Archive for June, 2014


BEACH BLOODY BINGO

Summer has become a time for Hollywood to release its blockbusters to eager audiences who would rather be inside then out. I remember reading movie ads in the paper proudly touting theatres having the wonders of air conditioning. Movies about summer are another bottle (now comes in a tube) of suntan lotion as they have all but disappeared. I speak of those beach party films; those drive in specials when you didn’t really watch all of the film or a Saturday matinee like THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH made in 1964 by Del Tenney

The horror film, alien invasion film, war film, biker film, silly musical, and sword and sandal epics were yours, all for one ridiculously low price. Most adolescent boys ended up re-enacting the fights outside the theatre and sometimes during the next feature. THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH sums the genre up for me. You can write many articles of this film style and I probably will later on as believe it or not each is derivative yet different at the same time, which is the charm.

It has an interesting history to it, along with a cheesy man in a rubber suit monster that we all put down yet enjoy with comfort compared to what passes for today’s horror. It contains all the components of those films such as the motorcycle gang, the hot rodders, the rock and roll band, the beach itself, the love story and the clean cut hero.

The plot of this film is not important to its charm, just that it is executed with what was thought to be a precision that became the exploitive style. The short running time of 78 minutes made it possible to fit into those Saturday matinee and drive-in venues. A short running time also meant more showings in regular cinema house although I suspect THE HORROR OR PARTY BEACH was booked into those “B” and “C” circuit places- almost grindhouse style. It was paired with another Del Tenney production THE CURSE OF THE LIVING CORPSE. Both pictures were marketed in the William Castle showman tradition of having audience members sign a, ‘fright release,’ coupled with newspaper ads stating: “For your protection! We will not permit you to see these shockers unless you agree to release the theater of all responsibility for death by fright!”

The history of THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH is that in fact it was not shot in California as inferred but in Stanford, Connecticut with beach scenes done at a place called Shippan Point. The biker gang in the film was an actual gang from Riverside, Connecticut called the Charter Oak Motorcycle Club. The Del-Aires were an actual band from Paterson, New Jersey who wrote three of the songs (Drag, Wiggle Wobblin’ and Elaine), and performed all six songs in the film. Edward Earle Marsh composed the film’s soundtrack; Wilfred Holcombe is credited as the musical director. Marsh and Holcombe wrote the other three songs that are performed in the film: “Joy Ride”, “The Zombie Stomp,” and “You Are Not a Summer Love.”

One of the monster suits made for the film apparently shrunk so that the hired actor could not fit into it, paving the way for production assistant Ruth Glassenberg Freedman’s son, Charles, who was 16 at the time, fit perfectly into the suit and thus portrayed a monster in the film.

The charm of these pictures is the naivety of the story and the people. Those activities such as slumber parties took place. Girls would sit around listening to 45 rpm records, giggle, and dream about boys. Not much has changed as it is interesting to note that in the HALLOWEEN , FRIDAY THE 13TH and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET franchises, the derivative of girls dreaming about the ‘evils’ of sexuality or indulging sexual relations out of wedlock became victims of the monster as a penalty for these impure thoughts.

These pictures also featured the ‘lantern jawed hero’- in this case portrayed by the James Franciscus look- a- like John Scott – who tries to work with the adults of the film to combat the monsters. These begs for speculation about typecasting as Franciscus was making a name for himself on television in the role of teacher in MR NOVAK which led to him being brought to Hollywood in 1964 to star in the picture, YOUNG BLOOD HAWKE.

These pictures usually have the rebel hero such as early Steve McQueen in THE BLOB as an outsider trying to convince the authorities that the menace exists, only then working together do they defeat the monster. Hank Green works with the authorities of the film in the person of Doctor Gavin (Allan Laurel) to discover the creatures vulnerability to ‘metallic sodium’ instead of being the brooding, social outcast teen.

An indulgent side light to these pictures for me is watching some cool cars and bikes in action. You get to see cities as they were in perhaps a simpler time. For example, Hank Green’s speedy drive to New York City passing through Central Park and Time Square. The fashions and the hair styles are also worth a look in these shows if you are into these things.

It took me a few years to see this picture as I learned about it in the Warren Magazine publication photo book in which frame blowups were captioned like comics. One of my childhood friends, Stanley, kept calling it THE HORROR OF THE BEACH PARTY which leads me to believe perhaps he did not like rock and roll or beaches that much at that time.

You can laugh at it, poke fun at it, yet it is a fact that it and films of this nature were made and seen by a segment of the public which is more than can be said of some lofty concept ideas of large studios or independents. Just because you don’t have major backing does not mean your film is not strong nor does having big money and the ‘Hollywood machine’ behind a project does not guarantee success. THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH is simply there fulfilling its purpose to make money for the company utilizing available people and sets of a time which it is still doing.

“PRINT THE LEGEND”

We often romanticize the past, unconsciously editing out the unsavoury parts of a certain time or event.  This is not true for some events and experiences as they can mark us for life, inside and sometimes even the outside. I read a good amount of film biographies, histories, etc., purely as a labour of love, which in fact spawned this blog and the classic horror blog NITRATE FROM THE GRAVE. I occasionally wonder after finishing such a book where the truth of it is.

I speak mainly of biographies and auto biographies. Is this really what happened or is it what the studio put out? Tell-all biographies can be quite dull as what you had in mind was not really what happened.  For example, I have read a few books on Jean Harlow, a personal favorite.  I was able to latch onto a copy of David Stenn’s book BOMBSHELL plus DEADLY ILLUSIONS:  JEAN HARLOW AND THE MURDER OF PAUL BERN. I also purchased a copy of Mark Vieras and Darrell Rooney’s large work HARLOW IN HOLLYWOOD, THE BOMBSHELL IN THE GLAMOUR CAPITAL 1928-1937.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each had the points regarding Jean’s life, her family. Where they differed was her death and especially Paul Bern’s demise which I will not reveal as it would spoil it for those who want to check that out.  Which of these was actual fact and which was rumour or controlled story from a studio?  It is possible as records could have been lost or destroyed, principal people in events pass away, or memories change so you end up printing the Legend. It is nevertheless still fascinating to get different takes on someone or an era especially when the author draws their own conclusions which you don’t have to agree with.

The newest book on one of my other favourites, Loretta Young, is HOLLYWOOD MADONNA by Bernard F. Dick. I was reviewing the reviews, finding some saying things were glossed over. The book did not tell of her life, more it was regarding the plots of her films. While this is not a review article, I found it interesting that people would know that it was a gloss over as they must be privy to another source

 

 I suggest that film writing today has three categories depending on your taste for material.  “Ghost writing” Star columns in Fan magazines of yesteryear have changed as it does happen in some form.  The first style is the bio or book that arrives shortly after a person’s death or significant event. This would be usually tossed together from stories from other sources, or snippets of third hand interviews or quotes all with pictures you have seen before.

The second style is the academic approach. This can kill interest fast.  It is a style more for learning in academics then what some people would read to enjoy.

The third style if that which is written by a relative, spouse, former employee or companion, which can cross into sensationalizing a subject or a person. I have found with those you often get not so much regarding the film life as you get the person as they are seen through another perspective.  A good example of this is if you connect Errol Flynn’s MY WICKED, WICKED WAYS with almost any of the other books on him usually written by people he was with with the exception of the volume dealing with Flynn being a Nazi spy in World War Two, you can get an interesting feel for the one and only Errol Flynn.

 

 

The last style of writing I have found in film books is a cross between the academic and conversational style – yielding every single thing you could possibly want to know. This type of book has a long life as you can use it as reference or crowd your brain with facts you won’t use.  A wonderful example of this is BORIS KARLOFF:  MORE THAN A MONSTER, by Steven Jacobs, which tells you absolutely everything you would want to know about Boris Karloff’s life, journeys, loves, and mistakes.

 

 

Film writing has changed as no doubt documents are discovered such as diaries or new papers found in an attic. One of my favorites’ is when one discovers long lost film in some field or trunk that gets restored which is a huge thing to see.  I also secretly wish we had the equivalent of the movie magazines of yesteryear such as MODERN SCREEN, PHOTOPLAY, PICTURE PLAY etc which I can say can be found online to an extent at the link below:

 

 

 

OLD MAGAZINE ARTICLES

 

http://www.oldmagazinearticles.com/Movie_History?get=8

 

Reading about film is great fun. The truth is not that important as it lies somewhere between the biography and the auto biography. The important thing is that you read it and engage the mind – be it a blog, online site, book or discussing it amongst your friends.

 

When the legend becomes fact, print the legend , that keeps the ideas flowing.