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Saturday, June 8, 2019


I've always loved the American-International "Beach Party" series, and I always will. This gives you a good idea of the overall tenor of my assessment of HOW TO STUFF A WILD BIKINI (Olive Films, 1965). As for WHY I love these movies so much, well...err...uhh...

To be honest, a lot of people will hate this movie and others like it, and, as far as they're concerned, rightfully so. It's a supremely silly slapstick sex farce with the lowest teen denominator in mind, and it was made to shower undiscerning audiences with brightly-colored pop culture confetti made up of whatever seemed like it might appeal to them, including girls in bikinis, bikes, surfing, jangly rock 'n' roll, cartoonish action, really corny jokes, and cameo appearances by faces familiar to both the younger and older generations.

All of which is why I find these movies to be such irresistible fun--because that's all they try to be, and in their own stupefying way, they succeed.  It helps if you're a fan of Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello (I am), two of the most appealing young stars of the 60s, and enjoy occasionally turning off your mind, relaxing, and floating downstream. It is not dying, even though some might feel that way about it.

This time, Frankie's serving six weeks of naval reserve duty in Tahiti, separating him from Annette and tempting him to indulge in the local "social scene." Even so, he expects Annette (as "Dee Dee") to be faithful to him back there in Malibu, so he enlists the help of witch doctor Bwana Chicky Baby (none other than the venerable Buster Keaton, whose assistants include the beautiful Irene Tsu and Bobbi Shaw) to help him keep an eye on her with the help of a magical pelican. 

Bwana Chicky Baby also plans to divert the beach boys' attention away from Annette by creating the perfect woman, who appears to everyone first as an empty leopard skin bikini. The great John Ashley (HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER, FRANKENSTEIN'S DAUGHTER), an American-International mainstay doing beach duty for the studio, then gets to croon the title song before the bikini is suddenly filled by the gorgeous Cassandra (Beverly Adams).

In short order, a nattily-dressed Mickey Rooney and Dwayne Hickman show up as big business types looking for the "girl next door" to accompany Dwayne in a motorcycle race which Mickey hopes will improve the image of cyclists (an image that Eric Von Zipper and his bumbling biker gang do their best to sully when they show up and Eric falls in love with Cassandra).

Dwayne, against Mickey's wishes, falls for Annette, who plays hard to get as usual while the magic pelican keeps watch over their activities for the absent Frankie.  And thus the film's main action is established with lots of romantic complications and slapstick nonsense until the big bike race, which turns the final quarter of the film into a live-action cartoon that's like a cross between "Wacky Races" and "Road Runner."

This is the seventh film in A-I's "Beach Party" series (if you count "Pajama Party" and "Ski Party") and by this time the concept was starting to wind down. The next related films would be SERGEANT DEADHEAD and DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE BIKINI MACHINE, then one more "bikini" movie, the financial flop THE GHOST IN THE INVISIBLE BIKINI. After that, the emphasis would be on stock car racing with FIREBALL 500 and THUNDER ALLEY. 

But there's still fun to be had with this formula if it strikes your fancy as it does mine. Annette is just as appealing a fantasy girlfriend as ever, and gets to sing a couple of songs (one with The Kingsmen as her backup band) while fending off Dwayne Hickman's romantic overtures.

Rooney seems to be having a good time spoofing HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING (his character's name, J. Peachmont Keane, is a variation of that play's J. Pierpont Finch). He even participates in some of the many musical numbers that keep cropping up at the darndest times.

Most of the silliness comes from Harvey Lembeck's familiar Eric Von Zipper and his gang of "stupids", with "Seinfeld" regular Len "Uncle Leo" Lesser turning up as their cohort in crime, the evil North Dakota Pete.  The bike race finale throws any semblance of coherence or sanity to the winds, making the old Looney Tunes cartoons look like models of adult sophistication in comparison.

In addition to the great Keaton and Rooney, the film offers supporting roles and cameos from the likes of Brian Donlevy as Rooney's boss B.D. "Big Deal" McPherson and director William Asher's wife at the time, "Bewitched" star Elizabeth Montgomery, as (what else?) a witch. Frankie, by this time, was demanding more money and is relegated to just a few "Tahiti" scenes.  Annette, bless her heart, is just as wonderful as ever.

Will Dwayne and Annette win the big race instead of the devious Von Zipper and Cassandra?  Will Annette finally forget her vow to stay faithful to the unfaithful Frankie and give in to Dwayne's advances? Will the rest of the boys (including Jody McCrea's "Bonehead") forget hypnotic Cassandra and return their attention to the rest of the jealousy-inflamed girls? Will John Ashley sing another awful song? Will Mickey Rooney finish doing whatever it is that he's doing?

If you couldn't care less, there are probably a lot of other people who feel exactly the same way you do. I don't care that much myself, but as a lifelong beach movie lover, I sure do have a great time watching movies like HOW TO STUFF A WILD BIKINI anyway. It's the ultimate in light entertainment, and if you take it lightly enough, the rational part of your brain will enjoy the vacation.   

Buy it from Olive Films

Release date: June 25, 2019

Rated : NR (Not Rated)
Region Code : Region 1/A
Languages : English (captions optional)
Video : 2:35:1 Aspect Ratio; COLOR
Runtime : 93 minutes
Year : 1965
Bonus: Trailer


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