One of the joys of parenthood is introducing your children to the things you loved growing up, and hoping they love them too. So it was the past Saturday night when, after dinner of too many burgers with a couple of friends, we decided to watch a movie to let things rest before trying out the blueberry ice cream I made (yes, homemade ice cream is the rule in our house). The movie selected was How To Stuff A Wild Bikini, one of the ‘60s AIP beach movies featuring Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon.
Brief synopsis – Frankie is in the Navy reserve and stationed on some remote South Pacific Island, making time with a native girl, while Dee Dee is at home waiting for him. Said native girl (Irene Tsu) manages to convince Frankie to visit the local witchdoctor, Bwana, played by the great Buster Keaton (okay, I admit it, I am a Buster Keaton fan). Bwana sets up a pelican to keep a bird’s eye view on Dee Dee and then conjures up a decoy to keep other boys away from Dee Dee.
The film also features Mickey Rooney, an ad agency exec, who is looking for the perfect girl to go with the perfect boy to change the image of motorcycling. His plans go awry when he chooses the decoy, Cassandra (Beverly Adams), to be paired up with his boy, Ricky (Dwayne Hickman), and Ricky chooses to pursue Dee Dee. It becomes more complex when Eric von Zipper and the Rat Pack appear on the scene and von Zipper decides that Cassandra is nifty.
Frankie Avalon, for whatever reason, only appears in a few scenes in the film, possibly due to scheduling conflicts as he was filming Sergeant Deadhead about this time. Regardless of his short presence, the story works.
Keaton also turns in one of his best Beach Movie performances as the witchdoctor, with nifty special effects every time he takes a slug of torpedo juice provided by Frankie as payment for his reports on how Dee Dee is doing. Bwana: “She teetering”. Native girl: “I hoped she had tottered!”
All in all, it is a wonderful film. Maybe not the best of AIPs beach movies, but it is a good solid entry in the genre, with a surprise cameo at the end. Sorry, no spoiler on that one.
And yes, my daughter, not quite eight, really liked it.