By Renee Longstreet,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Silly '60s surf musical with stereotypes, sexual situations.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
It's a bad idea to try to make someone you care for jealous. Weakly attempts to promote open and honest communication.
Positive Role Models
Outdated male-female teen gender roles. Girls all are boy-crazy and bent solely on falling in love and getting married. Boys are empty-headed and insensitive and like to be in control of the girls. Cartoon portrayal of a scientist: nerdy, no common sense, behaves foolishly at all times. No ethnic diversity.
Violence & Scariness
Strictly cartoonish hijinks. Brawl includes fists, pie-throwing, participants sent into trances, knockdowns. Other action: a stomach punch; two transfixed girls falling over; a surfboard knocking out a villain; and a girl frantically pounding on an intruder.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Kissing, kissing, and more kissing. Although nothing is meant to be taken seriously, all the players are pursuing the opposite sex most of the time. Swimsuits and skimpy '60s beach attire are worn throughout; lots of focus on breasts. Old-fashioned "necking" reigns, with no overt sexuality. The energetic dancing includes shimmies, jiggling, and smooching. Characters are found in "compromising" situations, but, in actuality, nothing sexual has occurred.
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Name-calling and insults: "old billy goat," "oversexed maniac," "hair mattress," "pig bristles," "beaver puss." One bad guy frequently yells "stupid" at his colleagues.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
One villain smokes either cigars or cigarettes continuously. A few young men are seen drinking beer.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Beach Party, a "classic" film from the early '60s, is relevant mostly as a relic from times past. Popular music of the era and surfing set the stage for a days-long party on the beach, with dancing, necking, half-century-old values on display, and over-the-top slapstick action. Although there's no actual sexual activity -- only kissing and characters comically pretending to be engaging in passionate foreplay -- this is a movie with sex on its mind from beginning to end. Will Frankie get Dolores into bed with him? Will Dolores get Frankie to commit? Will the Marilyn Monroe look-alike win Frankie from Dolores? Will the science professor fall in love with his no-nonsense but beautiful assistant? Bathing suits are the costume of choice throughout. Jiggling and shimmying are the favored dance moves. One character smokes constantly; a few beers appear among the drinks that are served, though soda pop is the norm. Gender roles are decidedly '60s; no ethnic diversity.
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What's the Story?
Frankie (Frankie Avalon) has big plans for his summer holiday in BEACH PARTY. He's rented a beach house, hoping to get his "chick" Dolores (Annette Funicello) to finally "sleep over," with all that entails in 1963. But Dolores is too hip to fall for that. Instead, she's invited the whole gang for the ultimate sleepover beach party. That's Dolores' idea of a real holiday. Frankie's not happy and decides to make Dolores jealous as he flirts with a Marilyn Monroe look-alike from a local hangout. Again, Dolores is wise to him and turns the tables. She's got her eye on an older man -- nerdy scientist (Robert Cummings) who is secretly researching teen sexual patterns, trying to find a link between tribal mating rituals and "modern" puberty. It's a free-for-all of innuendo, miscommunication, and teasing sexual incidents. Adding to the fun and games is the arrival of a clownish motorcycle gang intent upon spoiling everything. It's only a matter of time, brawls, and exhausting partying before true love triumphs, and everyone finds happiness with the right cliché.
Is It Any Good?
There's some fun to be had in connecting with the old music and dance moves in this film. The first of a series of popular teen beach movies made by American International Pictures (always known as a maker of cheesy, artless fare), Beach Party capitalized on the celebrity of Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello -- so recognizable that they were known only by their first names. A paper-thin, nonsensical plot was included only to provide the background for the energetic activities of '60s teen culture: music, dancing, surfing, and finding a mate. Neither the amateurish acting, nor the presence of some well-known comic actors in buffoonish roles, nor directing and editing so ludicrously bad it made even the silliest TV sitcoms of the day look like Shakespeare kept audiences away, and the genre turned into a giant money-making success. For today's audience, there's much silliness to laugh at, but the gender stereotyping and the constant teasing sexual situations make it hard to recommend.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the time period this movie represents. Besides the obvious elements -- costumes, music, dancing, and dialogue -- how can you tell this is a movie from the early 1960s? What major differences do you think there would be if this story was made in the 21st century?
Find out the meaning of the term "rear-screen projection." In which scenes was this film technique used in this movie? What do the newer terms "blue screen" and "green screen" mean?
How do you think teen girls have changed since this movie was made? Are there ways in which they still reflect the values shown in Beach Party?
- In theaters: August 7, 1963
- On DVD or streaming: September 5, 2000
- Cast: Annette Funicello, Frankie Avalon, Robert Cummings
- Director: William Asher
- Studio: American International
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Friendship, Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: March 1, 2022
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