1960’s Beach Party Movies

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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.

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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.

FilmRelease dateDirectorWriter(s)Score
Beach Party7 August 1963William AsherLou Rusoff, William Asher, Robert DillonLes Baxter
Bikini Beach22 July 1964William AsherWilliam Asher, Robert Dillon, Leo TownsendLes Baxter
Pajama Party11 November 1964Don WeisLouis M. HeywardLes Baxter
Beach Blanket Bingo14 April 1965William AsherLeo Townsend, Sher Townsend, William AsherLes Baxter
Ski Party30 June 1965Alan RafkinRobert KaufmanGuy Hemric & Jerry Styner
How to Stuff a Wild Bikini14 July 1965William AsherWilliam Asher, Leo TownsendLes Baxter
Sergeant Deadhead18 August 1965Norman TaurogLouis M. HeywardLes Baxter
Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine6 November 1965Norman TaurogJames Hartford, Robert KaufmanLes Baxter
Ghost in the Invisible Bikini6 April 1966Don WeisLouis M. Heyward, Elwood UllmanLes Baxter
Fireball 5007 June 1966William AsherWilliam Asher, Leo Townsend, Burt TopperLes Baxter
Thunder Alley22 March 1967Richard RushSy SalkowitzMike Curb
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Buster Keaton!

Bikini Beach - Lobby Card

A few offshoot films.

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