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The Ghost In The Invisible Bikini

Released April 6, 1966 

Available on video?  for whatever reason, this is the only one of the seven AIP Beach Party movies that is not currently being commercially distributed to the home video market.  However, it can be obtained from the Video Beat (see link section) and is offered from time to time by private sellers on places like eBay.

Synopsis: the gang goes to a haunted mansion, where the deceased owner gets his bikinied "ghostly" spouse to assist them in battling a lawyer who is trying to steal the estate from the legitimate heirs.  

Not just the last, but the strangest of all the Beach Party movies, for a number of reasons


First, neither Funicello nor Avalon appears; in fact, the only “regulars” to show up are Harvey Lembeck and Bobbi Shaw (who finally gets something other than her usual swedish-sexpot "ya, ya" role).  While many histories of these films state Avalon wasn’t cast because he was “bored” with party-ish teen musicals and that Funicello is missing because she was a new mother who felt it was time for a break, neither point is completely accurate.

For simultaneous to this production, “bored” Avalon and ”stay at home mom” Annette were both busy working together at AIP, filming Fireball 500 (below), a somewhat edgier but still quite Beach Party-ish “stock car drama/musical” they starred in, which was released only two months after Ghost.   So, one gets the sense that the starring couple didn’t so much “drop out” of the series but rather “changed direction” (ergo, the same studio producing the same general theme – young people living in the fast lane, with music as a big part of that) albeit with a different focus (cars, not surfing) and location (the "street," not the beach).                


Why did this happen?  Well, my hypothesis is that new mom Annette told AIP management she was willing to return to work, as long as she was cast with her friend Avalon (again, she’d really missed him in the last film).  Avalon then probably stated he was more interested in the "edgier" Fireball than the “same-old-same-old” Ghost, and the rest is history.

Secondly, William Asher is gone (he was actually off directing Fireball), replaced by Pajama Party Director Don Weis. This may have been due to the fact Weis worked well with both young and older actors, a particularly important competency given the casting in the film.

Third, this isn’t set at the beach and makes limited use of a pool at a “haunted mansion,” so the whole  “gang having fun in the sun” element – which was key to the series  - is really lacking.


However, the film attempts to redeem itself by virtue of including talented old-school Hollywood guest stars, including Basil Rathbone (villain in countless number of costume piece classics) and Boris Karloff (a man who literally needs no introduction).   Notably, neither of these players had a background in musicals.  That is exacerbated by the casting of the Annette and Frankie “substitutes” (ergo, the starring romantic leads), who here are Tommy Kirk and/or Aron Kincaid and presumably Deborah Walley and/or possibly Nancy Sinatra (it's actually never clear who the male and female leads in this thing are).  While Nancy can and does sing, neither Kincaid nor Kirk nor Walley was known for being particularly musical.  Granted, Walley did sing in a couple of her AIP movies (Ski Party and Sergeant Deadhead) and was comfortable enough with music to even try out recording in the mid 1960s.  I have one of the few singles she released, and frankly one is left wishing she’d pursued this career tangent further; her voice is actually quite nice.

                                                                                                                        AIP publicty photo of Sinatra and Kincaid 


The film also includes a notable new female star, Quinn O'Hara (left), who is cast as the bumbling evil seductress "Sinistra." O'Hara -- whose real name was Alice Jones --was a beautiful twenty five year old from Scotland, whose Hollywood career was taking off just about the time of this production (she had already starred in a Beach Party clone -- A Swingin' Summer -- the prior year).   In fact, the photo at left is from an issue of TV Guide that came out the week after The Ghost in The Invisible Bikini was released, in which the young actress was featured and profiled as "a drive-in dream girl."    

But back to the “horror” casting.  Why was it done?  Well, this film was basically a genre mix, with AIP trying to revitalize the by-now clearly dated Beach Party theme by combining it with the Vincent Price horror genre (mostly adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe stories that were directed by Roger Corman) that had become AIPs other principal money maker in the early and mid 1960s.  Piggybacking such contrasting themes was an experiment, one AIP could afford and was willing to try.

Well, sometimes experiments work, sometimes they don’t.  While the aim of the theme mixing in Ghost was quirky fun, the result was often just schizophrenic mish-mosh, with scenes of teens wildly rocking out by the pool suddenly cutting to dark, ghostly interiors featuring Boris Karloff or Basil Rathbone.  In fact, things vary so much moment to moment that if one briefly left the theatre to go to the refreshment stand, I can clearly                                                   can clearly see them wondering upon return if they were watching the same movie.

     Bonnie of the Bijou: Quinn O'Hara,         In that regard, the comparatively limited music here is as fragmented and uneven              complete with "heritage" prop,           as it got.  Everything Baxter tried to accomplish musically in the prior film ("book"                             April 1966                               pieces, a focus on ensemble performances) has been thrown out the door, and and                                                               the series is right back where it started, with a la carte musical solos.


This isn’t his fault.  Since most of the principals couldn’t carry a tune, AIP imported a bunch of pop talent for this film, but Baxter never figured out how to deploy it, given the schizoid script.  Consequently the unrelated, stand alone performances of the musical pieces in Ghost tend to live (or more commonly, die) on their own merit.  A cute, pre-“Boots” Nancy Sinatra is fun to watch as she bounces around the pool singing “Geronimo,” but her performance is diminished by the fact the comparatively forgettable song has absolutely nothing to do with the storyline.  The Bobby Fuller Four (to the right) of I Fought The Law" fame appear, playing "Make The Music Happy," but it's just another "what-does-this-song-have-to-do-with-anything" number that suffice to say they didn't subsequently rush to release as a single.  And while Quinn O'Hara also gets stuck with a less than classic song, she at least employs her brief appearance to leave a legacy as the first woman to ever perform a musical solo in these films while wearing a bikini. 

The Score of The Ghost In The Invisible Bikini

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