Speakeasy and Silver Screenings have kicked off the cowabunga Beach Party Blogathon over at their sites and we staked our claim of hot turf with Back to the Beach ( 1988 ), one of the best of the Frankie Avalon beach party films which included Beach Party ( 1963 ), Bikini Beach ( 1964 ), Muscle Beach Party ( 1964 ), Beach Blanket Bingo ( 1965 ), and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini ( 1965 ). In most of the films Frankie portrayed a young surfer who had to continually create schemes to protect his gal Dee-Dee ( Annette Funicello ) from other surfing suitors. They were zany teen films to be sure and Back to the Beach fits right in among them even though it was released 22 years after the last beach film. James Komack ( The Courtship of Eddie's Father ) dreamed up a story as wild as the originals , this time telling the story of what happens to surfers after they curl their last wave.
It was fairly easy for the audience to guess that Frankie and Dee-Dee tied the knot after their flings in the California sun. As their punk son Bobby explains in the beginning of the film :
"25 years ago my parents were the most popular teenagers in America. It's true. My dad was a teen idol. Girls threw themselves at him, but it being 1962, he had to throw them back. When dad wasn't singing he spent his life on a surfboard. They called him the Big Kahuna. When I was born my dad wanted to call me the little Kahuna - luckily he settled for Bobby. As for mom, she joined that strange cult called the Mouseketeers. She became the first pin-up queen for boys under twelve. Anyway, they got married and moved to Ohio right after the accident....20 years ago, while surfing, this humongous wave knocked the Kahuna right out of dad and he's never been the same since. The closest he gets to the water now is to play the surf king in order to sell cars on TV. Yep, the Big Kahuna now owns Friendly Ford the largest dealership in Ohio".
Eventually, Frankie finds himself stressed out with work and the family decides to take a vacation in Hawaii. En route they make a stop in Los Angeles to check on their grown daughter Sandi, portrayed by Lori Laughlin ( Full House ) in a Kim MacAfee style role. While in LA, Frankie meets up with his former flame Connie ( Connie Stevens ) and the old Beach Party jealousy plot shifts into gear once again.
What makes his beach bash so entertaining are all of the references to past films and Frankie and Annette's careers. It becomes a nostalgic - and highly amusing - look at the old California beach cult. To entice youngsters, the film explodes with New Wave color and characters. There is a sub-plot aimed as teens involving Sandi and her fiancee ( Tommy Hinkley ) who are shacking up on the pier and one for the kids with Bobby getting himself initiated into a leather-clad surf gang. Also, Frankie has to take to the waves once again to prove that he isn't clucked and is still the true King of the Surf.
"He'll be back. I know that in my heart." - Annette
"You know, you're awful sweet Mom" - Bobby
"And then I'll make him suffer." - Annette
Great guest stars include Don Adams as the harbor patrol master, Bob Denver and Alan Hale Jr. reprising their Gilligan's Island roles, Ed "Kookie" Byrnes ( still valeting ), Barbara Billingsly, Tony Dow, and Jerry Mathers.
The film also features some hip-swinging musical numbers. Dick Dale and at least two of the Del Tones make an appearance performing "California Sun" with Frankie and "Pipeline" as a duet with Stevie Ray Vaughn; Pee-Wee Herman goes wild with the "Bird is the Word", and Annette gets to sing the best number - "Jamaica Ska" - along with Airhead.
Back to the Beach was released in August 7, 1987 and was received with mild reception at the box office. Annette Funicello was diagnosed with MS shortly after filming wrapped and her part as the Skippy-loving mother in Back to the Beach became her final film role. It was also the final film appearance of Bob Denver and Alan Hale Jr.
"We tried to figure out where to take you last night, but you kept saying, 'Why oh, why oh, why oh, did I ever leave Ohio?'" - Michael
"That's a damn good question" - the Big Kahuna
For us, the film has a special place in our memory box. Growing up, we had no cable television and the only films we saw were those that were playing in the theatres, the drive-in ( suitable for youngsters ), and the VHS tapes that our parents rented from the local library. Two tapes our mother continually brought home for us from the library were Back to the Beach and Grandpa's Music Box. Even though the film was PG-rated and most of the wisecracks eluded us, we loved the feel of the film. It quickly became our favorite and within a few viewings we learned enough surf-talk to last us a lifetime.
To us, Back to the Beach will forever conjure up memories of childhood, hot summer days, homemade popsicles, carefree Saturdays, and pink Barbie clothing. We live only two short miles from the beach but on days when we don't feel like burning in the sun, all we have to do is watch Back to the Beach and the surf will practically be washing into the house.
Duuude, ready to get amped about the surf and sand?? Click here to check out rad posts on all of your favorite beach films of the past. Cowabunga!!