Beach party movies were an American subgenre of feature films produced and released between 1963 and 1968, created by American International Pictures (AIP), beginning with their surprise hit, Beach Party in July 1963. With this film, AIP is credited with creating the genre. In addition to the AIP films, several contributions to the genre were produced and released by major and independent studios alike. According to various sources, the genre comprises over 30 films, with the lower-budget AIP films being the most profitable.
Generally comedies, the core elements of the AIP films consisted of a group of teenage and/or college-age characters as heroes; non-parental adult characters as villains and/or comic relief; simple, silly storylines that avoided any sober social consciousness; teen trends and interests (such as dancing, surfing, drag racing, custom cars, etc.); simple romantic arcs, original songs (presented in both the “Musical” genre style and as ”source music”); teen-oriented musical acts (frequently performing as themselves); and a tongue-in-cheek attitude toward the target audience.
The earliest films by AIP, as well as those by other studios, focused on surfing and beach culture. Although the genre is termed “beach party film”, several subsequent films that appeared later in the genre, while keeping most of the core elements mentioned above, do not actually include surfing—or even scenes on a beach.
The complete AIP series
American International Pictures produced a series of twelve films that fall into the genre. With the exception of Sergeant Deadhead, Fireball 500 and Thunder Alley, all were related by recurring characters. For example, much of the cast in Bikini Beach appear in the follow-up Pajama Party, albeit with different names – however, biker Erich von Zipper appears in the film, along with his gang of “Rats,” playing the same characters as in two previous films. In addition, Ski Party would appear unrelated, except that the characters of Todd and Craig also appear in the later Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, which is also linked to How to Stuff a Wild Bikini by the appearance of Erich von Zipper and Annette Funicello.
The only film not to have an appearance of some kind by either Avalon or Funicello is The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (early promos for the film had announced that the two would appear, but it didn’t happen); Funicello does not appear in Avalon’s Sergeant Deadhead and Avalon does not appear in Funicello’s Thunder Alley.
|Beach Party||7 August 1963||William Asher||Lou Rusoff, William Asher, Robert Dillon||Les Baxter|
|Bikini Beach||22 July 1964||William Asher||William Asher, Robert Dillon, Leo Townsend||Les Baxter|
|Pajama Party||11 November 1964||Don Weis||Louis M. Heyward||Les Baxter|
|Beach Blanket Bingo||14 April 1965||William Asher||Leo Townsend, Sher Townsend, William Asher||Les Baxter|
|Ski Party||30 June 1965||Alan Rafkin||Robert Kaufman||Guy Hemric & Jerry Styner|
|How to Stuff a Wild Bikini||14 July 1965||William Asher||William Asher, Leo Townsend||Les Baxter|
|Sergeant Deadhead||18 August 1965||Norman Taurog||Louis M. Heyward||Les Baxter|
|Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine||6 November 1965||Norman Taurog||James Hartford, Robert Kaufman||Les Baxter|
|Ghost in the Invisible Bikini||6 April 1966||Don Weis||Louis M. Heyward, Elwood Ullman||Les Baxter|
|Fireball 500||7 June 1966||William Asher||William Asher, Leo Townsend, Burt Topper||Les Baxter|
|Thunder Alley||22 March 1967||Richard Rush||Sy Salkowitz||Mike Curb|