Thursday, April 19, 2012

Buff Guys, Bikini Babes, and Rockin' Surf Music Abound in "Muscle Beach Party"

Julie, the Contessa, watches
as Flex flexes his muscles.
Contessa: You’re so strong. Flex: I’m the strongest.
Contessa: And so handsome.
Flex: I’m the handsomest.
Contessa: And so big.
Flex: Yes, ma’m.
Contessa: I want to be alone with you.
Flex: Did you see this tricep?
Contessa: I want to take you away with me.
Flex: The way I can make it ripple?
Contessa: Right now.
Flex: I haven’t had my lunch.

Jack Fanny (Don Rickles) motivates his bodybuilders,
led by Peter Lupus on the far right.
I have something in common with a Contessa. No, it’s not the wealth, nor the beauty. But we both think Peter Lupus, billed under the stage name Rock Stevens, is cute and fun. Muscle Beach Party gives Lupus’s character Flex Martian, also known as Mr. Galaxy, a chance to really show off his award-winning physique. Lupus became regular Willie Armitage on Mission: Impossible two years after this classic entry in the Beach Party series. Flex proudly wears a shiny purple bathing suit with a gold cape and is surrounded by seven shorter muscular men in shiny pink bathing trunks and pink capes (named Biff, Rock, Tug, Riff, Hulk, Sulk, and Clod) and their manager Jack Fanny, perfectly portrayed by Don Rickles.

Frankie explains to Dee Dee, a bit
condescendingly, that "girls don't fly."
Series regulars Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello are back in this second Beach Party entry as Frankie and Dee Dee, along with Jody McCrea as their friend Deadhead and shimmying Candy Johnson as Candy. The film opens with Frankie beginning to feel pressured by Dee Dee to make a commitment to settle down when he just wants to keep having fun with his beach friends.

Luciana Paluzzi before Thunderball.
Meanwhile, the Contessa Julie, played by the luminous Luciana Paluzzi (best known as Fiona Volpe in Thunderball), arrives in her luxury ocean liner. She proves to be indecisive, thinking she is in love first with Flex and then with Frankie, when she comes across him wistfully singing “A Boy Needs a Girl (He Can Count On)” on a moonlit beach. She decides she likes Frankie’s voice and boyish charms even more than the buff strongman’s--to the disgust of Dee Dee, who calls her the Bride of Godzilla at one point.

Annette surfing in her cute suit...
in front of a rear screen wave.
Annette plays the lovely girl next door and wears one of her prettiest two piece swimsuits, with a net draped across the top. We hear her sing “A Girl Needs a Boy (She Can Count On)” with an echo effect that came to be known as the "Annette sound." Part of the fun of Muscle Beach Party is hearing songs performed enthusiastically by Donna Loren, Little Stevie Wonder (who was 14 at the time), and Dick Dale and the Del-Tones.

Morey Amsterdam mugging
as Cappy.
Entertaining supporting performances abound, including Morey Amsterdam reprising the role of proprietor Cappy from Beach Party, Buddy Hackett as the Contessa's business manager, Peter Turgeon as Julie’s lawyer, and even a turn by Peter Lorre as the strong yet silent partner of Jack Fanny. Yet, despite the presence of such veteran funnymen, Harvey Lembeck is sorely missed as motorcycle gang leader Eric Von Zipper. Muscle Beach Party is the only one of the seven Beach Party movies without Lembeck.

The ending is not a surprise but viewers watch Beach Party films for the fun in the sun and the singing and dancing. There are lots of shots of surfing and even a “walls of Jericho” to separate the young women from the young men in their cramped lodging. It's a perfect movie for light summer viewing, with or without a beach.


sarkoffagus said...

What a well written, informative and thoroughly enjoyable post! A superb entry in the BEACH PARTY series, this film is great fun -- though, as you said, some Eric Von Zipper would have made it even better. With Annette Funicello and Luciana Paluzzi, it's a hottie overload and features Dee Dee's most memorable swimsuit. (I'm flabbergasted by the picture of Frankie, who's turned AWAY from Dee Dee!) This was such delightful write-up to read. Wonderful job, toto!

Rick29 said...

Toto, thanks for including that hilarious dialogue exchange at the start of your review. It's one of my favorite scenes in MUSCLE BEACH PARTY; I don't know how Luciana Paluzzi kept a straight face during Peter Lupus's deadpan delivery. This may be my second favorite BP movie after BEACH BLANKET BLANKET (the first five films are all pretty good). The only thing it's missing is Eric Von Zipper (as you pointed out). I think the writers could have squeezed the Ratz into the plot, but maybe Harvey Lembeck was busy with another project. Although Frankie tries to make Annette jealous in other BP films, I think his only serious fling is with the stunning Ms. Paluzzi, who stole all her scenes in THUNDERBALL. In the end, though, Frankie made the right choice by sticking with Annette. That's what I would have done, too! Your photos are marvelous--just the right amount of beefcake and cheesecake. This was a delightful review of a film that is indeed "a perfect movie for light summer viewing."

Dawn said...

Cowabunga!! Review of a Beach Party movie. Between songs, fun in the sand, there are some wonderful surfing footage which is my favorite part of the beach movies..

Grand Old Movies said...

Biff, Rock, Tug, Riff, Hulk, Sulk, AND Clod? Omigod - how did they get away w/it? this sounds hilarious - I will definitely make a note to check out the Beach party series! thanks for your great review-

ClassicBecky said...

Toto, this was such an entertaining article. It's funny, but I always liked Annette's webbed 2-piece suit too. I haven't seen this one in a while. Those muscle men! I don't relaly like that type -- these guys are almost scary! Lots of fun!

toto2 said...

I would like to thank everyone who posted comments, including the four or five that were here before they disappeared during Blogger maintenance. The Beach Party movies are fun and light! Becky, your comment made me smile this morning!

Rick29 said...

Toto, yes, my comment was deleted during the Blogger blunder. I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed this review, starting with the hilarious exchange of dialogue at the beginning. I'll never know how Peter Lupus delivered that with a straight face--he apparently didn't get to "play funny" on MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE. This may be my second favorite BP movie, which is saying a lot since it doesn't have Harvey Lembeck in it. And thanks so much for providing the names of all of Jack Fanny's bodybuilders. Remember the question that callers keep asking the library staff in DESK SET? I imagine that somewhere someone is asking a reference librarian the names of all of Flex's cohorts. Now, they can just google it and find the answer in your delightful review!

Unknown said...

Surfers hated, no make that HATED the Beach Blanket movies, though Gidget was the worst offender. They cleaned up the surfing scene, made it look like something Rock and Doris would enjoy (who d'ya think Frankie and Annette were patterned after). Surfing became fun and easy, like those cute little Honda 50's. And they packed the beaches with hodads and gremmies (don't ask) and the waves with dangerous amateurs who had no idea how easy it was to get your head taken off by a loose board or simply drown when a wave slammed you to the bottom.