Frankie and Annette temporarily put away the surfboards in exchange for the thrills of skydiving, encounter a mermaid, a kidnapped singing star, games of jealousy, and Eric Von Zipper and his gang in BEACH BLANKET BINGO, director/co-writer Jack Asher’s fifth installment in AIP’s “Beach Party” movie series, now on Blu-ray courtesy of Olive Films.
A pop singer Sugar Kane (Linda Evans, “Dynasty”) is coaxed into a publicity stunt by her pushy agent Bullets (Paul Lynde, BYE BYE BIRDIE), involving skydiving into the ocean, but the stunt was secretly performed by an expert named Bonnie (Deborah Walley, IT’S A BIKINI WORLD). Charging into the ocean after witnessing the parachute landing, Frankie (Frankie Avalon, PANIC IN YEAR ZERO) is lead to believe he saved the singer’s life and becomes interested in skydiving because of Bonnie who really just wants to make her skydiving partner/boyfriend Steve (John Ashley, THE MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND) jealous. Frankie’s main squeeze Dee Dee (Annette Funicello, THE SHAGGY DOG) also wants to free-fall from the plane, after becoming jealous of Bonnie’s attention towards Frankie, with Steve attempting to use Dee Dee to make Bonnie jealous in return. In the meantime, Eric Von Zipper (Harvey Lembeck, THE GHOST IN THE INVISIBLE BIKINI) and his Malibu Rat Pack hoodlum bikers show up on the beach when they learn Sugar Kane (she’s Von Zipper’s idol) is there, and later kidnap her from her bedroom (where she fell asleep to a television playing AIP’s INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN). Worse yet, Sugar (who seems perfectly comfortable hanging out with Von Zipper and his followers) is abducted by their even-more-evil pool-hall cohort South Dakota Slim (Timothy Carey, THE WORLD’S GREATEST SINNER) who ties her down to a wooden log headed into a buzz-saw (“Perils of Pauline” style) before Von Zipper and company and Frankie and the gang barge in to save the day.
BEACH BLANKET BINGO is nonsensical, innocent fun and typical of its genre, with the usual cast of colorful characters you would expect from an AIP of this sort. This is actually the last real “Frankie and Annette” film in the series, as Avalon only appears for a few minutes in the next entry (HOW TO STUFF A WILD BIKINI). There’s songs galore with Frankie and Annette singing the title song and other sugary tunes, and even Eric Von Zipper (who is given ample screen time here) gets a tune of his own called “Follow Your Leader” (he’s also seen saying his famous line, “Why me? Why me all the time?” underwater when he finds himself dunked in a fish tank). Linda Evans is seen performing several songs too, but her singing voice was actually dubbed by Robin Ward of “Wonderful Summer” fame). The Hondells (who had a top ten hit in 1964 with “Little Honda”) appear in the film as the house band, but the real musical highlight here is Donna Loren’s rendition of “It Only Hurts When I Cry”. AIP’s house composer Les Baxter does the jovial music score, as he did for every single one of the Beach Party films.
Since he was becoming such a familiar guest star on nearly every sitcom on television, it’s no surprise to see Lynde here as the overzealous publicity man who share’s many a scene with real-life gossip columnist Earl Wilson (playing himself). Silent film star Buster Keaton (who died a few months after the film’s release) is mostly seen in a series of running comic bits with shapely and tall Bobbi Shaw (SERGEANT DEADHEAD) who spends all her screen time in a fur bikini. Don Rickles, who had already appeared in three of the Beach Party films, gets to be himself here by doing some of his famous nightclub act, insulting a number of cast members on screen when his character “Big Drop” is playing MC in front of them. Another Beach movie regular, Jody McCrea (THE GLORY STOMPERS), has his own extensive subplot when his “Bonehead” character becomes romantically linked with a mermaid named Lorelei (Marta Kristen from “Lost in Space”) who can periodically walk on land in human form.
BEACH BLANKET BINGO arrives on Blu-ray in a 1080p HD transfer preserving the film’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The bold colors on display here have a lot of pop to them, while detail is consistently sharp throughout the presentation. The skintones glisten and black levels are deep. The image is quite clean overall (only becoming noticeably inferior when stock footage is used, such as in the skydiving scenes) with the film elements sporting some occasional speckling and some fleeting stain marks. The DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track is fine and aggressive sounding enough, with both music and dialog having a nice amount of punch. No subtitle options are included, but the original theatrical trailer is on hand. (George R. Reis)
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