Beach Blanket Bingo (1965)
Director: William Asher
Starring: Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Deborah Walley & John Ashley
Released by: Olive Films
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
Everyone’s favorite seaside couple, Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, trade in their surfboards for parachutes in Beach Blanket Bingo, the fifth installment of their popular beach party pictures. When a skydiving publicity stunt to promote the singing career of Sugar Kane (Linda Evans, Dynasty) balloons out of control, Frankie (Avalon) is convinced to take up the dangerous hobby by fellow instructor Bonnie (Deborah Walley, Gidget Goes Hawaiian) in order to make her boyfriend Steve (John Ashley, Young Dillinger) jealous. Much to her disapproval of Bonnie’s interest in her boyfriend, Dee Dee (Funicello) decides to test out the wild feat of free-falling as well. Plus, series regular, Bonehead (Jody McCrea, Lady Street Fighter), finds unexpected love with a real mermaid (Marta Kristen, Lost in Space). Harvey Lembeck (The Phil Silvers Show), Don Rickles (Casino) and Paul Lynde (The Paul Lynde Show) co-star.
Remaining within the same campy spirit of its predecessors, Beach Blanket Bingo would mark the final starring appearance of Frankie Avalon who, with the exception of a minor role in 1965’sHow to Stuff a Wild Bikini, would hang up his bathing suit until the 1987 parody Back to Beach, reuniting him once again with his beach bunny, Funicello. Giving the waves a break, Frankie (Avalon) and Dee Dee (Funicello) take to the skies for free-falling excitement while, redheaded instructor, Bonnie (Walley), attempts to swoon Frankie in order to make her co-instructor boyfriend (Ashley) a jealous wreck. Unsurprisingly, Frankie and Dee Dee go through the turbulent motions audiences have come to expect when a new girl strolls along hoping to steal Frankie away. Still as gorgeous and youthful as their first picture together, Avalon and Funicello’s chemistry remains intact but, one can’t help feel there enthusiasm for the material waning. Marking the franchise’s fifth installment in less than two years, the formula has become commonplace but, not entirely stale with the welcome return of Eric Von Zipper (Lembeck), joined by his Malibu Rat Pack gang, and Don Rickles, making his fourth appearance in the series in yet another new role enabling him the opportunity to perform stand-up material. Well-known for its memorable cameo appearances, Beach Blanket Bingo presents the iconic Buster Keaton (having previously appeared in 1964’s Pajama Party) in another hilarious role. At the ripe age of 70 and only a year before his passing, Keaton demonstrates remarkable energy and accomplishes the physical comedy gags the legend was best known for.
In addition, introducing an element of fantasy to the long-running series, Bonehead (better known as Deadhead in previous installments), falls madly in love with an exotic mermaid (Kristen) allowing the loyal supporting character to act outside of his usual numskull mentality. As the film’s antagonist, South Dakota Slim (Timothy Carey, Minnie and Moskowitz), kidnaps singer Sugar Kane (Evans), the beach gang have another dependable rumble and car chase to make the wrongs right before the closing credits. More catchy tunes and beachside dancing along, with a notable guest appearance from the flamboyant Paul Lynde as Sugar Kane’s agent, allowsBeach Blanket Bingo to charm fans who can’t get enough of Frankie and Dee Dee’s fun times under the sun.
Olive Films presents Beach Blanket Bingo with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Just as colorful and warm as Muscle Beach Party, the fifth installment of the franchise possesses more obvious aging artifacts in the form of specks and flakes. In addition, skin tones, while generally strong and natural, suffer from an unusual diluted appearance in an early scene that fortunately, lasts only briefly. Meanwhile, night sequences have a softer appearance that slightly transitions to brighter scenes without greatly disrupting the picture. With no digital tinkering applied, Beach Blanket Bingo projects a very film quality appearance that pleases but, falls shy of Muscle Beach Party’s transfer. Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix, Frankie and Dee Dee’s latest outing supplies a stronger sound mix than its transfer with clear dialogue and no dropouts to mention. The original Theatrical Trailer (2:45) is also supplied as the sole special feature.
The sights and sounds of Beach Blanket Bingo stray close to its established formula, making for more innocent fun with Frankie and Dee Dee. The supporting cast of McCrea, Rickles and Lembeck supply plenty of laughs and the songs, while not quite as noteworthy as earlier efforts, do their job sufficiently. Certainly stronger than Beach Party’s original followup, Muscle Beach Party, Beach Blanket Bingo’s inclusion of gorgeous mermaids and skydiving excitement is appreciated but, ultimately still falls in the middle of the road. Olive Films‘ transfer projects bold colors and natural grain although, containing far more aging marks than its fellow sequel. Relaying sound nicely and including the film’s original trailer (unfortunately, lacking on Muscle Beach Party), Beach Blanket Bingo makes a suitable leap to Blu-ray. Rounding its final franchise laps, AIP’s fifth beach party romp is far from perfect but, makes earnest attempts to supply some worthwhile additions for Avalon’s final starring sendoff.
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