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How To Stuff A Wild Bikini

Released July 14, 1965

Available on video?  yes, currently being commercially distributed by MGM to the home video market.  Available in VHS as part of the "Midnite Movie" series (now out of production, but inventory is still out there) or general MGM series DVD.

Synopsis: an ad agency promoting a motorcycle race tries to take advantage of the surfers.  This is complicated by Frankie (who is away overseas) getting a Witch Doctor to cast a spell to keep the boys away from Dee Dee, as well as cycle gang leader Eric Von Zipper attempting to change his image. 

The musical high water mark of the series

How so?

Well, here we find Baxter and his contracted writers actually composing “book numbers,” e.g. real musical comedy ensemble pieces, ones that specifically carry the storyline forward and often act as substitutes for script lines.  As a result, the difference between what is experienced here vs. the earlier films is striking.  No longer a “theme with some music” series, the sixth movie clearly becomes a true musical.   As such, it's jam packed with song, eleven full numbers in total (including one instrumental), more than any of the other six films.

The "true musical" element is also evidenced by the fact that for the first time, a Beach Party film contains few storyline-unrelated “spotlight” numbers.  Donna Loren -- and all those red and white Dr Pepper bottles – have disappeared, and the guest band – the Kingsmen this time around -- get to play only one "stand alone" piece.  Other than that and an Annette dance piece solo, every other song you hear in this film is script related and sung by characters, usually in ensembles.

The change in direction is also reflected in casting.  The principal guest star this time around is Mickey Rooney, who was brought in not just for his comedic abilities but also because of experience in musical roles (gone are the likes of Don Rickles, Paul Lynde and Keenan Wynn, who were all entertaining but were not song and dance types).

All this re-engineering wasn’t based simply on a desire to improve; it was also driven by some desperation.

For the series was in trouble.

While Beach Blanket Bingo had done satisfactorily at the box office, receipts for it were below its predecessors (the market success of this theme had in fact peaked a year earlier with Bikini Beach.)   The trend sensitive management of AIP knew why; the core premise of their franchise was weakening, as surfing was starting to be supplanted by other fads, particularly motorcycling (less than two years later, AIP would be making films like "The Wild Angels.")  Notably, How To Stuff A Wild Bikini displays a sudden new interest in motorcycles; in fact Annette's romantic interest, Dywane Hickman is scripted as an avid cyclist.

Therefore the “tightening up” of the music may have also been an attempt to refurbish the tiring theme.  Perceiving that audiences were no longer impressed with the mere presence of dancing kids and twangy music, Les Baxter may have felt what was needed was a more synthesized, “polished” musical production.  If “The Sound of Music” (a contemporary to these movies) could break box office records with corny scripted song and dance, why couldn’t AIP do the poor man’s pop version?

Some things did remain the same, however: lots of pretty bodies wearing as little as possible, a silly script and depending on Annette as the musical heavy lifter.  Here she sings two solo numbers and a duet (a split screen one including Frankie; he’s in extensive cameo mode here).   Moving up in importance is Harvey Lembeck; his character and screen time are significantly enlarged here, as he and his Ratz/Mice gang get two major musical numbers.


Footnote: Annette states this was her least favorite Beach Party movie, due to both the general absence of Avalon (a close friend she truly enjoyed working with) and the fact that during shooting she was three months pregnant with Gina, her first child (hence her attire in the film consists solely of baggy blouses and poncho-style cover ups, no bathing suits or filmy nightgowns this time).  Despite all that, her performance here is as perky and positive as ever.  More evidence to suggest what a trooper the lady was.

The Score of How To Stuff A Wild Bikini






Annette and first husband Jack                                                                                                                               Gildari with Gina, October 1966           

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