slapstick that the satire will be lost on the great mass of youngsters who will provide the film's major support but it does make 'Bikini Beach' more palatable for parents or pseudo-sophisticates among the teenagers who find themselves viewing it." The Monthly Film Bulletin noted that "this new film, which merely repeats some of the features of Beach Party, with some uninventive new material, is a good deal less attractive."
- HOLLYWOOD BEACH BONANZA By PETER BART HOLLYWOOD. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 13 Dec 1964: X9.
- Lamont, John (1990). "The John Ashley Filmography". Trash Compactor (Volume 2 No. 5 ed.). p. 26.
- Tom Lisanti, Hollywood Surf and Beach Movies: The First Wave, 1959-1969, McFarland 2005, p86
- Gary A. Smith, The American International Pictures Video Guide, McFarland 2009 p 25
- Beach movies were all about pretty girls: [Final Edition] TIANEN, DAVE. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Milwaukee, Wis. [Milwaukee, Wis] 03 Nov 2002: 2A.
- Honors, Film Bids Heaped on Poitier: Star Favors Doing Columbia's Subject, 'To Sir, With Love' Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 02 May 1964: B6.
- Sears and Fine Art: Vincent Price Collection of Fine Art. Searsarchives.com. Retrieved on November 3, 2011.
- Laura J. Kells, Paul Colton, and Allyson Jackson Vincent Price. A Register of His Papers in the Library of Congress. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Washington, D.C.. (1994). Latest revision: 2006 April
- Stephen Jacobs, Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster, Tomohawk Press 2011 p 466
- Archer, Eugene (September 17, 1964). "Couple of Horrors". The New York Times. 52.
- Thomas, Kevin (August 21, 1964). "Younger Set Frolics Again in 'Bikini Beach'". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 10.
- "Film Reviews: Bikini Beach". Variety. July 8, 1964. 6.
- "Bikini Beach". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 32 (379): 122. August 1965.