Monday, September 6, 2010
MUSCLE BEACH PARTY
Back once again are Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello in the second of the "beach party series", Muscle Beach Party (MBP). The movie opens with Frankie and Annette in one car followed by the rest of the gang in several more cars as they all sing "Surfer's Holiday". Not too long after their arrival at the beach the gang goes surfing and in MPB we not only "see" Frankie surfing, but also Annette and Dick Dale catching some waves.
After the surfing scene, we get to the two plot points of the movie. First up is the arrival of Jack Fanny (Don Rickles in his first of four "beach party" movies) and his stable of bodybuilders, featuring Mr. Galaxy (Peter Lupus of Mission Impossible fame who is listed in the credits as Rock Stevens, since he had been convinced by producer Samuel Z. Arkoff to come up with an "American" sounding name). Since Eric Von Zipper and his gang don't appear in MBP (although Alberta Nelson of The Mice has a role as Lisa - Muscle Girl), Don and his muscle men take the place of the antagonists.
The second part of the plot comes into play when we see a huge yacht anchored offshore and we find Buddy Hackett as the business manager of a spoiled heiress, Luciana Paluzzi. It seems Luciana is always looking for a man who will love her. She spots Mr. Galaxy and wants him for herself.
As usual in the plots of this series, Frankie and Annette have a spat. Annette is talking marriage but Frankie's not interested in settling down into a 9-5 routine. Frankie goes surfing and leaves Annette alone on the beach where she sings a wistful, "A Girl Needs A Boy". Once Frankie is back out of the surf, he sings his own version of the same song "A Boy Needs A Girl"
Luciana hears Frankie singing and decides she would rather have him than Mr. Galaxy. She decides she will make Frankie into a singing idol (what a concept!!) and will record him at Morey Amsterdam's (in his last "beach party" appearance) hangout Cappy's (called Big Daddy's in Beach Party). Before she arrives at Cappy's, Dick Dale (also making his last "beach party" appearance until 1987's "Back to The Beach") sings "My First Love" and this song either wasn't suited for him or he's just a better guitarist than vocalist. He also sings a very Beach Boyish sounding "Muscle Beach Party", which is understandable since Brian Wilson co-wrote this and four other songs in MBP.
Once Luciana arrives at Cappy's to record Frankie, he sings a really upbeat tune, "Runnin' Wild", while at the same time dancing with some of the beach gang girls. Back at the beach Dick Dale and The Del-tones with Donna Loren sing, what I assume the producers hoped would be a dance hit, (Do The) "Muscle Bustle". As you can tell this sequence of the movie is heavy on songs, but some of the plot line has developed at the same time.
We find the gang on the beach having a group sing-along with Dick Dale as they do an A cappella version of "Surfin' Woodie". When Frankie arrives, the gang lets him know how displeased they are with him if he is going to run off seeking fame as a singer. Between the gang putting him down and Buddy Hackett letting Frankie know what a "boy toy" he is is going to be, Frankie comes to his senses and goes back to Annette.
Back at Cappy's we are introduced to Little Stevie Wonder singing "Happy Street", which all of these years I thought was called "Clap Your Hands". When I originally saw Stevie Wonder in MBP in 1964, it had the same effect on me as when I saw James Brown later the same year in the T.A.M.I. Show. Both performances imprinted themselves into my grey matter and they're still lodged there to this day.
Don and his muscle men are still displeased about Mr. Galaxy being dumped for Frankie. They go to Cappy's to settle the score and a fight breaks out....well actually a slapstick fight. The fight is broken up by Don's silent partner, Mr. Strangdour played by Peter Lorre, who is the iconic film star of MBP, as Vincent Price was in Beach Party. The end credits announced Lorre would return in the next movie, but sadly he died soon after making this movie.
I think my main surprise with MBP is even though it featured comedians Don Rickles, Morey Amsterdam, and Buddy Hackett, they didn't get to do that much comedy or have that many comedic lines. Frankie Avalon actually has the best lines in the movie and a lot of those have to do with him breaking the "fourth wall" and talking to the audience.