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Beach Blanket Bingo

Released April 2, 1965

Available on video?  yes, currently being commercially distributed by MGM to home videomarket.  Available in VHS as general MGM series, or in DVD as part of the "Midnite Movie" series.   Note that both of these versions contain a slightly abbreviated version of the film that is missing one of Annette's musical numbers.

Synopsis: the kids get involved with a promoter pushing a new pop singer, a mermaid and a surfer fall in love and we experience an Annette/Frankie romantic "quadrangle" that this time involves skydivers. 

The perennial favorite that musically has a lot to offer (albeit, exactly which numbers you hear depends upon which particular version of the film you see)

This is generally perceived by most viewers as the best of the seven movies, primarily because it contains a great collection of all the classic stereotypes of the series: it’s focused on surfing and the beach, has the inevitable on and off Frankie and Dee Dee romance, includes fun guest stars with wandering storylines and Harvey Lembeck at his absolute Brando-esque best.  It also doesn’t hurt that the musical offerings are about as good as it ever got in these films.

Starting with a big, jubilant, slickly produced opening number, the movie comes back again and again with entertaining music.  In addition to the usual Funicello and Avalon set pieces, secondary player Loren gets to do a well composed Styner-Hemric number that takes full advantage of her strengths (in fact, Donna’s ballad is the best number she ever did in a movie).  A set of top-of-the line "ringers" are employed to overdub vocals for Linda Evans' numbers, and the house band this time – the Hondells – get to provide the best dance number of the series.   Harvey Lembeck even gets a song, among the most musical-comedy-ish pieces ever seen in any of these films.  As a result, while the music overall isn’t as tightly tied the script as the predecessor Pajama Party -- and thus isn't quite as much a true musical as the latter --  Beach Blanket Bingo arguably has the best overall mix of music of any of these films.


Two footnotes: this editing of this film was in play right up to the moment of release, so there are slightly different variations of it floating around out there.  Specifically, the original cut contained "I'll Never Change Him," a bouncy ballad Annette performs late in the storyline.  Apparently, another version of this number (performed by Deborah Walley) was simultaneously filmed for the AIP Beach Party clone Ski Party, and Asher and/or the Producers decided it was better to utilize the piece in that film.  So the official final release version of Beach Blanket Bingo did not contain "I'll Never Change Him," and that "abbreviated" cut is what has shown up on all (five by my count) subsequent home video versions of the movie.

However, the AIP studio archives did retain the original cut with the Annette performance of "I'll Never Chnage Him," and it has popped up on cable over the years.   As example, during the summer and fall of 2001 the American Movie Classics network showed this "original" version numerous times as part of its "American Pop" series.  So it -- and the "lost" Annette number --  is now out there on the tapes fans made of those broadcasts.  Some bemoan the fact AMC didn't show the movie in widescreen, but my call is half a loaf (the full true original movie, albeit "panned and scanned") is better than none at all.   

The second interesting footnote to Beach Blanket Bingo occurs about three quarters of the way through the film, when guest star Don Rickles (in his fourth and last appearance in the series) goes “out of character” in a club scene.  Hosting a party at Sugar Kane’s “beach house,” Rickles (cast as “Big Drop,” the owner/manager of a parachuting school) suddenly becomes the “normal” nightclub Rickles.  He then engages in several minutes of lobbing his “funny-but-uncomfortably-on-the-money” insults at the stars in the audience (he bashes Avalon as being “over the hill” and tells Annette “you remind me of a trained seal”).  Per comments Annette made in her 1994 biography, I suspect that Rickles was invited to do this after the cast actually experienced it while watching his nightclub act in Las Vegas.  It’s entertaining but -- unless one has the background context  -- strange and almost uncomfortable; one wonders whether audiences at the time were in on the “joke."

The Score of Beach Blanket Bingo

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