Sunday, February 08, 2009

pajama party [1964]

i wouldn't call myself a rabid fan of early to mid 1960s beach movies. i am, however, an enthusiastic fan as my collection of dvds for this genre includes a few obscure titles. many of course no decent, average, film-goer would want to see. but this title has eluded me for years. a quick search on the net and i find that there was or is a dvd release for pajama party but i've yet to find it. i've no idea if this flick is obscure but i couldn't find a trailer on youtube.

maybe that is just as well because this isn't one of the better of the beach films. not to say i didn't enjoy watching it yesterday at my mother-in-law's house. the premium cable channel showtime is airing it and my mother-in-law tivoed the flick for me because she knows my love for beach cinema knows no earthly bounds. yes, i know that contradicts the first sentence of this little ramble but both are true. anyway, i did enjoy this flick but the direction was lackluster and even tho beach movies often lack any sort of discernible plot devices [in that way could they be called postmodern for their lack of linear narrative -- even, gulp, dada?] this one seriously is a jumble of set pieces.

but let's get it straight. annette funicello plays beach chick connie [somehow dropping her usual beach de plume dolores or dee dee] and is the girlfriend of jody mccrea who somehow plays a reluctant leading man. mccrea's usual beach persona is a big stupid surfer who wears a rat-fink styled hat who goes by the name bonehead but not in this flick. mccrea is still big and stupid and his name is big lunk but for this outing he takes frankie avalon's place by the side of funicello and his chapeau of choice is a red baseball cap, which figures as a plot device. the less said about that the better for it makes no sense.

if this sounds rather flat and confusing then wait a minute because it gets worse. avalon and don rickles [another veteran of beach fare, rickles parlayed this role into a bigger one as the skydiving instructor in beach blanket bingo] are martians who plan an invasion of earth. we don't see avalon's face until the very end, probably because he was too ashamed of the movie and shows his face only under threat of contract. instead we are treated to the back of his head for most of the run time. rickles and avalon send tommy kirk as advance man for the invasion. big mistake for kirk, who is named go go but later christened george, falls in love with funicello. big lunk then falls in love with bobbi shaw who is doing her usual dumb swede bit alongside buster keaton who are for some reason working for jesse white who is plotting to steal the alleged millions of big lunk's aunt wendy played by elsa lanchester.

it is aunt wendy who first encounters go go and who names the poor alien george. and if that don't make matters worse there is the annoying gnat-like presence of harvey lembeck as eric von zipper the boss of the motor cycle buffooons who want only to fuck up the penultimate pajama party. that's when things get really swinging. no, it makes no sense at all. the film is rather a mash of bad songs, horrible acting, atrocious writing, no chemistry between alleged lovers and a vapid idea for a story. perhaps we could place all the blame on director don weis. he is no william asher who directed many of the more endurable beach flicks. yes, it must be all his fault. who else can we blame? all the elements are there for a decent beach movie, as well as the usual cast of idiots. but rather this flick falls flat on its face.

madre dios! still, i liked the movie. lotsa dancing, lotsa butt shots of attractive women in bikinis. kirk appeared to have a curious lack of affect in his role as go go cum george as if he were looking thru the lens of a wan fish-eye and cared not a whit. oh well, it was a paycheck, no. funicello is scrumptious in bikini and baby-doll dress. and buster keaton is a first-rate talent even if he were doing his takes between swigs of the whisky bottle. ah, they don't make 'em like they used to. i'll be searching for this disc to add to my collection.


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