1963 saw the release of AIP’s first Frankie and Annette beach party film, simply called Beach Party. All together, the studio released eleven more films that were either sequels or spinoffs of the popular series. Of course, other studios tried to copy the success and today we reach the bottom of the barrel when it comes to the Beach Party copycats. It’s a film that was barely released in 1966 and slipped into the public domain in the 1990’s. Here we go with The Fat Spy.
Before I try to summarize the story I should say that I’m still trying to figure it out. There are a number of different storylines. There is a group of teenagers who head to a deserted island on a treasure hunt, though they spend more time singing and dancing than digging. The leaders of this band of teenagers are a young couple named Frankie and NANette (Jordan Christopher and Lauree Berger). Oh brother!
Little do these teenagers realize that the island is owned by a wealthy cosmetics big-wig named Wellington (Brian Donlevy). He has sent a guy named Irving (Jack E Leonard) to the island to find the fountain of youth. Irving’s twin brother Herman (also Leonard) also works for Wellington and is in love with a rival cosmetics company owner, Camille Salamander (Phyllis Diller). Irving, on the other hand, is secretly in love with Wellington’s daughter, Junior (Jayne Mansfield), who has been dispatched to the island to find out what Irving has found. She’s more concerned with just marrying the guy, though. Eventually everybody is out to find the fountain of youth, which isn’t actually a fountain at all.
This is one mess of a movie. It actually feels a bit like someone had part of a script involving battling cosmetics companies and then had the bright idea to incorporate elements of AIP’s beach party formula. Ultimately, they don’t even try to hide the fact that they’re ripping off AIP’s films. Having the two leads be named Frankie and Nanette is just the start. One of the other teenagers, Dodo (Johnny Tillotson), is essentially Jody McCrea’s Deadhead character from the AIP series. He even falls in love with a mermaid in a subplot that goes nowhere. Deadhead had a romance with a mermaid in Beach Blanket Bingo in 1965.
The cast of this film is completely unappealing, unless you judge them solely on Jayne Mansfield’s looks. A gorgeous woman for sure, but not a good actress. I mean the blonde bombshells were never really considered to be great thespians, but Marilyn Monroe and Mamie Van Doren are freakin’ Laurence Olivier compared to Mansfield. Jack E Leonard is no great shakes here either. Leonard was known as an insult comic, so his inclusion here is clearly an attempt to copy the fact that Don Rickles appears in several of AIP’s beach films. I’ll take Rickles any day, though, as Leonard mugs for the camera like an amateur. Then there’s Phyllis Diller, who can try anyone’s patience. As for the young cast members, nobody stands out. They’re about as generic as you can get.
The Fat Spy is pretty awful, it’s not unwatchable, though. The songs are actually not that bad. There’s nothing special about the way they are presented and you won’t remember them 30 minutes after the movie is over, but I’ve seen films with much higher production value do much worse than these tunes. There are certainly worse films out there but The Fat Spy is probably one of the lamest copycats of the beach party film formula. Frankie and Nanette, indeed!