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Surf Party (1963).

November 11, 2008

The Scoop:
Maybe you like your surf movies to be set mostly indoors. Maybe you think Bobby Vinton makes a good swingin’ teen surf idol. Maybe you’re not a big fan of plot resolution. In that case, this is the film for you.

From director Maury Dexter and writer Harry Spalding, “Surf Party” represents 20th Century Fox’s half-hearted attempt to jump on the bandwagon of AIP’s success with the “Beach Party” movies.

This film is the story of three Phoenix girls — Terry (Patricia Morrow), Junior (Jackie DeShannon) and Sylvia (Lory Patrick) — who head to the California beaches in search of Terry’s brother Skeet (Jerry Summers). They promptly get hassled by Sgt. Neal (Richard Crane), a Joe Friday-wannabe beach cop, and find out that Skeet has become the local ne’er-do-well. There’s no time to worry about that, though, as the girls immediately pair up with some local boys — Terry gets lessons from hunky surf pro Len (Vinton), Junior gets strangely clingy with pathetic gremmie Milo (Ken Miller), and Skeet sets his sights on Sylvia.

Milo wastes no time in breaking his shoulder by being stupid, while Len spends a lot of time giving Terry vague warnings about Skeet’s shady activities. Meanwhile, Skeet spends his time throwing tame house parties, mooning over an old football trophy and setting the seduce-o-meter to 11 with Sylvia. Finally, Skeet’s secret comes out when his sugar mama (played by Martha Stewart… no, not that Martha Stewart) shows up like a MILF ex machina to kick everyone out of the house. Skeet slinks out of town in shame (Sgt. Neal gives him a lift to the — *gasp!* — bus station) and then the movie just ends. Want to know what happens with Len, Milo and the girls? I guess you’re stuck waiting for the sequel that will never come.

And that plot seemingly takes more time to describe than it actually does to play out on screen. “Surf Party” checks in at a brisk 67 minutes, with most of that devoted to musical performances. There are two actual, real-life surf bands on hand (the Routers and the always-awesome Astronauts), but the rest of the songs consist of some of the most un-surflike music you’ve ever heard. Vinton sings two of his signature syrupy ballads (one of them twice), DeShannon belts out a nice but out of place county-blues-gospel stomper called “Glory Wave,” and Miller even gets in the act with some lame thing about seashells.

So, why watch all this silliness? Well, for one, because it is silliness, with more unintentional humor than most movies deserve. Also, there are those killer tunes from the Astronauts and the Routers. Just listen to those and imagine what a real surf movie looks like.

Best Bit:
Sgt. Neal visiting Len’s surf shop to rant about the thin blue line separating law-abiding folks from total surf-induced anarchy.

Side Note:
This is the movie that was playing in the drive-in scene in “Brokeback Mountain.”

Companion Viewing:
“Ski Party” (1964) and “Beach Party” (1963).

Jackie DeShannon: Music and Memories.

Take a Look:
The Astronauts rock the stodgiest house party you’ll ever see, doing their song “Firewater”:

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