Sons of a "Beach Party"

While watching "Beach Party" (1963) at the drive-in, I was reminded of confusion concerning the series.

There were numerous, sandy, happy-go-lucky pictures distributed by several studios in the 1960s, but it may be surprising to note only four are true "Beach Party" sequels -- and those do not include "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962), disqualified primarily for its noticeable lack of water and anyone named Kahuna, plus "The Incredible Mr. Limpet" (1964), excluded for Don Knotts swimming openly without a bathing suit and nobody asked him to.

The official "Beach Party" follow-up movies star Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello: "Muscle Beach Party" (1964), "Bikini Beach" (1964), "Beach Blanket Bingo" (1965), and "How to Stuff a Wild Bikini" (1965).

The five films chronicle the characters of Frankie and Dee Dee (Dolores), although in "How to Stuff a Wild Bikini," except for an uncredited cameo, Frankie is absent, off on reserve duty. I suspect, however, he was off making "I'll Take Sweden" with Bob Hope.

American International Pictures, the low budget cheese wizards behind the epics, worked overtime to milk gold out of their lighthearted, youth formula. Five additional productions were rushed into release and are often referred to as "Beach Party" flicks, but, while they headline Annette and/or Frankie and many of their surfing buds, the characters and settings are not the same.

The titles are "Pajama Party" (1964), "Ski Party" (1965), "Sergeant Deadhead" (1965), "Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine" (1965), and "Fireball 500" (1966). Annette's missing in several of these, probably off on reserve duty or doing "The Monkey's Uncle" (1965) for Mr. Disney.

Walt, by the way, was the one to insist his former Mickey Mouseketeer, Annette, not wear bikinis in the "Beach Party" stories for reasons of decency. She agreed because of her respect for him. I've often pondered his reaction to Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, later Mouseketeers-turned-mice-lice.

In 1987, Paramount unleashed "Back to the Beach," as a tongue-in-cheek homage to the earlier, unrelated franchise. Frankie and Annette returned in differently named skins, married with children with surfboards.

Mr. Disney was off on reserve duty or doing something heady.

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