Saturday 1 September 2007

How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965) William Asher

I ran out of much enthusiasm for those sixties beach movies after seeing one of them, but while all of them seemed to be pretty terrible, they all had moments of interest. William Asher, the man who made a bunch of them for American International during the mid sixties, had a quirky sense of humour that has dated horrendously but had enough of a camp and embarrassing flavour that makes his work somehow watchable today. Think of these films like sixties sitcoms, merely extended in length. We can't help enjoying on some level or other while being embarrassed at enjoying all along.

Picture this scenario: Mickey Rooney as a bright businessman called J Peachmont 'Peachy' Keane wandering around in his underwear trying to find his clothes which have flown out of the window, while talking business with his boss, B D 'Big Deal' Macpherson, played by Brian Donlevy, who calls everyone 'sweetheart' or 'chicky baby'. If this is your thing, then you'll be happy here for sure. If it isn't, then you're going to get caught up in the force of their personalities. Beyond that you're stuck with Annette Funicello and Harvey Lembeck, who are and have always been just really, really annoying. The songs aren't any better.

How to Stuff a Wild Bikini has Frankie Avalon thankfully taking a back seat, as he was always annoying too. He's in the naval reserves in the South Pacific, and while he's messing around with the delightful Irene Tsu, he's also wondering whether his girl back home in Malibu is cheating on him, so he consults witch doctor Bwana, played by Buster Keaton, who (with help from his uncredited daughter Elizabeth Montgomery, already Belinda in Bewitched) does his job in exchange for daily torpedo juice. They send over the gorgeous Beverly Adams in a wild leopardskin bikini, though the reasoning escapes me, and a pelican to watch over everyone.

As Frankie's girl is of course Annette Funicello, she's the boring one on the beach while all the guys leech on Cassandra and all the girls bitch about the guys leeching on Cassandra. But hey, these films aren't about plot: they're about exploitation, with surreal lunacy backing up lots of beach girls in bikinis. I completely understand the reason behind them and American International will have done very nicely out of them while young couples at drive ins didn't pay much attention to the screen. What I don't know is what other people thought of these things, especially those related to those in them. Jody McCrea, the imbecile beach boy Bonehead, was the son of Joel McCrea, for instance, and wild bikini wearing Beverly Adams was Vidal Sassoon's wife.

Oh, and the feature band this time out are the Kingsmen, Len Lesser is substituting for Timothy Carey, and Elizabeth Montgomery wasn't the only sitcom star of the time. Dwayne Hickman, whose character mostly substitutes for Frankie Avalon's, was the title character in The Loves of Dobie Gillis. This one was more fun than the rest that I've seen, I think, but that still doesn't make it any good.

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