Released March 25, 1964
Available on video? yes, currently being commercially distributed by MGM to home video market as part of their "Midnite Movie" series. Avaliable in VHS (out of production but some inventory is still out there), or in DVD format as a "double feature" (combined with the clone "Ski Party") .
Synopsis: the surfers face challenges when a bunch of bodybuilders and their promoter "invade" the beach. Annette and Frankie's relationship is also disrupted by the arrival of a fickle Italian heiress who goes after Frankie.
The theme evolves, but the music doesn’t
Before we get into this film, I must admit this is my personal least favorite movie of the series. For a long time I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why, until I read a comment on the film by a reviewer on the Internet Movie Database. His point -- “the movie Yes, Walt, she's not so "little" anymore: rare photo of has a negative feel, everyone in it seems angry at someone else” – Annette with a cigarette, taken during a break in filming finally helped me determine what it is that really bugs me about of early scenes in Muscle Beach Party Muscle Beach Party: the storyline is perhaps the most uncomfortable and least engaging of any of these films. And adding injury to that insult, this is the only Beach Party movie where the humorous relief of Eric Von Zipper and his gang are sorely missing (they for whatever reason were left out of the script).
All that affects the musical approach here. Les Baxter is presented with a challenge, as a limited, comparatively dull storyline focuses on a greedy promoter, stupid, comparatively uninteresting musclemen/bodybuilders, a selfish “euro-trash” millionaire and the nastiest, most argumentative Dee Dee/Frankie relationship of the entire series. When Buddy Hackett becomes the most sympathetic character in an entire film, you know you’re in trouble.
Presumably, all that unattractiveness could have produced an opportunity for a lot of interesting comedic musical numbers, but Baxter takes a different approach: sensitive romantic ballads, lots of club dance numbers and a solo piece by a new guest star musician, most of which are unfortunately weak. In scoring the film, he does his best to link these things together, but the result is still somewhat the uncohesive mish-mosh, one not nearly as satisfying as the predecessor.
It isn’t a complete loss, however. Dick Dale – in his last appearance in the series – gets a few decent numbers, and late in the show we are briefly introduced to a new musical character, Donna Loren, who will subsequently go on to become one the better elements of the Beach Party musical legacy. Frankie Avalon gets to do a solo ballad, which plays to his strengths much more than the upbeat dance piece he did in the prior film. Candy Johnson and her wiggling move up to become a featured sideshow, and we’re also treated to the film debut of a 13 year old named Stevie Wonder, evidence that AIP was more than willing to roll the dice on interesting but then comparatively unknown artists.
The Score of Muscle Beach Party