One thing that the beach party movies of the 60’s usually had was special musical guests. Usually these artists were new up-and-coming acts, so their…shall we say longevity…was not always certain. For every Little Stevie Wonder that appeared in one of those films, there was also The Pyramids. The 1965 film “Beach Ball” fared better than most beach movies in the music department…featuring the likes of The Four Seasons, The Hondells, The Righeous Brothers, and even The Supremes
The band at the center of the film, however, is not so memorable…The Wigglers (Robert Logan, Aron Kincaid, and Don Edmonds). Of course, it’s easier to go down in music history when you’re a real band. One day, the band’s pal/manager, Dick (Edd Byrnes of “Kookie Kookie Lend me Your Comb” fame) informs the boys that they are in danger of having their instruments repossessed by music store owner Mr. Wolf (James Wellman) if they don’t cough up $1,000 pronto. These guys are all involved in typical beach party movie jobs…sky diving, auto racing, and scuba diving…problem is, none of them is terribly lucrative. But Dick, the brains of the operation, hits on a plan to get money from a campus group that gives financial assistance to students in danger of dropping out of school due to low funds. The fact that these cooks already ditched the books for guitars and surf boards long ago doesn’t seem to matter.
Dick pays a visit to Susan (Chris Noel), a beautiful but bookish member of the committee. She ends up falling for the story, but when she and three of her equally librarian-esque friends (Mikki Johnson, Brenda Benet, and Gail Gilmore) stop by to deliver the check personally, they end up walking in on a party celebrating the successful scam. They end up tearing up the check and leaving. But later that night, they decide to make it their mission to bring these college drop-outs known as The Wigglers back to the halls of academia. The first step is to win their trust, so they shed their conservative look and pose as free-spirited beach chicks. Of course, The Wigglers instantly fall for them. Meanwhile, Mr. Wolf continues to pursue the band, along with two cops (John Hyden and the one and only Dick Miller) while the band tries to get booked to play at an auto show so they can earn the money to pay for their instruments.
“Beach Ball” is a far cry from the Frankie and Annette movies, some sequences are downright sloppy in their execution, but it’s not without it’s charms. The music is definitely a highlight. I mean, hey, wouldn’t you want to live in a world where The Righteous Brothers just showed up and played at impromptu beach house parties…putting out high quality sound without the aid of microphones or amplifiers?!? All the acts in this film do a great job, including The Supremes…even if they do seem a bit out-of-place singing songs like “Surfer Boy” and “Come to the Beach Ball with Me.” Call me weird, but I don’t think much surfing was going on in Motown.
Though the musical acts are top-notch, the cast is a bit uneven. The Wigglers come across as cardboard cutouts. Each one is given a unique interest…scuba, auto racing, etc…but no personality. The girls do a bit better, especially the lovely Chris Noel. In the end, I was left wishing that she and her girlfriends were the central figures of the film…not The Wigglers.
This is another case where someone with a bunch of diploma’s on the wall could probably do quite an analysis on this film’s portrayal of women. Susan and her friends are portrayed as being intelligent ladies, but they don’t exactly go back to their true selves when they realize that donning tiny bikinis gets them lots of attention. There’s also the beach chick character Polly (Anna Lavelle), who is perhaps one of the most outwardly promiscuous characters I’ve seen in a beach party flick. She spends the entire film in the tiniest bikini the filmmakers could get away with in 1965, but when said bikini doesn’t get the reaction she’d hoped for out of Edd Byrnes’ character, she wonders aloud if she should’ve gone with the topless version. She seems to be perfectly fine with allowing members of The Wigglers to shove their tongues down her throat whenever they want. She’s a strange character…and, on a side note, the actress that plays her looks and sounds strangely like the young Jane Fonda.
I can’t say that I highly recommend “Beach Ball,” but it is worth a look for the musical guests and the enjoyable performance of Chris Noel. But ultimately, it’s another rip-off of AIP’s far superior Frankie and Annette films.