Thursday, June 11, 2015

Back to the Beach ( 1987 )

Speakeasy and Silver Screenings have kicked off the cowabunga Beach Party Blogathon over at their sites and we staked our claim of hot turf with Back to the Beach ( 1988 ), one of the best of the Frankie Avalon beach party films which included Beach Party ( 1963 ), Bikini Beach ( 1964 ), Muscle Beach Party ( 1964 ), Beach Blanket Bingo ( 1965 ), and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini ( 1965 ). In most of the films Frankie portrayed a young surfer who had to continually create schemes to protect his gal Dee-Dee ( Annette Funicello ) from other surfing suitors. They were zany teen films to be sure and Back to the Beach fits right in among them even though it was released 22 years after the last beach film. James Komack ( The Courtship of Eddie's Father ) dreamed up a story as wild as the originals , this time telling the story of what happens to surfers after they curl their last wave. 

It was fairly easy for the audience to guess that Frankie and Dee-Dee tied the knot after their flings in the California sun. As their punk son Bobby explains in the beginning of the film : 

"25 years ago my parents were the most popular teenagers in America. It's true. My dad was a teen idol. Girls threw themselves at him, but it being 1962, he had to throw them back. When dad wasn't singing he spent his life on a surfboard. They called him the Big Kahuna. When I was born my dad wanted to call me the little Kahuna - luckily he settled for Bobby. As for mom, she joined that strange cult called the Mouseketeers. She became the first pin-up queen for boys under twelve. Anyway, they got married and moved to Ohio right after the accident....20 years ago, while surfing, this humongous wave knocked the Kahuna right out of dad and he's never been the same since. The closest he gets to the water now is to play the surf king in order to sell cars on TV. Yep, the Big Kahuna now owns Friendly Ford the largest dealership in Ohio". 

Eventually, Frankie finds himself stressed out with work and the family decides to take a vacation in Hawaii. En route they make a stop in Los Angeles to check on their grown daughter Sandi, portrayed by Lori Laughlin ( Full House ) in a Kim MacAfee style role. While in LA, Frankie meets up with his former flame Connie ( Connie Stevens ) and the old Beach Party jealousy plot shifts into gear once again. 

What makes his beach bash so entertaining are all of the references to past films and Frankie and Annette's careers. It becomes a nostalgic - and highly amusing - look at the old California beach cult. To entice youngsters, the film explodes with New Wave color and characters. There is a sub-plot aimed as teens involving Sandi and her fiancee ( Tommy Hinkley ) who are shacking up on the pier and one for the kids with Bobby getting himself initiated into a leather-clad surf gang. Also, Frankie has to take to the waves once again to prove that he isn't clucked and is still the true King of the Surf. 

"He'll be back. I know that in my heart."  Annette
"You know, you're awful sweet Mom" Bobby
"And then I'll make him suffer." Annette

Great guest stars include Don Adams as the harbor patrol master, Bob Denver and Alan Hale Jr. reprising their Gilligan's Island roles, Ed "Kookie" Byrnes ( still valeting ), Barbara Billingsly, Tony Dow, and Jerry Mathers.

The film also features some hip-swinging musical numbers. Dick Dale and at least two of the Del Tones make an appearance performing "California Sun" with Frankie and "Pipeline" as a duet with Stevie Ray Vaughn; Pee-Wee Herman goes wild with the "Bird is the Word", and Annette gets to sing the best number - "Jamaica Ska" - along with Airhead. 


Back to the Beach was released in August 7, 1987 and was received with mild reception at the box office. Annette Funicello was diagnosed with MS shortly after filming wrapped and her part as the Skippy-loving mother in Back to the Beach became her final film role. It was also the final film appearance of Bob Denver and Alan Hale Jr.

"We tried to figure out where to take you last night, but you kept saying, 'Why oh, why oh, why oh, did I ever leave Ohio?'" - Michael
"That's a damn good question" - the Big Kahuna

For us, the film has a special place in our memory box. Growing up, we had no cable television and the only films we saw were those that were playing in the theatres, the drive-in ( suitable for youngsters ), and the VHS tapes that our parents rented from the local library. Two tapes our mother continually brought home for us from the library were Back to the Beach and Grandpa's Music Box. Even though the film was PG-rated and most of the wisecracks eluded us, we loved the feel of the film. It quickly became our favorite and within a few viewings we learned enough surf-talk to last us a lifetime. 

To us, Back to the Beach will forever conjure up memories of childhood, hot summer days, homemade popsicles, carefree Saturdays, and pink Barbie clothing. We live only two short miles from the beach but on days when we don't feel like burning in the sun, all we have to do is watch Back to the Beach and the surf will practically be washing into the house. 

Duuude, ready to get amped about the surf and sand?? Click here to check out rad posts on all of your favorite beach films of the past. Cowabunga!!

10 comments:

  1. My daughter saw "Back to the Beach" long before she ever saw anything from the original Beach Party movies. We all enjoyed it according to our different understanding. The hubby and I were shocked to find that her favourite part was grumpy Frankie and overly-sweet Annette reminded her of --- her parents! Ah, to see ourselves as others see us.

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    1. Does that mean you gave your daughter peanut-butter sandwiches every day for school? ;-) I'm glad to hear of another fan who grew up with the film.

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  2. I've never seen this one, but I did enjoy your review very much. It sounds like a lot of fun with all the throwbacks to the original movies. I'll have to check it out!

    Thanks for joining the Beach Party blogathon with Frankie and Annette!

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    1. It certainly is a throw-back to the originals....quite corny, but very entertaining. Thanks for hosting such a swell summer shindig!

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  3. It's fun to see Frankie & Annette as parents in B2TB. If I recall, Frankie's surfer scenes still feature the hugely fake rear screen for close-ups; that was a clever touch. I do miss seeing what happened to other BP characters like Bonehead, Candy, and Animal. I thought that was a missed opportunity.

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    1. That's a good point you brought Rick. I don't know why they didn't make an appearance here too. Watching it recently, I was surprised to see James Komack's name on the credits. I enjoyed watching him as Norman in The Courtship of Eddie's Father and didn't know that he took a turn as a story writer.

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  4. There's an opps in your list of other Beach Party movies - that first one (Beach Party) was 1963, not 1959 -- the first film that touched off all the 'beach/teen' films was Gidget that was in 1959 but was not the same genere as were.the Beach Party films. I found the 63 forward beach party films dated even then and they were nothing I wanted to see - the music was corny, plots stupid - but then I was not the target age for that type of market those films were aimed at - I was more the Brando generation and I missed the boat to those Beach Party movies - felt about them like I felt about all the silly Elvis films, not worth spending money or time on them.

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    1. Thanks for pointing out that mistake Beachgal! The beach films were all geared towards kissin' drive-in teens and the likes and if I recall, the Elvis films were actually aimed at pre-teens, so any viewer beyond that age would find them awfully corny. However, I admit to having an especially fondness for Blue Hawaii, but again, it's because I grew up with the movie ( like Back to the Beach ) and it brings to mind such fond memories. That's one of the best parts of movie-watching...the memories these films trigger!

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  5. There is some very interesting Back to the Beach memorabilia popping up on ebay this week. Pee Wee Herman "dailies" -- cut footage (real reels) etc. Sorry for commenting anonymously. This is not spam. I just couldn't figure out the other choices. I didn't see a Gmail or Facebook choice. Anyway, thought you'd like to know. The movie is great. The punk kid trying to light a cigarette, drink a beer, etc while Annette stays stuck in the 1960s was the inspiration for Brady Bunch remake et al for sure!

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    1. I noticed the memorabilia too ( had to search eBay for the poster pic ). Someone will buy those and then they'll be worth a pretty penny in the future. Annette was great in the film and she played such a sweet mom who, as you said, was completely obliviously to her son's behavior.

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