Monday, June 24, 2013

Beach House (1982)

Beach House (1982)
Directed by John Gallagher
Starring Ileana Seidel, John Cosola, Kate McNeil, Dana Nathan
Rated PG

"C'mon Cindy, lets get Freudian. Loosen your mandible. "

This is the debut film from John Gallagher (sadly, not the dude from Raven), who has gone on to have a reasonably successful career as an indie producer/director in NYC. My guess is, he keeps this one off of his promotion reel. Ostensibly a free-wheeling 80’s T&A beach comedy, this (I’m assuming) largely improvisational, extremely low-budget time-waster seems more like a collection of grubby home movies made by stoned goofballs. It’s outsider cinema, like a hetero John Waters with really lame friends. Still, it casts a mesmerizing spell, like some kind of fucked-up dream that you can’t quite remember, but can’t quite shake out of your head, either.

An assorted, mis-matched collection of kooks, creeps, cretins, and gum-snapping hussies from Brooklyn head to Ocean Cityon on the Jersey shore for a week of fun in the sun. They end up sharing a house with a pseudo-punk band from Philadelphia who, inexplicably, hang out with a bunch of stuck-up preppy types. Some of these people are teenagers, but a couple of the guys look about 35. It’s nearly impossible to tell who is who. No one, as far as I can tell, is an actual actor. I'm pretty sure it's just a bunch of locals getting wasted on a cheap beer and rag weed and making a "movie."  The mugging is pretty incredible, particularly from frizzy haired Cecile (one-time actress Ileana Seidel), the crass Brooklyn chick who bounces constantly and says stuff like, "Honey, I was your age when I was 12."

There’s no plot to speak of, just one meandering “party” scene after another. And even though the set-ups are pretty standard, the results are always weird and awkward to watch. For example, the gang takes a trip to Phil's Disco Inferno where they guzzle booze and dance to Plastic Bertrand, which seems perfectly reasonable for 1982, but then they head for the Boardwalk to do a barbershop quartet routine. Haha, what?

Later on, some big fucker named Marty (Al Wheatley, who also never acted again) walks into the Brooklyn pad and starts hitting on the chicks. It's entirely possible that he actually just wandered in off the street, completely unaware that a movie was being made. One of the girls (Angela? They might all be named Angela) tells him to fuck off, and he says, "Hey, I was just trying to be gregarious,” and then he leaves. And that's the whole scene.

The Brooklyn gang and the punk/preppies mingle at the beach and the alpha-preppy chick, Cindy (Kate McNeil, House on Sorority Row),  invites our scraggly heroes to their 4th of July 'turkey and tequila' (what?) party because she's got a crush on Anthony (they might all be named Anthony), but it quickly descends into a booze/fist/food fight. No one wins. Everybody is a loser at the Turkey and Tequila party.

All the fellas end up getting arrested, although they couldn't find an actual police station to shoot the scene. I think it's actually the coat room at the Elks club or something.

The next morning, they decide to play softball to hash out their differences, but quit halfway through because Baby (Paul Anderson), the perpetually stoned 40 year old they hang out with, wants a drink. And that's how the scene ends. It is entirely possible that the scene ended because the guy who plays Baby really did want a drink.

Did  I mention that there's a guy named Snookie who looks like Howard Stern and acts like Bowzer from Sha Na Na? Well, there is. Incidentally, Snookie was portrayed by Eddie Brill, who went on to be David Letterman's warm-up guy.

So anyway, a couple inter-group romances develop, which naturally causes friction between the two groups. To blow off some steam, Cindy wanders over to the amusement park after hours and starts riding the merry go round, which is inexplicably running all by itself.

Turns out its Marty stalking her behind the scenes. He chases her into a dark tunnel, presumably to rape her, while Anthony and her brother desperately search for her. Holy fuck, did this movie take a dark turn! Luckily, Anthony shows up and saves the day.

And then everybody goes to the beach to make out and dance to the band, who perform, right there, in the sand, with no electrical outlets in sight. It says The Pleasantville Music Shop on their bass drum, but I have no idea if that's the name of the band, or where they rented the drums. Anyway, it's a good party. The end. Really. The whole thing is over in a merciful 75 minutes.

You know, I think if you watched this drunk with a bunch of your snarky friends, this would probably seem like the greatest movie ever made. Stone cold sober, it’s a head-scratcher. This is definitely the lowest-budget, shot-on-film, non-porn 80’s teen-romp I’ve seen, cheaper even than woeful softcore Archie rip-off Hot Times, and it doesn’t even deliver on the basic T&A goods. Nobody gets naked, and even if they did, the entire cast has a ‘real people’ vibe, so you’d  probably be disappointed if they did (although Ileana does have a Linda Lovelace-y appeal).

There are no real jokes, just a lot of puns and forced slang, there’s no character development, and no acting, just people spouting lines. The picture is grimy and grainy, the lighting is non-existent, and the sound mix is muddy. For all intents and purposes, Beach House should be thoroughly unwatchable, but still, there’s something hypnotic about it. It seems sorta mysterious, like maybe we’re peeping in somebody’s private stash of long-gone goodtimes, like perhaps this was never meant for our eyes, it was meant for Snookie and Googie and whoever to reel up and project on a sheet in their basement every twenty years to remember when they were young-ish and free and the Jersey shore was an exotic wonderland where anything could happen. As an actual movie, something you would pay to go see and sit through in a theater, Beach House is ridiculous. But as a hazy, bizarre artifact from a weirder time, it’s sorta spellbinding. You ever hear a Shaggs record? Same thing here. I kinda wanna watch it again, and I kinda wanna never see it again as long as I live. Ding?

- Ken

Stacey says:

It's entirely possible that the majority of  Beach House was improvised. The "actors" appear to have been given an extremely loose plot line and been told to riff. It's also possible that MTV got the idea for the Jersey Shore from this "reality show" before it's time.

 This movie is terrible and awesome at the same time. At first, I kind of wanted to shut it off, but kept watching... it was crazy! The dudes are mostly off-putting and the girls are kind of annoying, but somehow it all works. I am with Ken on this one... Ding?


  1. The movie sounds odd. I think I would enjoy it, but my wife probably would fail to appreciate its charms. By the way, the name of the band is Adam Roth and His Band of Men, if you're interested. Cheers, Roel

  2. Saw this when it came out...and loved it. Jonathan Paley from the Paley Brothers is one of the band guys. I remember that at the time,I really liked the music a lot...but now I couldn't tell you what it sounded like.


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