Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Girls on the Beach (1965)

Directed by William Whitney
Starring Lana Wood, Lori Sanders, Ahna Capri, Noreen Corcoran
Rated G

"Our broken hearts will mend, but our broken heads might not."

Given the runaway success of AIP's Beach Party series, it stands to reason that other studios would want to take a stab at the teen scene, as well. Directed by TV western vet William Whitney and littered with a liberal dose of then up n' coming starlets, Girls on the Beach was Paramount's attempt at a Frankie & Annette-esque romp, only this time around, the girls rule the beach.

It's another day in paradise for the Alpha Beta girls, a group of swinging sorority sisters who spend a fair amount of their time basking on the beach or gulping grape sodas at the Sip N Surf. As our story unfolds, the officers of Alpha Beta Sorority - Selma (Noreen Corcoran), Georgia (Gail Gilmore, Village of the Giants), Betty (Nancy Spry, AKA Miss Teen USA), and Cynthia (Linda Marshall, Tammy and the Millionaire) are enjoying a lazy afternoon at the SN'S, eying the local surfer boys, when they get a frantic phone call from their house mother, Miss Winters (Sheila Bromley, Barn of the Naked Dead. Also RIP). She needs them to come home immediately. Apparently there's some calamity that needs an antics-filled solution.

By the way, blink and you'll miss Corman main-man Dick Miller in an uncredited cameo as a waiter in the club. When he hears that the band onstage is called The Crickets, he quips: "Crickets, Beatles, Cockroaches...what's next?"

Alright, so that's a little weak. It slayed in '65, though, I'm sure of it.

The girls high-tail it back to the sorority house to find a party in full swing, complete with furiously frugging bikini girls and Leslie Gore belting out "Leave Me Alone" while staring down some long-gone loser. The antics are over quickly, however, and Miss Winter gets down to business.

Apparently there was some wicked girl in the Sorority the previous year who got tossed for some nefarious reason and so, in retaliation, she got her Texas land baron dad to buy the sorority house and now, if they can't come up with $10,000 in two weeks to buy it back from him, they'll all be evicted. They did have a sizable rainy day fund, but it turns out Miss Winters had a nasty habit of paying the way for the less fortunate sorority sisters, and now the coffers are pretty much empty. They could just sue Miss Winers for the dough, but they just love her too much. So they go with Plan B. And Plan C. And Plan Double-D.

Patricia (Lori Sanders, Petticoat Junction), the sorority's hottest coed, enters a beauty contest with a hefty cash prize. Bosomy Arlene (Hungarian beauty Ahna Capri, Enter the Dragon, Brotherhood of Satan) seduces nerd-genius Stu (Peter Brooks) and convinces him to enter some kind of crossword puzzle contest in her name.

He uses a gigantic computer named Jenny. Futurism! There's also a bake-off and some other bullshit, and the girls also plan on throwing a fearsome bash and charge an entrance fee.

The latter scheme takes a weird turn when Duke (Martin West) and his two surfer pals tell the girls they are personal friends of the Beatles. I am assuming most dudes tried this line to woo college girls in the 60's. Utilizing phone pranks and hoodwinkery, they convince the trusting girls that the boys from Liverpool will, in fact, play their party. For free, no less. Clearly, the house would be saved if that happened. So, the girls prepare for the legendary bash that will, ultimately, end up in tears and disappointment.

Or will it?

After stalling with some belly dancing - and almost killing a masher with a guitar - the girls come up with a reasonably awesome solution. Sure, it still ends in a riot, but the house is saved! And, as you'd expect, given the era it was made in, those fuckin' cad surfer dudes get off scott-free. The girls even forgive them. They probably got tug jobs later that night. The 60's were crazy.

A lighter-than-air confection anchored by several stellar performances from Leslie Gore, The Crickets, and the Beach Boys, Girls on the Beach lacks the cartoon surrealism of the Beach Party flicks, but makes up for its Von Zipper deficit with a very tasty assortment of young lovelies, most of 'em clad in very little. Let's face it, the mid 60's were the apex of teen culture in the US - we will probably never land on a winning combination like the Beatles and bikinis ever again - so films like this serve a more noble purpose as time goes on. They are sacred artifacts from Planet Groovy, here to be admired and aspired to. Fans of beach-side frolics and 60's pop are encouraged to dig this rare gem up.

- Ken McIntyre

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