Surfin’ Safari: Bikini Beach (1964)
Even now I’m not sure why I added Bikini Beach to my Netflix Instant queue. I think the site might have suggested the film after seeing how many teen-oriented summer flicks I’ve watched, but most of those have been from the 80s. The other day I thought about watching Hannibal, but figured it would be a bit too intense for my daughter (who tricked me on Tuesday by making me think that two hour naps were the new norm, tricky baby). When that idea fell through, I saw this Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello flick at the top of the queue and went for it.
I’ve never seen one of their flicks (though research tells me there were seven total films in this series, of which BB is the third installment), but it wound up being a really fun and goofy movie that was perfect for paying limited attention while doing work and watching the kid. The idea is that a group of surfer kids sets up shop on a stretch of beach that happens to be right next to a famous Beatles-esque pop star called The Potato Bug AND near the property of a stodgy old guy who owns a nearby retirement home. This causes two sets of problems as Bug woos Annette away from Frankie AND the old guy tries to get rid of the kids by writing editorials in the newspaper he owns about how animalistic they are. How does he prove this? Well, he’s trained his ape to do all the things the kids do: surf, dance and drive. Why he’s not writing stories about this incredibly scientific breakthrough, I do not know.
After some of those goofy looking surfing scenes we’ve all seen on clip shows and whatnot, the tide turns a bit as Potato Bug shows proficiency at drag racing which makes Frankie want to take it up as well so they can race. There’s also a bunch of stuff with Don Rickles as a guy who owns both the racetrack and the local teen hang out (which doesn’t sell hard liquor because it’s for the kids, but does serve beer…) as well as a biker gang whose leader is a total goofball who allies himself with the old guy even though the old guys is not down with all that. There’s also a werewolf for no reason other than someone won a contest.
There’s also a good deal of musical numbers including one by Little Stevie Wonder at the end. I’m a fan of surf rock, though I’m admittedly ignorant of most of it. I dig the Ventures, Jan & Dean, the Dick Dale stuff I’ve heard and Link Wray (just barely surf, but in the same vein). The stuff in this flick isn’t nearly as good as any of that, but it’s still fun. And that’s really what this movie is about: having fun, even in the face of jerky old people who want to stiffle your fun. It’s kind of cool knowing that this plot goes so far back in film. Think about it, our parents were watching these movies and thinking, “Yeah, man, screw that old guy, I just want to SURF!” I suggest checking out all seven movies and reminding your parents of them when they start giving you a hard time (assuming your folks are still giving you static when you’re nearing 30).