The Horror of Party Beach
Weird atomic beasts... who live off human blood!
Year of Release: 1964
Running Time: 78 minutes (1:18)
Director: Del Tenney
John Scott ... Hank Green
Alice Lyon ... Elaine Gavin
Allan Laurel ... Dr. Gavin
Eulabelle Moore ... Eulabelle
Damon Kebroyd ... Lt. Wells
Marilyn Clarke ... Tina
A drag race between hot rodders and bikers winds up at a swinging rock-and-roll beach party where The Del-Aires perform some rockin' tunes. Nearby, a barrel containing radioactive waste is unloaded from a passing ship, and plunged to the bottom of the sea, splitting against a jagged rock. When a peculiar black liquid oozes out covering a human skull, a vicious monster slowly twitches into life, and "The Horror of Party Beach" is born!
The Horror of Party Beach, remindin' us that if Party Beach were in New Jersey we'd have no movie an these zombie sea monsters'd be nothin' but gristle between Chris Christie's teeth.
An speakin' of salty dudes who know how to ruin a good time, I can't help but look around at what society's become an feel a little sorry for the kids growin' up these days, cause from what I've seen, anything even remotely fun's evolved into either a Class C misdemeanor or an excommunicable sin. Used to be your kids'd follow in your footsteps doin' all the same stupid stuff you done, only comin' up with better excuses as bullshittin' technology improved. Now, as mosta you already know, summer's always been the Super Bowl for stupid stunts, cause with school out for the year all those developin' young minds have a lot more time to carefully plan out the escapades that they'll be forbiddin' their own kids from doin' one day, which is the way it oughta be. Take this past week for instance: a perfectly innocent stunt landed three kids in juvenile hall for somethin' that woulda been a paddlin' an no supper 30 years ago. Best as I can tell fun was formally abolished from childhood right around 1998, with this chain of events bein' set in motion in 1996 by Bill Clinton an his infamous V-chip legislation. Anyway, like I was sayin', these three kids decided it'd be fun to ride their bikes behind the mosquito spray vehicle to huff fumes, an now all the parents in town're shocked an appalled, even though they'da prolly done the same thing when they were 14 if they'd had a little more imagination an not spent all their time blowin' up largemouth bass with cherry bombs. I guess I just don't see what all the fuss is about, but then I didn't systematically scrub my guilty conscience clean the moment an unexpected pregnancy cropped up so as to avoid havin' to live with the knowledge that I was a hypocrite. So they stole a few goats an rode 'em around Main Street pretendin' to be The Magnificent Seven (that skeeter spray's pretty potent stuff if you can get a sustained whiff), big deal. Go two blocks over an watch what happens on the front lawn of the halfway house for half an hour an try tellin' me these kids're a menace to society afterwards. You watch too, there's already a sign up on Main Street forbidding bikes, roller blades, loitering, public urination, sidewalk chalk, spitting, running, shootin' pigeons, or committing obscene acts with the fire hydrant, an next week there'll be a new addition featuring a little stick man on a goat with a line through it a la Ghostbusters, in addition to a fresh local ordinance forbiddin' the operation of goats while under the influence of Agent Orange skeeter spray. An the worst thing about it is these're the EXACT same people who'll tell you there's no sense in creatin' gun control legislation because "it won't do any good." Seriously you dried up buncha crankshafts; just send the kids to DDT huffers rehab an cut 'em some freakin' slack already, ya crotchety old farts.
Sorry about that, but it needed to be said. That same buncha bitter old coots who're constantly sharin' Facebook memes about kids spendin' all their time on iPhones are the SAME people who wanna charge 'em as adults for leavin' bags of flamin' dog-doo on people's porches. It bugs me. This oughta make 'em happy though, cause this week we're takin' a look at The Horror of Party Beach, which is the first in a series of two movies featurin' monsters who risk life an flipper to save us from the drudgery of that most dreaded subgenre in modern cinema, the beach party flick. Essentially, what we've got here is one man - Mr. Del Tenney, standin' up for the counterculture of the 1960s, lookin' those tools at American International Pictures right square in the eye an sayin' "You've kicked sand up our shorts long enough you turkeys. From here on out we're handlin' this beach business MY way," an thus, a legend was born. They knew he meant business too, cause within three years of The Horror of Party Beach's release, the beach film was history, an when it was all said an done Tenney's bastardization was the only one ever made to even approach "watchable" status. Del passed away a few years ago but his legacy lives on, an to make sure nobody forgets his trend-busting excursion into the realm of sappy sand 'n surf features, I've combed this beach for a few of its more profound observations that I think you'll enjoy. First, free range mutant mudskippers from the depths of the sea make for a great scapegoat when the question of "that fishy smell" comes up at a 1960s slumber party. Remember ladies, free love ain't free once you factor in the costs of the VD clinic. Second, there's no reason to concern yourself with the legitimacy of a police cruiser whose only evidence of being such is a mismatched door bearing the state seal. An third, a chemical company will hold its entire inventory of something for a random guy on the phone. But after havin' finally examined this thing in close detail, I hafta say I'm kinda divided on the EPA an all those anti-dumpin' regulations they've been slappin' on American industry. On the one hand - yeah, it's prolly better if folks aren't brewin' up radioactive beer with contaminated water a la Redneck Zombies, but at the same time, the only thing stoppin' this flick from devolvin' into an Annette Funicello bullet-bikini exhibition is the nuclear waste dumpage that mutates the corpse into a kelp zombie. I mean, The Del-Aires might STILL be singin' "The Zombie Stomp" if these things hadn't come along an scared all the free love yuppy teenagers back to their parents' summer beach houses, so I'm prolly gonna need a little more time to weigh the pros an cons before comin' to any official conclusions. I'll tell ya one goll durn thing though; next person I catch usin' Zombie Stomp for a ringtone's gonna get their sand pounded.
The movie begins with this couple (Hank an Tina) drivin' to the beach in their sports car, only nobody seems to've told the girl she's part of a couple cause while they're stopped at a light she's blowin' kisses at this gang of bikers an tryin' to decide whose hog she'd like to go for a ride on, an by the time they get to the beach Hank's so P.O.'d that he hasta tell Tina to quit pullin' 'er skirt up over 'er head an wearin' it like a bridal veil. Trouble is that Hank's kinda become a square ever since they graduated high school, an to make matters worse Tina's sucked down about 40ozs of Slut Potion #9 an so she heads down to White Sands Nipple Testing Range where these dorks in barbershop outfits're doin' a really bad Beach Boys impersonation, while sexually ambiguous men shake their hinders like the jowls on a bulldog with his head hangin' out the car window. Meanwhile, a few miles out into the ocean, a tuna trawler's dumpin' drums fulla nuclear goop into the water an mutatin' a human skeleton into a Caesar salad compost heap with a mohawk an bringin' it back from the dead through a scientific process known as "Justbecausemosis." I won't try explainin' exactly what it entails since it'd require a buncha big words that I can't spell, but I'm pretty sure it involves a lotta guacamole fermentation. Anyway, back on the beach, the bikers show up an immediately notice Tina doin' the "neck hole in my shirt's too small to extract my head" dance, an next thing you know she's grindin' on the boss's throttle an makin' like she's about to rip 'er blouse off an invite the whole gang over for some beach volleyball without ever settin' up a net. Cept then Hank sees what's goin' on an pretty quick we got Saturday Night's Main Event rasslin' on the beach an Hank ends up on the receivin' end of the Bushwhacker Battering Ram after an assist from the head biker's flunkies. Hank eventually prevails, but walks away with this other babe named Elaine when Tina starts rubbin' up against 'im like a stray cat beggin' for fish heads, an then everybody does the "Zombie Stomp," which is kinda the 1960s precursor to the Thriller, only it looks more like one of them Pentecostal church services where everybody throws their heads back an raises their hands up in the air like they're tryin' to pluck a holy booger outta the the nose on the Virgin Mary statue.
Unfortunately for Tina, the only guy who wants anything to do with 'er now looks like a Gremlin who's been supersizin' it every night at McDonald's since 1947, an when she goes for a swim the Creature from the Black Lampoon sneaks up on 'er an sinks 'er buoys, mercifully endin' the beach concert when 'er body washes up on shore. A few days go by an Hank an Elaine scope out Tina's funeral to watch the inevitable battle royale when all 'er boyfriends show up expectin' to be named pallbearers, after which Elaine's supposed to attend a slumber party with 20 other middle-aged women pretendin' to be teenagers, but refuses to go cause the last time they had one the female Gym teacher showed up an tried givin' out gynecological exams. An it's a good thing she didn't show too, cause the slumber party quickly devolves into a buncha hippy folk singing that attracts a pair of lettuce lepers who launch a slumber party massacre while all the girls've got their faces smooshed up against the windows with their fannies stickin' out like somebody's tryin' to pick the ass that mooned 'em out of a police lineup. That ain't the end of it though, cause the next day four girls who all talk like Frenchie from Grease try drivin' their Ford Fairlane (which as far as I can tell is so named because it's actually longer than the distance between the foul line an the head pin in a standard bowling lane) into the woods an end up gettin' mugged by a half dozen spinach stalkers. The next evenin' Hank takes Elaine out for a drive to the scene of Tina's unfortunate, yet well-timed demise so they can slow dance to more of that shadooby-doo-wop crapola an... am I the only one that thinks this is a little ghoulish? I mean, the guy's girlfriend just got turned into shredded teat, an he's out here already ingratiatin' 'imself to another girl's gaunch shell. Anyway, while the guy's tryin' to score a little hanky spanky, the Mohawk Findians are out bustin' display windows an gropin' mannequin mammaries, only one of 'em accidentally cuts his arm off on the glass an the arm ends up in Elaine's daddy's laboratory where he goes to work tryin' to figure out how it naturally produces a never endin' supply of cottage cheese from its wound.
Eventually the doc (Dr. Gavin) is able to run some tests an determine that the monsters're some kinda deep sea broccoli zombies who need human blood to survive, only he hasn't been able to come up with a way to whoop their veggie tails that don't involve buildin' a giant blender an openin' a Slim Fast smoothie franchise. Cept then the maid comes downstairs to tell Gavin that she's afraid of sleepin' alone an that she wants a glass of water an a bedtime story, before accidentally bumpin' a beaker fulla sodium onto the hand that causes it to combust like a Los Angeles power station. So the successful fish fry's good news, although it comes a little too late to save these two blitzkegged goobers who get 86'd from the Risky-A-Go-Go Strip Club and Budget Massage Parlor downtown when they run into the monsters outside the club an get turned into worm bedding. Meanwhile, Hank an the doc discover traces of radioactive isotopes in their little pile of Gerber String Peas, which gives Hank an excellent excuse to explain his lack of pubic hair to Elaine an simultaneously tells Gavin that they should be able to locate the monsters pretty easily by simply runnin' a Geiger counter over the length of Atlantic Ocean. So that's what they do; Gavin sends Elaine, various police officers, an anybody else from Stamford who'll work in the movie for free, while Hank drives 115mph to NYC in search of the entire eastern seaboard's supply of sodium. Fortunately no cowboys show up to lynch 'im for darin' to utilize a product made in NEW YORK CITY, an he speeds back towards Stamford. Unfortunately, the doc's sent Elaine out by 'erself to the place where just about all the corpses've been discovered, an damned if those mean ole monsters don't show up to antagonize 'er while she's takin' water samples. This seems like a pretty good place to leave off, an I know what you're thinkin', so don't worry - there is in fact another musical number waitin' to reward all you brave souls who're committed to watchin' all the way to the end.
Alrighty, The Horror of Party Beach... one thing I will say for it, the title certainly holds up every time those dorks in their matching outfits start singin'. Actually that's not entirely true, I mean, they're ridiculous as all get out, but they're kinda funny too. Anyway, this flick was the first of the extremely short lived "Monster on the Beach" Horror/Comedies produced in the '60s that tried turnin' the whole Beach Party craze on its head, and while they may not have succeeded, they're still a hell of a lot more fun to watch than the flicks they were makin' fun of. The Beach Girls and the Monster was the other one, produced the following year in 1965, although if you really wanted to try extending the subgenre you could probably lump The Creature from the Haunted Sea in there too. I wouldn't do that though, because everybody in that movie hadn't been a teenager for 25 years and it was more of a pseudo crime caper anyway. What I find kinda strange about this flick is that it's only truly a Horror/Comedy for the first 15 minutes or so, cause once Tina's corpse washes up on shore that's pretty much the end of the wrestlin' on the beach and the "Zombie Stomp" dancin'. After that it plays more or less like a straight 1950s science fiction movie, which makes you wonder whether they didn't deliberately make that first 15 minutes kinda stupid on purpose in case the rest of the movie elicited unintentional laughter from the audience. Of course, at the same time, for 1964 there's quite a bit of Hershey's chocolate syrup flowin' outta those teenagers too, so it's pretty much impossible to really gauge exactly what they had in mind. Believe it or not, Horror was actually picked up by 20th Century Fox after Tenney and company screened it in a theater for a buncha executives. Funny thing though - Tenney, unbeknownst to them, had hired a guy to don the monster suit and show up in the theater as a surprise, and when one of the big wigs ended up goin' to the can he ran into the actor who'd just gotten suited up in the stall, resulting in a terrified shriek that could be heard through the entire theater. Amusingly enough, the movie might well owe its livelihood to that poor bastard who walked in on the monster usin' the facilities. Fox also bought a second movie directed by Tenney called The Curse of the Living Corpse, which he'd shot back to back with Horror of Party Beach, and the two films played as a double feature to reasonable box office success. Horror would also go on to become one of the films featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, granting the rare opportunity for a schlock B-movie to garner attention from the generation that proceeded its theatrical run. It really is a much better film than The Beach Girls and the Monster, despite still being pretty terrible. It's more fun, the pacing's significantly better, and the production in general just appears more professional and polished. I imagine there're probably people out there who've seen this one through MST3K and can't fathom the idea that not only is there another film out there cut from the same cloth, but that's also somehow worse, but it's true, and it's out there just waitin' for ya.
So, there it is. All we got left to do now is check this thing's shorts for crabs to find out whether it's clean-cut all-American fun, or whether The Horror of Party Beach comes from that follow-up visit to the doctor's office. The plot isn't really any more ridiculous than any other rubber-suit monster movie, at least as far as the concept goes. The monster's origin is pretty hilarious, and there's a whole lotta bad movie science on display during every single scene involving Dr. Gavin, but I honestly don't know how much to dock the movie for it (if at all) considering *part* of the film takes a hard turn directly into deliberate Comedy. I mean, it's KINDA serious, but then they stick a line like "hey Stan, this guy ain't got no face" in there and you feel like an idiot for even considering the notion that it's supposed to be anything but a farce. I also liked the dialog in the lead-up to the wrestling match where the biker tells Hank "she doesn't wanna go with you," to which Hank responds "I really don't see how that's any of your business." Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but shouldn't the BAD GUY deliver that second line? That's our protagonist tellin' the greasy biker that; essentially, "back off punk, this bitch is mine whether she just tore herself away from me or not." And the really funny thing is the biker's actually right, because even though he *may* not have the best of intentions, the chick clearly prefers him. Basically, nothing makes any sense, and I kinda like that about it. The acting is not as bad as you'd expect, but it's definitely amateurish on the parts of nearly everyone involved, as you'll see when it comes time to list the casting credits. Alice Lyon is actually dubbed throughout the entire movie, and I've gotta believe there's a reason for it. Additionally, all the supporting cast members who're there strictly to be murdered by the creatures are pretty bad, with the exception of Marilyn Clarke who's more *weird* than bad. The only likable character in the whole damn movie is the stereotypical black 1950s sitcom maid, Eulabelle, who gets most of the best lines and believes the source of the monsters is voodoo.
Here's who matters and why: Dina Harris (The Curse of the Living Corpse), Del Tenney (The Curse of the Living Corpse, Violent Midnight), and Wayne Tippit, who went on to play Palmer Woodward on Melrose Place. Shocking, I know. Three quarters of the cast, including all the principal characters, never acted again.
The special effects, at least when you start looking beyond the monster suits, are fairly sparse. As I mentioned earlier, chocolate syrup was used to represent all the blood on the victims' bodies, and while that may sound absurd, it mostly works for movies that were filmed in black and white. They did the same thing in Night of the Living Dead and a lot of other movies, so really, I don't see the problem. Additionally, they'll sometimes get gutsy and show off some of the mutilated faces and, again, they're really not bad at all, particularly for 1964. Of course, the monster suits are as bad as they come, and are right up there with the ones from flicks like Zaat, Bog, The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues, and Octaman, and they're the main attraction in this freak show. Still, I'll give credit where credit's due: they put those suits out in the open, right in front of God and everybody, and they aren't ashamed of 'em one bit, which is the correct choice when you're makin' a bad rubber suit monster movie. It goes without saying that all the scenes of the monster underwater were shot through a fish tank, but what the heck, it's not like the score coulda survived that monster suit anyway. The shooting locations are pretty decent, with the bulk of the film having been shot in Stamford, Connecticut. The doctor's "laboratory" is a bit pitiful, but most of the flick takes place either on the beach or various inland bodies of water, with a few other outdoor sequences shot in wooded areas. There's also a scene at a gas station whose framing allows you to see a lot of the stores on the opposite side of the street, and a shot of Hank allegedly driving in Manhattan to retrieve the sodium. Maybe it really was Manhattan, but if so, that's probably the lightest traffic's been since Henry Ford turned out his first Model T. Either way, the shooting locations are *mostly* good, and the cinematographer does a nice job of capturing the spirit of 1960s Main Street America. The soundtrack can be broken into two parts: 1) the songs performed by The Del-Aires, and 2) the instrumentals composed by Wilford Holcombe. The Del-Aires stuff pretty well encapsulates the spirit of the Beach film, and although these songs are really cheesy when looked upon by anyone below the age of 60, they're wholly appropriate, and produce exactly the kind of atmosphere you want for a movie like this one. Holcombe's composition on the other hand, is loud, unpleasant, and distracting much of the time. The notes I took during the movie describe it thusly, "chandelier rolling down the Statue of Liberty stairwell," which is pretty much how I feel about it. Though there's also a lot of that "cookie sheet in a wood chipper" stuff as well. It's not terrible *all* the time, but the bad stuff outnumbers the good 2:1, and is far more memorable (not that you'll enjoy remembering it). Overall, it's pretty bad on a technical level, and only marginally better from an enjoyment perspective, but it's strange, unique, and still kinda fun, so I recommend seeing it. Even if just with the Mystery Science Theater commentary playing over it, because you don't really miss anything due to the short run time.