Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Surf Party

From time to time, TCM will spend an entire morning and afternoon showing some of those vintage beach movies, especially the ones with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. Lots of studios made these cheap movies to try to appeal to the teen audience, and a particularly cheap example is coming up on FXM Retro: Surf Party, tomorrow (July 2) at 12:30 PM and repeated on July 3 and July 5.

The movie starts off with Terry Wells (Patricia Morrow) in a car, trailer in tow, with two of her girlfriends. They're all from Arizona, and Terry is driving out to California to see her brother Skeet (Jerry Summers), who lives on the California coast spending his summers surfing. All three girls: Terry and her friends Junior (Jackie DeShannon, before she put a little love in our hearts) Sylvia (Lory Patrick) are looking to take up surfing, and enjoy the beach and all the other good things they must think California has to offer them from those beach movies they've seen. The only thing is, when they get to what is supposed to be Skeet's place on the beach, he doesn't answer. Oh, he's there, but he's got a girl and doesn't want to be bothered by anybody knocking on the door, not realizing it's his sister.

So the women park their trailer on the beach intending to camp there, not realizing it's illegal. The next morning, they're woken up by the owner of the local surf shop, Len (Bobby Vinton; none of the girls wears blue velvet at any point in the movie as far as I can tell). He helpfully informs them that they really should get off the beach before the local wet blanket cop comes by, and at least one of the women takes an interest in Len's hot body. Eventually they meet Skeet, and find that he's got some sort of reputation that's less than positive. Part of it is that he's considered the best surfer, and to get invited into his exclusive coterie, one has to surf between the pylons of the pier, which is unsurprisingly both dangerous and illegal. Milo (Ken Miller) is stupid enough to try, but Junior loves him for it anyway because he's just so dreamy. Terry is falling for Len, and Sylvia eventually falls for Skeet.

But there's tension between Len and Skeet, because Len wants the beach open for normal people and fears that Skeet's encouragement of illegal surfing will get that wet blanket cop to shut the beach down entirely. The young women visitors don't seem to care about any of this, and could easily play peacemaker, but by this time it's too late. Especially when the truth about Skeet is revealed.

I don't know why I'm going on about the plot of Surf Party, because that's not the reason to watch this one. Instead, watch it so you can laugh at how thoroughly awful it is in every way. The plot isn't very good, but that might be the least of the problems. Bobby Vinton and Jackie DeShannon should have stuck to their day jobs singing. The dialogue is terrible. The sets are terrible. But they're 10 times better than the surfing scenes, which are so blatantly done against rear projection with the actors doing gyrating "trying to keep balance" moves. And there's lots and lots of pointless music. One or two instrumental numbers wouldn't be bad, but there are a lot of vocal songs as well. And all the life is sucked out of the beach by the decision to film in black and white.

Watch Surf Party, and have fun. Just don't go into it with a serious point of view.

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