(aka, Monster From The Surf, Surf Terror)
Back in the Sixties, there was a long string of Beach movies, most of them turned out by AIP, including all those Frankie and Annette films.
This isn’t one of them.
There were also a number of teen monster movies, starting in the late Fifties with I Was a Teenage Werewolf. And, of course, a number of rebellious teen movies before that, like Rebel Without a Cause and The Wild One, all of them preaching about how adults just couldn’t understand teens and were jealous of them. Or hostile to them. Or so strait-laced and uncool that they were the enemy.
Well, you get the idea.
This is not the only attempt to combine the teen monster movie with the Beach Movie — The Horror of Party Beach actually came out the year before. But we do see most of the distinguishing characteristics of the two genres — on the one hand, the scientific-ish talk about the strange Amazonian fish species that can live out of water and the effects of mutation and radiation: while on the other hand we have lots of jiggling, Bikini-(barely)-clad girls, doing endlessly repetitive simple back and forth arm motions while grinding their hips; non-sequitur black-out gags; kids spontaneously playing beach music; the “play that new song” moment; and even a ventriloquist with a lion puppet doing a goofy song while the hero’s girlfriend provides a squeaky, Olive Oyl-style backing vocal.
But it really isn’t that, either, as most of the film seems to devolve into a more-or-less familiar bits of teen-drama and noir-ish crime drama, complete with the young guy working in the science lab who suddenly discovers “fun,” the bitchy wife with a taste for other men, and the pathetic husband trying to hang on to her.
In fact, despite all the murdered teens, it actually turns into something all together different at the end, and winds up with a car chase, of all things.
Jon Hall was a famous matinee idol in the early Forties, which is about as far from the director of a teen monster movie as you can get. He also appears as the scientist who gives us the expected lecture about what the monster is and where it came from. It would be his final screen appearance before his death a decade and a half later.
The other interesting name is “Frank Sinatra Junior” who provides the songs. And yes, he was the son of his more famous dad. However, he never had much of a singing career, although he did appear as an actor in a fair number of films and TV shows.
This is one of those films where you can pretty much guess what you’re getting even before the opening credits (super-imposed on a bunch of jiggling bikini girls, with the focal point being the gyrating breasts and bellybutton of one of them) start to roll. It’s probably trying to do too many things at once, which does help to explain why it doesn’t do too well at most of them.
Although there is plenty of jiggling, if that’s what you’re looking for.
I do find myself thinking that there is this essential innocence to the teens in these things, who seem to be clean-cut, perfectly normal kids who just want a bit of fun, that is a little at odds with the changes that were going on in our world at the time. It’s as if those Fifties movie kids just decided to take a break from the malt shop and go dancing without touching each other on the beach, to the music from their portable radios.
And that, not the talk of mutation making a one-and-a-half-foot fish grow four times its size, or the villain’s strange motive, is really the most unbelievable thing about this film.
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