Culture Shocking Blocking

Beach Party

Image for Beach Party

In this breaking-the-fourth-wall scene from AIP’s genre-creating 1963 surfsploitation movie, Professor Sutwell (Robert Cummings) and his assistant Marianne (Dorothy Malone, the bookish bombshell from The Big Sleep) bail out [far left] once Frankie (Frankie Avalon) and his crew discover that the oldsters are studying the mating habits of aboriginal Southern Californians — i.e., them.

Because it lampoons previous teen movies from The Wild One and Splendor in the Grass to Gidget and Blue HawaiiBeach Party helps demarcate the end of the Fifties (1954-63). The blocking here symbolizes the moment at which the Anti-Anti-Utopian Generation grows up; the question now is whether they’ll adopt a reformist cause (the movie’s subplot, which prompts a spooky-kooky Vincent Price cameo) or instead remain simultaneously utopian (Avalon’s stage name reminds us of that blissful island, from Arthurian legend, which is populated by scantily clad youth) and skeptical about the competing ideologies of their elders.

Sutwell, who represents the Partisan Generation, favors the former; but if you dig the surfers’ scene, you’ll disagree.

Tags: Beach Party, Movies