Bikini Beach (1964)

Bikini Beach may be the Beach Party series at its camp best, with the one-two punch of over-the-top humor and some fantastic songs. While not the very best Beach Party film, it has all the trademarks of a classic and reminds us why this series is so special.

The plot is similar in structure to all the other movies, with the beach bunnies and the hot dogs doing to the beach (this year, Bikini Beach!) for the summer. Fortunately, the narrative is diluted with overlapping and over-the-top elements, including a grumpy old man who chronicles the kids’ exploits in the local paper (the Bikini Bugle), the arrival of British rock star the Potato Bug, and Frankie’s sudden interest in drag racing.

Everything is ridiculous, which is exactly as it should be. This film series works best when we get layers upon layers of chaos, which come together beautifully in the film’s climax, as a standard fight scene where all the narrative elements come together in a battle royale rich with gags.

More than the other Beach Party films though (as far as I’ve noticed), Bikini Beach has very interesting recurring themes. We see several different binaries of young vs. old, from the old man vs. the beach kids, the British Potato Bug to the American Frankie, the senior citizens at the Sea-esta by the Sea at the drag race filled with kids. Like the cleavage nestled within a bikini, these divisions persist for most of the film, but in the finale, all comes together in climactic chaos.

And lastly, the songs. My goodness, the songs! Both songs by the Potato Bug, “Gimme Your Love” and “How About That” are standouts (with the latter featuring a wild dance breakdown by Annette), with the gorgeous “Because You’re You” shining as possibly the best Frankie-Annette love ballad.

This film barely grazes the genius of Beach Blanket Bingo, a beach adventure yet to come at the time of Bikini Beach’s release in ‘64, but it is still great entertainment, rich with fantastic songs and hilarious camp.

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