Monday, July 8, 2013


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. LIMPET & JABBERJAW. Was reissued under the title SUB A DUB DUB. The Paramount DVD had dropped out of print, but Warner Archive saved the day and has brought it back "to the surface" again, which is fortunate as it is pretty unique. Begs to be seen with a crowd and I would certainly attend any theatrical screening that ever came to pass. A Blu-Ray seems beyond unlikely, but I would still buy one for sure.

MARINE BOY - The Complete First Season(1968) Continuing this week's aquatic theme, what better place to stop off than at the bottom of the ocean where Marine Boy is fighting evil doers on behalf of the "Ocean Patrol". This show was one of the original anime imports in that it was produced in Japan, but intended for 1st run in the United States. It is apparently a much beloved show, but one I'd never seen before this release. I was kind of excited to watch it with my littler girl because I had this feeling she would very much enjoy it. One of her favorite movies is the ASTRO BOY feature from 2009, so I knew she could get into the style of the show at least somewhat based on that alone. She'd never seen SPEED RACER(one of this show's contemporaries and one which shares voice talent with it), but she has been a fan of 60s cartoons(FRANKENSTEIN JR. AND THE IMPOSSIBLES, another WAC release, being one of them).  My wife's first comment was that it of course reminded her of BATTLE OF THE PLANETS, which she and I had seen growing up. It does very much feel like that indeed. It's an odd but fascinating program I must say. Marine Boy chews "oxygen gum" to breathe underwater and has a crazy special boomerang weapon that he uses to ward of evil attackers(such as the robotic manta rays in the 1st episode). My daughter definitely took to it and I know it will be something we'll return to. I mean, what's not for her to like? He's ride's a dolphin and has a mermaid friend too. One thing that amused me was that everyone on in the show calls Marine Boy simply "Marine Boy". Even his father! All in all, It's a fun watch for sure.
Included in this set are all 26 1st season episodes on 3 discs. They look pretty good too. See the clip below to get a sense of the show:

JUPITER'S DARLING(1955; George 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: HERE


MrJeffery said...

i loved "back to the beach" as a child! the "jamaica ska" with fishbone is everything.

Marty McKee said...

I just rewatched BACK TO THE BEACH too, but unfortunately through Netflix Instant on its full-frame print :(

I saw it theatrically and loved it, and I still think it's great fun. And, yep, the Jamaican Ska number is pretty terrific.


I remember seeing Hello Down There at a kiddee matinee back in the 70s,and at one point Netflix had the disc,so I watched it again a few years ago,quirky flick