The Horror of Party Beach (1964)

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The Horror of Party Beach (1964)

Post  BoG on Wed Jul 07, 2010 11:44 pm

This was one of the first truly grisly creature features that I saw as a kid and one of the earliest to show off bloody attacks and death. It shocked me when I first watched it - I was only about 10 years old - especially the early scene of the young woman being attacked by some newly-created sea creature. It was in b&w but I knew what blood was back then, even without the color. It looks cheesy now, to some extent, but back then it was very grotesque and ghastly. There were also these dynamic fight scenes on a beach, between a biker and a beach bum. I must have first seen it on the Creature Features show hosted by Bob Wilkins on late night TV; years later, Humanoids From the Deep (1980) was released and I went to see it in the theater; I noted a marked similarity between the two films.  The primary targets of the monsters here seem to be females (as in the later film), the exceptions being a couple of drunks. There's also a similarity to the later Night of the Living Dead; at one point, the main female character even describes the creatures as "the living dead" and "zombies" even though her scientist father states that this is inaccurate.
What's Happening: Humanoid lizard-men attack teenagers in Connecticut beach town
Famous For: Originally billed as "The First Horror-Monster Musical!"
Intended as a combination of beach party movies and horror movies, Party Beach offers something for all manner of B-movie fans. It's fast, funny, sexy, and gory. It is bursting with enthusiasm. The first half is more about the beach parties - the rock band, the dances, the guys and gals in their skimpy swimwear, the joyous flirtation, the convertibles, the motorcycles. The songs are excellent, especially "Drag" with lines like "make a left, make a right, no cop in sight, we'll drive on down the road." There's even an acrobatic fistfight and some sand-in-the-face. Note also the proto-feminist folk song about the plight of womankind. The second half is more about the monsters, as they attack the (mostly female) residents of the small town. Radioactive waste created the monsters. Will our young scientist-hero find the One Thing that will destroy them? Camera work is amateurish and inspired at once. The opening roadster sequence is particularly well done. Writer-producer-director Tenney was on it and into it.

Most of my guidebooks ignore it, but John Stanley calls it "A classic of superior ineptitude." Did he really watch it? Did he take it seriously? The film was clearly intended as a campy romp, and yet despite itself is often genuinely horrifying. It delivers what it promises and more. Hardly inept, it was exactly in touch with its audience and became a huge hit nationwide.

Goldweber, David Elroy (2012-06-14). Claws & Saucers: Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy Film: A Complete Guide: 1902-1982 (Kindle Locations 35337-35362). David E. Goldweber. Kindle Edition.
I actually think the singing and dancing is overdone in this film - I'm not a fan of musicals and, to me, these sequences just slow the film down. I also noted that the early fight scene, which escalates to include other members of the biker gang and the beach crowd, seems to copy the famous fight scenes in West Side Story, containing ballet-style moves, very stylistic and strange.  But, the creation of the monster (out of leaked radioactive waste and a skeleton) is eerie, with a haunting music score. The horror is ratcheted up later when there are now several monsters and they attack 20 girls at a slumber party, massacring them and carrying off a couple of them (it's this last that shows an amateurish strain, since one of the girls doesn't seem to mind being carried off by an awful monster). Why do the monsters carry off a couple of the girls..? Later, two girls are oblivious to the monsters stalking them, even though the creatures are a couple of feet away; the father drives up to pick up the girls and also fails to notice a monster standing right behind them. In the final act, there's a coordinated effort to destroy the creatures after their kryptonite is discovered. BoG's Score: 5 out of 10

Party Trivia: this was the highlight of director Del Tenney's film career, along with Curse of the Living Corpse, which was released with this on a double bill - these were low budgeted but a box office success, maybe because a bit risque; the other film featured Roy Scheider in his film debut and was a very different film - gothic grisly murder type stuff. Tenney was later responsible for The Poppy is Also a Flower (1966)
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