Blu-ray Review: Muscle Beach Party



Teens flocked to the movie theaters to take in the fun of Frankie Avalon (Grease) and Annette Funicello (The Mickey Mouse Club) in Beach Party during the summer of 1963. American International Pictures knew they had found a winning formula and quickly set about to make sure there would be a sequel in the theaters for Spring Break of 1964. Surf boards were waxed. A house on the beach was rented. Dick Dale tuned up his Stratocaster. Muscle Beach Party flexed its way onto the screen.

Frankie, Annette and the gang return to the beach only to discover new neighbors in the cottage next door. Instead of a college professor, they must deal with Jack Fanny (Casino‘s Don Rickles) and his pack of musclebound monstrosities. Among his stable of man meat is none other than Mr. Galaxy (Misson: Impossible‘s Peter Lupus). Off the beach is anchored the luxury yacht of a rich Italian Contessa (Thunderball‘s Luciana Paluzzi). At first she wants Mr. Galaxy to wrap his pythons around her. She has her business manager (The Love Bug‘s Buddy Hackett) not only set her up on a date, but make a business deal with Jack Fanny. She wants a 360 package with her potential lover. She loses interest in a man who cares more for wheatgerm than loving her. The Contessa turns her attention to Frankie. This isn’t really a downgrade since Frankie is in top shape, a surfing stud and a singing sensation. This upsets Annette since Frankie is her man. She wants a future with him. They even sing songs about their love. But Frankie does seem swayed by the Contessa and her yacht life. Will this romantic riff lead to a fight between muscle men and surfers?

What made the AIP beach films popular during this era was their colorful nature. Mr. Galaxy’s sparkling cape dazzles like the sun. Among the oiled muscle men is Biff played by Dan Haggerty (Grizzly Adams). You won’t recognize him with a clean shaven face. What made the clean fun of the Beach movies enjoyable instead of annoying is that the characters understand they aren’t reality. There is very little wildness from teens without parental supervision. The beach party films are eager to reassure parents that their kids can be moral in the face of temptation at the beach. Annette puts up a wall of sheets to divide the sleeping space between the boys and the girls. Nobody is getting drunk on the beach. The squeaky clean nature becomes a joke when Frankie looks at the camera and says, “Do you believe this?” The characters know that this isn’t reality. But they must like so a parent in Iowa doesn’t ground their son before going to California for a surfing safari.

A rumor claims Annette didn’t wear a bikini in the Beach movies at the demand of Walt Disney. Annette does hit the beach in a two piece outfit in Muscle Beach Party. Her swimming outfit might not be as revealing as the other girl’s bikinis. If she had any less material the movie wouldn’t be playing in Peoria. The kids across the nature needed to dream of going to the beach with friends so they can rock out to Dick Dale and Little Stevie Wonder. Muscle Beach Party will make you yearn for a trip to the beach.

The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The 1080p transfer brings out the colorful nature of the film. You also get plenty of detail when Candy Johnson shakes her tassel covered swimsuit. The audio is DTS-MA Mono. The mix allows you to enjoy Les Baxter’s inventive soundtrack along with Frankie and Annette’s musical numbers.

No bonus features.

Muscle Beach Party will allow you to get lost in the sand with the high definition picture. There was so much more to absorb about Frankie and Annette.

Olive Films presents Muscle Beach Party. Directed by: William Asher. Written by: Robert Dillon. Starring: Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Luciana Paluzzi and Don Rickles. Running Time: 95 minutes. Rated: Unrated. Released: February 17, 2015.

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