Lockdown Movie Musts: 1960s Beach Party Preposterousness

Welcome to week four of Lockdown Movie Musts, a series exploring weird subgenres of yore guaranteed to make you feel like you left the house for more than ten minutes!

Remember that footage from a few weeks ago? When that Spring Breaker in Miami told a news crew: “If I get corona, I get corona. At the end of the day, I’m not gonna let it stop me from partying”? This week, I went in search of the source of such stupidity and found 1960’s Where The Boys Are! This vacation romp has the distinction of being Patient Zero for both the raging popularity of American college students’ spring break vacations (nobody beyond the northeast went on those until this movie came out), and the beach party movies that infested the rest of the decade. (Where The Boys Are has an awful lot to answer for...)

The college ladies of Where The Boys Are are a likable bunch, even though they say things like “Girls like me weren’t built to get educated, we were meant to have children!” and “What is he? Queer for hats?” and “No girl enjoys being considered promiscuous, even those who might be!” It speaks to the awesomeness of their swimsuits that they can say all of these things and remain perfectly watchable.

The ladies, despite also owning a wide range of excellent dresses, all consistently punch below their weight when it comes to men. There’s George Hamilton in short-shorts who confuses owning a boat for having a personality. There’s a pretentious jazz musician Connie Francis is so eager to impress, she spontaneously breaks into song in the middle of a bar (called the Elbo Room, incidentally). There’s even a literal rapist! (Way to totally go dark, Where the Boys Are.)

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Then there’s poor, gorgeous Paula Prentiss who puts up with this crap because all men other than this guy (his name is TV) think she’s too tall:

(Can we bring back swimming tank shows in restaurants when this is all over please?)

Still, the godawful men of Where The Boys Are seem like dreamboats (except for the rapist, obvi) when lined up next to the douche-lords of 1964’s Bikini Beach.

Frankie Avalon stars here as a raging egomaniac with a chip on his shoulder who’s in romantic competition with a pop sensation named The Potato Bug. The Potato Bug is a snarky composite of all of the Beatles, and is played by (no, really) Frankie Avalon in a wig and glasses. Words cannot express how unfunny it all is, but just imagine Austin Powers with no jokes and less style and that’s pretty close.

Here’s everything you need to know about Bikini Beach. Everyone runs everywhere all of the time. Frankie’s girl Dee Dee (played by Annette Funicello) wears a weird toupee on top of her regular hair and we’re not supposed to notice. Candy, a woman who only wears outfits with red tassels on them, makes men fall down when she shakes her ass. There’s a biker guy whose whole body freezes when he points at his own head. (I’d rather not get into it...) There’s Don Rickles as a bar/drag strip owner. (I'd rather not get into it...) And there’s a posh older guy with a surfing chimp (I’d definitely rather not get into it...) trying to get the kids off the beach.

Bikini Beach was the third in a (long) series of beach party movies starring “Frankie and Annette” and the highest grossing of them all. Which boggles the mind because it is so incredibly dumb, I literally felt my IQ dropping as I watched it. Even an appearance by “Little Stevie Wonder” couldn’t save this thing.

1966’s Out of Sight does a much better job of being stupid, thanks to stylistic cues from The Monkees and The Avengers, a plot involving secret agents and a series of bombshell lady-villains (called things like Scuba, Turbo and Wipeout!). There are secret labs and comedy bombs and slapstick violence and bouts of slow motion volleyball. There are death rays and musical torture devices and many scenes of unfiltered young-person-joy. I cannot overstate how much easier it is to watch than Bikini Beach.

Best of all, there are constant gratuitous musical interludes. Why are The Turtles and The Astronauts and The Knickerbockers always just hanging around playing music for these beautiful idiots? Nobody ever says and it really doesn’t matter! Out of Sight is at its best when music is happening, and if you don’t believe me, let me leave you with this most perfect of moments.

Beach party movies: Come for the music, stay for the girls doing dance-karate on the beach.

Until next week, stay safe and keep sheltering.

For other Lockdown Movie Musts, click here