Beached WailWe can thank the '60s beach-party genre for starting a few celluloid trends. Because of Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, twentysomething actors are allowed to play teenagers. Also, there are the misconceptions that in California high jinks have replaced homework and the parents of cool kids are either never around or easily fooled clods. In short, without Beach Blanket Bingo, there'd be no Beverly Hills 90210.
However, some things have changed since Dick Dale showed up to serenade the surfers on an electric guitar that apparently didn't need electricity. For one thing, calling Gidget's two-piece a titillating show of skin compared with bikinis today is like racing a Studebaker against a 2001 Corvette. It only makes those oldies look ready for the junkyard. A heavy sense of nostalgia or a taste for camp is required just to sit through two hours of faked surfing scenes.
Writer and actor Charles Busch (the creator of Vampire Lesbians of Sodom) combined the laughable elements of the early-1960s beach films with Hitchcockian, 1950s psychological thrillers and '70s slasher films to create Psycho Beach Party. The play--which was made by Busch and Robert Lee King into a movie that opens Friday at the Inwood--features Chicklet Forrest, an outcast suffering from split-personality disorder who tries to weasel her way into the surfer scene. Busch played Chicklet in the original 1987 stage production, but chose to portray Capt. Monica Stark, a detective called in to investigate a series of murders in the beach community, in the film. It sounds like standard popcorn-and-soda fare until the cast of characters is introduced, including YoYo and Provalony, "the hunky surfers wrestling with their love of wrestling."
The rest of the cast was recruited from prime-time television, which makes sense--sitcom sensibilities may be just the thing to give Psycho Beach Party the satirical wink, wink Busch intended for Frankie and the gang.