There’s nothing quite like a beach party movie! You get to hit the surf with Frankie & Annette and the rest of the gang, plus you usually get a few tunes from the likes of Dick Dale and the Deltones and Little Stevie Wonder. It’s not exactly scary stuff. But what happens when you mix a 60’s beach party movie with a monster movie? The answer lies in 1965’s The Beach Girls and the Monster.
It all begins down on the beach where the kids are all surfing and dancin’ their lives away. It’s all good fun until one of the girls wanders off and discovers a cave which is home to a rubbery, seaweed covered creature that promptly kills her. The kids are all shocked and the local cops are baffled. The Sheriff even takes the case to Dr. Otto Lindsay (Jon Hall) who believes that the claw found at the scene looks a lot like it could come from a mutated fatiqua fish. Ignore the fact that fish don’t exactly have claws.
It turns out that Dr. Lindsay’s son, Richard (Arnold Lessing), knew the victim. He was once a promising young man destined to follow in his father’s footsteps, but ever since he had an automobile accident he has spent all his time pursuing surfing. Not only does Richard have to deal with his father nagging him about being a scientist, he also has to fend off the advances of his stepmother, Vicky (Sue Casey). Meanwhile, the body count keeps growing as the monster goes after the teens. That is, when they aren’t surfing or having bonfires and singing songs on the beach.
The Beach Girls and the Monster is one of the most gloriously awful movies I’ve seen in a long time. Let’s start with the monster: he’s essentially a guy lumbering around in a knock-off Gill Man mask. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen the same design for sale at Walgreens. If rubber monsters aren’t your thing, we’re also treated to extended sequences of surfing. One such moment comes when Richard and his buddy Mark (Walker Edmiston) set up the movie projector in the bedroom to screen some surf footage. No need to actually work the stock footage into the actual story.
The major artistic motif of director Jon Hall (yep, the same guy that plays Dr. Lindsay) is nighttime driving scenes achieved with actors sitting in a stationary car with rear projection behind them. Scene after scene after scene is done in this style. Some are shot from the front, some from the back, some from the side. At one point, the actor doing the driving in one of these scenes forgets to stop moving the steering wheel though the car has supposedly stopped.
A real highlight of the film is its bizarre music. The score is a mixture of surf style and free form jazz. There are also a number of songs, beginning with a track called “Dance Baby Dance,” co-written by Frank Sinatra Jr. The actors contributed to the songwriting, as well. Arnold Lessing wrote “More Than Wanting You” and sings it in the film. “There’s a Monster in the Surf” was written by Walker Edmiston and Elaine DuPont, who plays Richard’s girlfriend Jane. This song was a standout moment for me as it is partially performed by a puppeteer manipulating a lion hand puppet. The puppeteer is also wearing a ridiculously fake beard, presumably to hide the fact that his lips are moving. The puppetry is actually quite good, though.
The Beach Girls and the Monster is one of those terrible movies that is an absolute joy to behold. It pales in comparison to the Frankie and Annette beach party films, and those weren’t exactly high-caliber productions…but it manages to be just as fun.