I Saw a Film!

I think I’ve finally seen all five of these corny-as-hushpuppies Frankie and Annette films, though I guess there was a reunion one made in the eighties (I’ve heard rumors) that I may have to endure for reasons of completism. I’m thinking of doing this particular film as a list.

Here are your reasons for viewing:

  1. A stuffy fellow from a previous generation has brought a jackass in a chimp costume to prove that our beach heroes have devolved into lower life forms with an excessive interest in sex. A curious understanding of human nature, hell, nature at all — in fact, an understanding of biology was something all the philosophers of all the ages lacked in their struggle to understand themselves and their inclinations. This is no more or less a perfectly lousy argument, but one that nonetheless would continue to fill pages. Rock and Roll and girls in Bikinis are probably still considered fairly low-brow even today by certain officers of cultural gate-keeping . . . yadda yadda
  2. There is a guy in a chimp costume. The chimp is called Clyde. Any relation to a later great ape, an orange one starring with a fellow who once portrayed Rowdy Yates and also called Clyde, well, I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.
  3. There is a regular of these films, a Ronnie Dayton, who is at this time portraying a character called “Potato Bug” whom the girls find irresistible. Potato Bug is by all accounts a spoof of a very British rock star of the era. Though there are many crucial oddities on display. On appearance he’s dressed in a wacky safari outfit with pith helmet. His gappy teeth and comic accent are stereotypes. He plays a fantastic double necked Danelectro guitar that I wish I had. The ladies inexplicably swoon, which I’m sure is meant to represent the swooning over the Beatles (see what they did there? Potato Bug, Beatles?).
  4. Don Rickles runs a drag race shop. Don Rickles is also a painter. Don Rickles makes a lot of faces in close up.
  5. A West Coast surf band called The Pyramids play a couple of numbers. They were an actual West Coast surf band that had the very last surf hit that charted. They were also bald, and integrated! remarkable really.
  6. Eric Von Zipper has some trouble pointing his own finger at his own temple and becoming catatonic. This is called “giving himself the finger” and is apparently a huge joke. One never tires of Von Zipper shouting, “You Stupid!” over and over.
  7. At Von Zipper’s biker club headquaters a portrait of Hitler hangs. The camera starts a scene with it. It is interesting to me that less than a generation after WWII people could play with the idealization of Hitler (though at least no swastikas, which were popular with biker clubs) as a kind of joke. Today, this has become a bit less funny as we can’t trust folks.
  8. You get a few seconds of a young Stevie Wonder.
  9. And Candy Johnson does some of her tassled-dress hip shots.

As far as a plot goes, the British invasion rocker is interested in the mousey Annette (who I’m told was very close to Disney since her Mouseketeer days and was never allowed to be in a Bikini in these films). This upsets Frankie a touch, though his participation in this film, despite several songs, seems almost tangential. Frankie is into drag racing and ends up racing against the Chimp at some point.

As the film devolves into the inevitable mess it will, it largely ends up a brawl. A French girl says that French would call the brawl an “Election”. Hmmm. Don Rickles owns the spot the fight takes place in, and claims he’d sue himself. There’s not a joke that causes more than a groan. This style of humor is so hackneyed and often incomprehensible that it’s difficult to imagine the target audience. Who is interested in a guy in a chimp suit dancing to the surf music? Who would fine Potato Bug a clever yuck? The funniest thing I could think of is spoofing a film like this and then having someone actually say “Fuck”. Or have a couple of characters actually have sex. The fantasy world created by the film-makers in these bland as milk productions would capsize in an average pre-teen’s real life experiences. One has the impression that a previous generation is being convinced of the goodness of American kids at a beach. And in fact, the end of the film has Candy dancing around in her wiggle-dress and joined by an elderly flapper. Is contrast of styles funny enough?

Whether or not the styles are decades out of date the pure sexlessness of these films, despite girls in bikinis, is pure malarkey itself. The adult fellows never once seem to actually grasp sexual pleasure, they never mention having actual relations at all. Annette remarks that she’s only interested in wedding bells. These sorts of grotesquely “correct” sequences that drip of a world unmoored from living relationships between the boys and the girls (let alone the girls and the girls or the boys and the boys) becomes the joke in itself. These young people aren’t even doing that much surfing, so what is it they grasp at if not love? We’re as confused as they appear to be.

Free on Prime! And since I was born in 64 we know it’s a lie.

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