Saturday, July 12, 2014

BEACH PARTY (1963)

I was recently thinking about my love for GHOST OF DRAGSTRIP HOLLOW when I decided to look further into this kitchy brand teenage party movies that came out in the late 50's/early 60's.  And where better to start than BEACH PARTY?!

Twenty-something-year-old teenagers Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello have had enough of high school.  It's summer now and you can eat a bowl of fuck cause they are here to parr-tee!!  Frank is looking to get up in those guts, but Annette ain't having none of it.  So when Frankie rents them a beach bungalow to use as a summer fuck shack Annette secretly invites along 30 or so of their closest friends.  Frankie is upset by this and sets out to make Annette jealous by acting like he's interested in a local sexpot.  Annette returns his childish behavior by acting like she's hooking up with their neighborhood peeping tom/anthropologist (Robert Cummings) who's secretly writing a book about teenage sex rituals.  During all of this there's lots of dancing, singing, surfing and weird 60's shenanigans.  I enjoyed the hell out of all of it, but my most pleasant surprise came when no other than Eric Von Zipper and his motorcycle gang The Rats showed up!  I damn near squealed with joy.  I'd really enjoyed Von Zipper in THE GHOST IN THE INVISIBLE BIKINI, but I thought it was a one time appearance.  I was wrong because not only is Von Zipper a regular in the beach movies but TGITIB is also part of the beach party series!  How weird is that?

Anyway, I thought BEACH PARTY was a lot of fun.  Perfectly silly story, quick pace, great music, pretty girls in bikinis, Dick Dale wearing an earring, Von Zipper cracking stupid jokes nonstop, energetic dancing, Vincent Price cameo, Joel McCrea's son Jody in a supporting role as Deadhead, awesome 60's hair styles, humor so corny it's actually kinda funny, beatniks questioning traditional values, continuity errors galore, innocence, a pie fight and a dancing girl during the end credits that I really enjoyed.  Recommended.

Part 2 - Muscle Beach Party
Part 3 - Bikini Beach
Part 4 - Pajama Party
Part 5 - Beach Blanket Bingo
Part 6 - How to Stuff a Wild Bikini
Part 7 - The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini
Part 8 - Back to the Beach

Sunday, July 6, 2014

RAMROD (1947)

Made at pretty much the height of Hollywood's classic film noir period, RAMROD shares a lot of similarities with film noir: stark B&W photography filled with deep shadows, a sexy femme fatale, brutal violence and a grim story.

Veronica Lake is the daughter of a rancher (Charles Ruggles) who himself is under the thumb of an even more powerful cattleman, Preston Foster.  Her father wants her to marry Foster but she wants nothing of it.  When the film opens yet another rancher (and the man Veronica loves) is being ran out of town with his tail between his legs.  Before he leaves he signs his ranch over to Lake since he believes that she has a better chance of making it work than she does.  The first thing she does is hire local ranch hand Joel McCrea to be ranch foreman.  He knows this is the beginning of a violent range war so he only agrees if Veronica swears to play on the side of the law and make the other sides out to be the bad guys.  She agrees, but soon tires at McCreas slow pace. She starts using her feminine ways ("From now on I'm gonna make a life of my own.  And being a woman I won't have to use guns.") to speed up the process, but it only ends up creating more bloodshed.

RAMROD is a interesting western.  The story is complex.  In fact, when the film starts there's so much stuff going on it almost feels like you just walked in on the middle of the picture.  The casting is brilliant.  I especially liked the casting of the normally comedic Charles Ruggles as Lake's serious father.  The direction by Andre De Toth (who was Lake's real life husband at the time) is confident and the camerawork by Russell Harlen is very impressive and a joy to watch.  Recommended for western fans. 

My only reservation is Veronica Lake herself.  She does a fine job, but I think somebody like Barbara Stanwyck would have brought much more depth to the character.
Boom mic shadow.

Blink and you'll miss Jeff Corey as a hotel employee.