I Saw That!

One woman's opinions about popular entertainment.

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Amateur boxing coach, Christian (but not so heavenly-minded that I'm no earthly good) singer, writer, self-defense advocate, childfree. feminist www.smartwomenboxingtraining.org

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Bikini Beach (1964)

This film was the sequel to Beach Party (1963), but the previous film focused on its older stars, Bob Cummings and Dorothy Lamour.  Bikini Beach turns the focus on totally on the college kids and their antics.
A publishing millionaire named Honeywagon (Keenan Wynn) sets out to prove the college kids, led by Frankie and Dee Dee (Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello), have no more intelligence than his pet ape Clyde (Janos Prohaska). This upsets Vivian (Martha Hyer), a colleague of Honeywagon's who thinks the kids are being treated unfairly.

A British pop star named Potato Bug (also played by Avalon) sets up tents on the beach, and makes the girls go wild, which doesn't go over with the guys too well.  In addition, the kids have to once again deal with Eric Von Zipper (Harvey Lembeck) and his motorcycle gang.

This is one of the better "beach movies", in that it goes at a fast, breezy pace.  None of the beach movies will ever be thought of as great art, but several of them were a fun way to pass ninety minutes.  Don Rickles is featured as the owner of a race car garage and the dance club where the kids hang out.  Stevie Wonder sings a song, and Boris Karloff has a cameo.

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Clambake (1967)

Scott Heyward (Elvis Presley) in on the road in the beginning of this film, trying to get away from his dad, Duster (James Gregory), and the oil company his dad owns.  Scott wants to be his own man and see what he can do on his own.  He meets a guy named Tom Wilson (Will Hutchins) at a restaurant.  Tom's trying to chat up a pretty waitress named Dianne Carter (Shelley Fabares), but she's not interested.  Tom overhears Scott's conversation with his dad, and correctly figures out that Scott is rich.  This gives Scott the idea to trade identities with Tom before they make their way to Florida.  Scott would like to meet a girl who likes him, not just his money.

Tom has fun with Scott's money, while Scott takes on Tom's job as a water skiing instructor.  His first client turns out to be Dianne.  There's an attraction between them, but Dianne's in town to snag a rich husband.  James J. Jamison III (Bill Bixby) catches her eye, and it's not long before Jamison is wooing her.  Jamison is entered in a boat race that he plans to win again, but Scott decides to fix up a boat that was owned by Sam (Gary Merrill) and challenge Jamison.

This film follows the usual plot of most of Presley's films during the 1960's:  romantic rivalries, some type of challenge (the boat race), at least one fist fight, mostly forgettable songs, and a lot of misunderstandings that are usually cleared up by the end credits.  I did like James Gregory playing a good old Southern guy, and Bill Bixby was good at playing arrogant guys.

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Friday, July 04, 2014

"Too Close For Comfort" (ABC and syndication: 1980-1986)

Henry Rush (Ted Knight) was a cartoonist who wrote a comic strip that was syndicated to newspapers.  His wife Muriel (Nancy Dussault) was a former singer who worked as a photographer.  Their daughters Sarah, a college student, and Jackie, a bank employee (Lydia Cornell, Deborah van Valkenburgh) lived with them.  When the downstairs neighbor passed away, the Rush's daughters begged Henry to have that apartment. He agreed to let Sarah and Jackie move into the empty apartment and pay rent.

But Henry's conservative and overly protective nature did not keep him from hovering over his daughters.  Much of the humor came from Henry not realizing that he needed to give his daughters room to breathe and the right to make their own decisions.  Added to the mix was Sarah's naive friend Monroe (Jim J. Bullock), who irritated Henry to no end.  The sister of the deceased tenant, Mildred (Selma Diamond), came around from time to time to pick up items her brother had left behind.  Mildred often over-stayed her welcome.  Henry also had to deal with his tart-tongued mother-in-law, Iris (Audrey Meadows), who felt Muriel could have picked a better husband.

The show was canceled in 1983, but picked up for syndication the following year with the cast mostly intact, except for Meadows, who decided to do guest appearances only.  Muriel became pregnant, and she and Henry welcomed a son named Andrew (Joshua Goodwin).  Monroe ended up moving into the attic above Henry and Muriel.  During the last season of the show, Henry had given up drawing cartoons to become manager of a newspaper in Marin County, where he and Muriel moved.  Jackie had gone to Italy to pursue a fashion career, and Sarah's character had disappeared as well.  Monroe and Muriel both worked at the newspaper.  Henry's business partner in the news business was Hope (Pat Carroll), who owned half of the paper.  Lisa Flores (Lisa Antille) was the Rush's maid, and a love interest for Monroe.  The title of the show was changed to "The Ted Knight Show" (not to be confused with an earlier sitcom that Knight headlined).  Before the show could resume for another season, Knight passed away.

Knight was Ted Baxter, the only person on the news staff of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" (1970-1977) who didn't lose his job during the finale of that series.  Selma Diamond also appeared on a couple of seasons of the series, "Night Court".  Jim J. Bullock was part of one of TV's more odd parings when he co-hosted a talk show with Tammy Faye Baker in 1996.

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Fireball 500 (1966)

Not exactly a "beach party" movie, but it's included in the mix because of the appearance of Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello.  The plot revolves around the world of stock car racing.  Dave (Avalon) shows up in a southern town to challenge Leander (played by Fabian), the local car racing hero.  Leander's girl is Jane (Funicello), who tolerates Leander's female fan club who constantly hang around him. Her uncle Big Jaw (Chill Willis) runs the carnival where Jane works, and he has an interest in the car racing. Martha (Julie Parrish), the town's rich widow takes interest in Dave.  She gets Dave hooked up in running moonshine, which Leander does on the side as does a racing promoter named Charlie Bigg (Harvey Lembeck).  Dave doesn't want any part of it.

However, agents from the IRS, who have been trying to shut down the moonshine operation for awhile, force Dave to act as an informant.  When another moonshine runner is killed on the road, Dave suspects that Leander is to blame.

There's nothing particularly special about this movie, which is just another in a long line of B (and C grade) movies about fast cars and their drivers.  Avalon and Funicello get to sing a few numbers, which don't exactly fit in a movie that is supposed to be a drama.  Fabian, who is also a singer, doesn't sing at all in this one.  In fact, it appeared that this movie was designed to change the teen idol image of the main actors.  Avalon drops a curse word in one line, is shown drinking alcohol, and another scene hints that Avalon has slept with Parrish's character.  But Fabian doesn't do more than swagger and sneer, and Funicello's character is another version of the good, level-headed girls she always played.

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