Classic Movie History Project Blogathon: Modern Era

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Welcome to the swanky Modern Era of the Classic Movie History Project Blogathon (a.k.a. FREE Film History classes). Our partners in crime (Fritzi and Aurora) have already covered the Silent Era and the Golden Age, so be sure to swing by their sites for more movie history knowledge.

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Thanks to Flicker Alley for sponsoring and promoting this event. They have two historical (and historic!) new releases: a gorgeous restored Blu-ray of Dziga Vertov’s most famous works and an eye-popping collection of vintage 3D Rarities. You can win the 3D Rarities collection too. (Details here.)

The Modern Era is controversial. Some folks feel the classic movie era ended in 1967 with the abandonment of the Production Code, but we (as in, yours truly) feel the definition of “classic” is more fluid. Luckily, we’re in good company because just look at the fabulous posts below!

(Note: This page will be updated as new posts are uploaded. If you aren’t able to upload until later in the day or even tomorrow, don’t sweat it. We’ll make sure you’re included.)

1953-1957 • Rebels with and without causes:
The birth of cool

giphyMovie Mania Madness • ‘It’s Always Fair Weather,’ Except When It’s Not: The Musical Gets Cynical

Silver Scenes • 3-D Films of the 1950s

Back to Golden Days • Juvenile Delinquency in Mid-1950s Cinema

Queerly Different • The Rise and Fall of the Biblical Epic Part Two (1956-1960)

Silver Screenings • Better Living Through 3D Living: A Review of 3-D Rarities

Voyages Extraordinaires • Scientific Romances in the Atomic Age

Let’s Go To The Movies • Cinematic Romances of the 1950s

Movies, Silently • After the Silents: A Face in the Crowd

Totally Filmi • The Apu Trilogy

1958-1962 • A little song, a little dance,
a lot of people with no pants:
Musicals, biblical epics and the shimmy-shimmy shakes

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Paula’s Cinema Club • Roger Corman: Rebel and Pioneer, by Jack Deth

Queerly Different • The Rise and Fall of the Biblical Epic Part Three (1961-1966)

Cary Grant Won’t Eat You • Mad Men Meets Sex and the City: The Best of Everything

A Shroud of Thoughts • The British New Wave

Jim Fanning’s Tulgey Wood • Wondrous To See: The Widescreen Splendor of Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty

1963-1967 • Mod’s the word:
And then things started to swing

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The Last Drive In • The 1960s: The Bold & the Beautiful (1960-69)

Reel and Rock • Sex and Sensibility: “The Girl-Getters” is the Lost Classic of British Beat Cinema

That Other Critic • Why Adam West is the Perfect Batman

No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen • 1966: The Year dubbed as Nineteen Sexty Sex

The Wonderful World of Cinema • 1967 in Films

1968-1972 • Hays is dead:
The end of the Code

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Le Mot du Cinephiliaque • The Year 1968 in France’s Cinema

The Moon in Gemini • Put on Your Tin Foil Hats: Paranoia in 60s & 70s Films

The Joy and Agony of Movies • Politics and Unrest in Cinema in the Vietnam Era – Introduction

The Joy and Agony of Movies • Politics and Unrest in Cinema in the Vietnam Era – Part 1: Looking for America

The Joy and Agony of Movies • Politics and Unrest in Cinema in the Vietnam Era – Part 2: Costa-Gavras, Godard, and the Others

The Joy and Agony of Movies • Politics and Unrest in Cinema in the Vietnam Era – Part 3: The Documentaries

1972-1975 • The Godfather and Jaws:
Auteur films and the modern blockbuster

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Once Upon a Screen • Mel Brooks and Classic Movie Genres

Thanks to all our contributors, who have worked so hard on these fab posts and helped make the Classic Movie History Project Blogathon a tremendous success.

Here’s to you!

 

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Better Living Through 3D Viewing

The (3D) Adventures of Sam Space: Image: MoMA

Intergalactic traveller Sam Space answers a distress call from the planet Meecan. Image: MoMA

If there’s one thing we love, it’s discovering rare footage that deserves a cult following.

One such film is The Adventures of Sam Space (1960), a “puppet cartoon” about two boys and a scientist who travel on a shiny rocket to a distant planet. Not only does this animated short have a nifty robot named “Robo”, it’s presented in THREE DIMENSION!

(Digression: While Sam Space & Co. are travelling to the distant planet, they see an interstellar ad for Joe’s Diner, located “only 36,000 light years ahead.”)

Sam Space is one short from the 3-D Rarities blu-ray from Flicker Alley, restored and curated by Bob Furmanek and the 3-D Film Archive. These shorts are beautifully restored and look fabulous on a 3D television.

Some of the 3D effects are so good, we found ourselves flinching. For instance, 3D footage filmed between 1924-27 made us duck when a baseball pitcher throws a fastball, and say “Eww!” when a fisherman dangles a fake (but very creepy) bug “in” the audience.

Yes, you read that right. This is realistic 3D footage from the 1920s, and it turns out the 1920s weren’t even the earliest years for 3D footage. (Smarty Pants Tidbit: The first 3D footage was released in 1915.)

The 3-D Rarities set features a wide variety of films, including a World Championship fight (Rocky Marciano vs. “Jersey” Joe Walcott), scenic tours of tropical islands, footage of the Pennsylvania Railroad (featuring value-priced “roomettes”), and trippy, experimental 3D animation courtesy of the National Film Board of Canada. One of the most mesmerizing scenes (that we watched repeatedly) is footage of an atomic blast in Nevada.

By the early 1950s, 3D had hit its stride. It had bold colour, thrilling effects and scripts that capitalized on both.

Happily, the 3-D Rarities blu-ray includes selections from the midst of this “golden era”. These shorts and movie trailers almost make you nostalgic for this generation of 3D film.

They also make us wonder if the relationship between early filmmakers and 3D technology was as straightforward as we thought.

Richard Carlson warns us away from The Maze (1953). Image: Flicker Alley

Richard Carlson warns us away from The Maze (1953). Image: Flicker Alley

Filmmakers from the 1950s knew exactly what 3D is and what it should offer viewers. (You can see a complete list of 1950s 3-D movies at the Film Archive site here.) These movies are sensational and exhilarating; viewers realize they should never hold a cup of hot coffee while viewing.

We were surprised to see 3D films were not always about intense thrills. One of the earliest films on the blu-ray has genteel, patriotic shots of Washington D.C. The disk also includes street footage of New York City, and an earnest explanation of the importance of the railroad to the American economy. One short (hosted by Lloyd Nolan) shows us the inside of a large, expensive-looking 3D camera and explains how our eyes see 3D images.

Another narrator declares,  “You can see how things work in three-dimensional movies. Almost better than being there yourself.” He says this as we watch a man ploughing a field with a bright red tractor.

Oh.

These are noble efforts to give us audiences an intellectual 3D experience, to try to make us better people. But let’s face it. If we’re watching 3D film, we aren’t concerned with Being A Better Person at the moment. We want thrills!

We want the high-speed car chase and the up-close-and-personal roller coaster ride. (Both filmed, incidentally, in the 1930s. We do not recommend viewing after a heavy meal.)

Still, you have to respect early filmmakers who wanted to educate us and show us parts of the planet we may never have visited. You find yourself appreciating these altruistic efforts.

We feel the 3-D Rarities collection from Flicker Alley offers an enlightening mix of shorts that give us a greater perspective of 3D history. Once you experience it, you’ll agree that some of this footage deserves its own cult following.

This post is part of the Classic Movie History Project Blogathon co-hosted by Movies, Silently, Once Upon a Screen and yours truly, and sponsored by Flicker Alley. Click here to view all the posts for today’s era.

Click HERE to purchase a copy of 3-D Rarities.

Check out Silver Scenes contribution HERE for a more complete look at feature 3D films of the 1950s.

For a review of a live screening of 3-D Rarities at MoMA, check out Citizen Screen’s review HERE

 

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Silent Film with a Surrealist Twist

Buying a new arm at the limb store. Image: lskdj f

Buying a new arm at the Limb shop. Image: cinecouch.com

We could hardly wait to share an obscure six-minute film with you.

Get this: Here is a film that was made in 1908, during the Nickleodeon period (1905-1915), and it feels as fresh and original as many indie short films produced today.

Some background: Before movies became the blockbuster form of entertainment they were before the pre-gaming era, films were shown as one attraction in a vaudeville (variety) show. However, in 1905, there was a shift in the entertainment industry, when the first Nickelodeon theatre opened in Pittsburg. Price of admission: 5 cents.

Suddenly movies became the dominant form of entertainment. As vaudeville theatres were converted to nickelodeon theatres, the programs changed, too. Instead of the focus on live acts, the focus was now on the films, although singing and some vaudeville acts still accompanied these films. These programs lasted between 10 minutes and an hour.

A lot of films were produced during this period; theatres changed their programs as often as three times a week. Everything about these films were short – production time, run time, and length of time in theatres.

Now, you may think these films were simple and unsophisticated. But we disagree. We like to think audiences were given their nickel’s worth. One example is 1908’s The Thieving Hand.

This movie was filmed in Brooklyn, New York, by the Vitagraph Company of America. This company began by making newsreels, but it graduated to narrative film. It was a prolific company; in 1907, for instance, no other company produced more films than Vitagraph. It was also the first studio to use stop-motion photography.

The Thieving Hand is an excellent example of Vitagraph’s trick cinematography (and black humour) during this era.

The plot involves a one-armed man who peddles cigars on a street corner. He sells a cigar to a rich man who accidentally drops his ring in the street. When the one-armed cigar peddler chases him down and returns the ring, the rich man rewards him by buying him a new arm.

Business is brisk at the Limb shop. Image: alskdfj

Business is brisk at the Limb shop. Image: Film: Ab Initio

This is where the film leaps into surrealism. The two men go to a Limbs shop where the one-armed man can be outfitted with a new forearm + hand. (The shop’s windows has arms and legs on display, but you can buy an assortment of hands and feet as well. Wooden “peg” legs are available, too, if that’s your style.)

Sadly for the cigar peddler, his new hand has a mind of its own and steals from passersby on the street. The owner, the poor slob, has no idea his fancy new hand is a kleptomaniac and, through a series of events that are not his fault, ends up in the slammer.

It’s an interesting study of a man, who is honest, and his alter-ego, The Hand, which is dishonest.

It’s also a delightful film with a slightly twisted bent, made better by some cheeky special effects, including:

  • Forearm + hand crawling around by itself.
  • Fitting the man with his new arm by merely shoving it up his shirtsleeve. (If only fitting prosthetics were this easy!)
  • The man pulling off the arm when he doesn’t want it any more.
  • The hand putting rings on itself, then admiring how it looks.

No CGI or other high-tech tricks here, only clever sleight of hand (ha ha). The result is pure magic.

But don’t take our word for it! We’ve included the full movie below. We think you’ll get a kick out of this little-known Nickelodeon gem.

The Thieving Hand: starring Paul Panzer. Directed by J. Stuart Blackton. Vitagraph Co. of America, 1908, B&W, 6 mins.

This post is part of the Classic Movie History Project Blogathon co-hosted by Movies, Silently, Once Upon a Screen and yours truly, and sponsored by Flicker Alley. Click here to view all the posts for today’s era.

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The Classic Movie History Project Blogathon Launches in a Few Days!

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My co-hosts are Ruth of Silver Screenings and Aurora of Once Upon a Screen and our sponsor is the wonderful Flicker Alley, which is supporting the event in honor of its release of 3-D Rarities (did you know it is the centenary of 3D film?) and Dziga Vertov: The Man with the Movie Camera and Other Newly-Restored Works. There is also a giveaway for the 3D release (you don’t need a special TV or anything to enjoy it) so be sure to check that out as well.

The full roster is here. (I am updating it as I type.)

Here are some friendly reminders to all our participants:

  1. Please inform the hostess you “belong” to that you have posted and provide the URL.
  2. Please link to the event page for the era you are covering. I’m the silent era, Aurora is the Golden Age and Ruth is modern.
  3. Flicker Alley is helping spread the word about the event and is basically acting as a forth host so please link to them as well, if possible.
  4. If there are any issues with the links or any other concerns, please contact one of us.
  5. Feel free to contact Ruth, Aurora or myself if you have any questions. We don’t bite. Well, not often.

Billy Wilder’s Life-Affirming Ninotchka

"We're here to work, Comrades." Greta Garbo as Type A communist. Image: alkdsj flksd f

Greta Garbo, Type “A” communist. Image: More Stars than in the Heavens

A person could go on all day about the delightful 1939 comedy, Ninotchka. What’s not to love about a film with Cedric Gibbons art direction, Adrian gowns, Ernst Lubitsch’s skilled directing (a.k.a. “The Lubitsch Touch“), and a top-notch cast?

What we admire most is the script.

The screenplay was a collaborative effort by Charles Brackett, Walter Reisch and a man who would become one of Hollywood’s most acclaimed directors, Billy Wilder.

To us, the script is like sneaking into your grandmother’s freezer and discovering a cache of baked goods. There are plenty of funny lines, endearing characters, and thoughtful observations on geopolitics.

Ninotchka is set in pre-World War II Paris, where three Russian envoys have arrived with orders to sell Russian jewels on behalf of the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, prices are not ideal because the market has become flooded with such jewels.

There’s a bigger glitch: A Russian Countess in exile (Ina Claire), learns the Soviets have arrived with intentions to sell her family’s confiscated heirlooms.

Moscow then dispatches an Envoy Extraordinary named Ninotcha (Greta Garbo) to Paris to sort out this mess.

Wilder & Co. have created such intriguing characters that even if this film had no plot, it would still be fascinating. Characters reveal, in the first exchange of dialogue, their agenda and their eventual outcome.

For example, the Countess’ courtesan (Melvyn Douglas), is a suave fellow who appears with this introduction: “Remember that platinum watch with the diamond numbers? You’ll be in a position to give it to me now.”

Garbo, at the start of the film, is a dour, industrial-strength communist. She doesn’t suffer fools, and she despises frivolity.

Her adversary, the Countess, is a refined, cultured woman who is equally tough. She despises everything Garbo represents. Our sympathies throughout the movie lie with Garbo, but Claire is not going down without a fight. When the two women finally meet, Claire sharply reminds Garbo of everything the Bolsheviks have taken from her.

Whether as a screenwriter or director, Wilder is as funny as he is cynical. He’s an unflinching observer of human nature. This script incorporates Wilder’s trademark shrewdness, but we also find something unexpected.

Ninotchka, at heart, is overwhelmingly life-affirming.

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A tipsy Garbo jokes about being human. Image: britannica.com

Garbo’s character undergoes an incredible transformation in this film. When she first arrives in Paris, she orders her fellow comrades, “Don’t make an issue of my womanhood. We’re here to work.

When she sees a ridiculous hat in a shop window, she almost can’t express enough displeasure. (“A civilization cannot survive with such hats.”) However, each time she passes the window, her contempt softens. Then, when she opens a carefully-locked drawer in her hotel room and pulls out said hat, we realize she is shedding Soviet rhetoric for a more human existence.

Douglas is drawn to Garbo in spite of (or because of?) her humourless demeanour. He implores her to smile and to laugh at “the whole spectacle” of life. “Thinking about death is so glum,” he says.

After Garbo’s internal human-ness awakens, she gives a poignant speech which must have been acutely felt by audiences in 1939, when the world was on the verge of global war. Her speech is almost a direct plea to world leaders.

“Comrades, people of the world,” she says, “the revolution is on the march. I know, bombs will fall, civilizations will crumble, but not yet. Please – wait. What’s the hurry? Give us our moment. Let us be happy.”

Ninotchka received four Academy Award nominations, including Best Adapted Screenplay. We know you’ll enjoy this clever film co-authored by the great Billy Wilder.

Ninotchka: starring Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas, Ina Claire. Written by Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, Walter Reisch. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, BW, 1939, 110 mins.

This post is part of the BILLY WILDER Blogathon co-hosted by Outspoken and Freckled and Once Upon a Screen. Click HERE to view all the fab posts in this blogathon.

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The Beach Party Blogathon: Day 5 Recap

Everything's groovy at the Beach Party Blogathon. Image: giphy.com

Everything’s groovy at the Beach Party Blogathon. Image: giphy.com

Hey, Cool Cats, today’s the last day of the Beach Party Blogathon. However, if you still plan to come to the party, Kristina from Speakeasy will be doing a final wrap-up post tomorrow and will include your post then.

In the meantime, be sure to check out these posts from today!

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Bubblegum Aesthetics compares the 1991 and 2015 versions of Point Blank.

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Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings watches 1963’s Beach Party for the first time.

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Cinematic Frontier wades into the deep with the original blockbuster Jaws (1975)

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Dell on Movies relishes in the unintentionally hilarious Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961).

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The Wonderful World of Cinema explores Italian Neorealism with Stromboli (1950).

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Film Grimoire tells us not to expect too much from Orca (1977).

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Cinema Monolith waxes nostalgic about the California vibe with Malibu Beach (1978).

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Speakeasy dreams of a tropical vacation in Elvis’ Blue Hawaii (1961).

SOME LIKE IT HOT, Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, 1959

SOME LIKE IT HOT, Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, 1959

The Filmatelist runs wild with Billy Wilder and Some Like it Hot (1959).

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A Shroud of Thoughts can’t help but like Beach Blanket Bingo (1965).

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A Classic Movie Blog shares the odd but musical The Beach Girls and the Monster (1965).

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Portraits by Jenni examines the haunting and beautifully filmed Whale Rider (2002).

Remember: If you post later this evening, don’t fret! Kristina at Speakeasy can include your fab piece in the wrap-up post tomorrow.

Day 1 Posts

Day 2 Posts

Day 3 Posts

Day 4 Posts

The Beach Party Blogathon: Day 3 Recap

Life's a Beach! Image: giphy.com

Life is one big beach party! Image: giphy.com

Things are going swimmingly (ha ha) at the Beach Party Blogathon! You won’t want to miss any of today’s fab posts!

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Wide Screen World searches for the perfect wave with the documentary, Endless Summer (1966).

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Le Mot de Cinephiliaque reminisces about a New York summer blockbuster, Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995).

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The Doglady’s Den tangles with Sean Connery as James Bond in Dr. No (1962).

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Retro Critica ventures into laughter and adventure in The Palm Beach Story (1942).

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Classic Film and TV Café cringes at The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966).

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Silver Screenings invites you to a Beach Party (1963)

If you post later this evening, no worries! Kristina at Speakeasy will catch you on the flip side and include you in tomorrow night’s recap.

Day 1 Posts

Day 2 Posts

Guilty Pleasure: Beach Party (1963)

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The life of a California teen – “surfin’ all day and swingin’ all night.”  Image: ishareimage.com

Please, no judging.

Here is today’s confession: We are endlessly fascinated by the Frankie + Annette Beach Party movies.

There were a handful of these movies made between 1963-66, each one worse than its predecessor – and that is saying something. These films, made by American International Pictures, were targeted to teenagers and include lots of music, dancing and surfing.

These elements must appeal to us more than we care to admit, because these crazy movies are our ultimate guilty pleasure.

Our favourite is Beach Party (1963), the first of the illustrious series. In this movie, a social anthropologist (a deadpan Robert Cummings), rents a beach house so he can spy on these mad surfing kids and write a book on Post-Adolescent Surf Dwellers.

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Cummings sports a voluminous academic beard. Image: Forgotten Actors

Cummings may be a professor and a noted expert in his field, but he’s as thick as day-old gravy when it comes to l’affaire de coeur. No one is more aware of this than his assistant (Dorothy Malone), a savvy, chic woman who’s half in love with her dim-witted boss.

Among the so-called “surf dwellers” are a young couple, teen heartthrob Frankie Avalon and former Mouseketeer Annette Funicello. Avalon has rented a neighbouring beach house so he can spend the weekend alone with his girlfriend. Unbeknownst to him, Funicello has invited half the state of California to share the house with them, because she’s not ready for The Big Step.

As a result, Avalon and Funicello spend most of the movie trying to make each other jealous. Avalon takes up with a waitress from a local hotspot, while Funicello flirts with Cummings.

There’s a bad guy, too!, in the form of Harvey Lembeck, the leader of an inept motorcycle gang. Lembeck calls his minions “You Stupid”, while his dress and mannerisms spoof Marlon Brando in 1953’s The Wild One.

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Marlon Brando – er, Eric von Zipper (Harvey Lembeck) is easily defeated. Image: B-Movie Detective

Beach Party doesn’t have a complex plot, but the script is surprisingly funny and self-mocking. Malone delivers some laugh-out-loud punchlines, while Cummings and Funicello share some amusing moments, many of which poke fun at Cummings’ age. In one scene, Cummings takes Funicello for a ride in his twin-engine plane, and she asks how he learned how to fly.

Cummings: “…That was before the war, of course.”
Funicello: “Which one?’
Cummings (wryly): “The Spanish American.”
Funicello: “Oh, you’re teasing. I bet it was World War I.”

One thing this movie never fails to do is remind you of how Hip it is. Scenes incorporate bongo drums and surfing slag as much as possible. The beach fashions are über stylish, and no one appears in the same swimsuit twice. Even the local hangout is hip, featuring poetry as performance art, yoga practitioners and live music by Dick Dale and the Del Tones.

This film also never fails to remind you that teenagers are cool, while the older generation is, well, old. In one scene, Cummings decides to go to the beach in his neck-to-knee 1920s-era bathing suit. Funicello defends the suit by saying tactfully, “I like it. It’s substantial looking.”

Beach Party isn’t cinematic art, nor is it a deep analysis of the human condition. It is, however, an entertaining movie – which makes it a worthy guilty pleasure.

Beach Party: starring Bob Cummings, Dorothy Malone, Frankie Avalon. Directed by Willam Asher. Written by Lou Rusoff. American International Pictures, 1963, Colour, 101 mins.

This post is part of the Beach Party Blogathon co-hosted by Speakeasy and yours truly. Click here to view all the groovy posts in this blogathon.

Beach Party Frankie Annette

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