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Beach Party Apocalypse: 'How to Stuff a Wild Bikini' (1965)

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'How to Stuff a Wild Bikini' (1965)

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American International Pictures' "Beach Party," released in August 1963, created the template for a series of sequels that the studio churned out over the next few years. Pairing aging Italian-American teen idol Frankie Avalon with buxom former Mousketeer Annette Funicello as "Frankie" and "Dee Dee" (allegedly named for Funicello's breasts), director William Asher added plenty of musical numbers featuring corny songs with lots of twisting and hip-shaking from bikini-clad dancers; cartoonish comedy hijinks involving Eric Von Zipper (Harvey Lembeck) and his motorcycle gang, The Rats; and a supporting cast made up of old pros like Buster Keaton, Don Rickles, Buddy Hackett, and Morey Amsterdam. "Muscle Beach Party," "Bikini Beach," and "Beach Blanket Bingo" followed in quick succession, along with spin-offs like "Pajama Party" and "Ski Party," not to mention knock-offs like "Beach Ball," "Ride the Wild Surf," and "The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini."

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By the Summer of '65, the whole Beach Party thing was in decline. The Beatles, The Stones, Dylan, and The Byrds were in, Frankie and Annette were out. "How to Stuff a Wild Bikini" would be the last Beach Party movie to feature Avalon and Funicello (although the two would go on to co-star in the misbegotten 1966 racing drama "Fireball 500") and barely: Frankie's part amounts to a cameo, as he was filming the service comedy "Sergeant Deadhead" at the time, so he only appears at the beginning and end of the movie. Meanwhile, Annette was pregnant at the time of filming, her curves covered up in baggy clothing or blocked by props.

Funicello's onetime Disney co-star Tommy Kirk was cast as Frankie's rival for Dee Dee's affections, but when Kirk got arrested for marijuana possession, Dwayne Hickman, best known as TV's "Dobie Gillis," was given the part.

The plot, such as it is, concerns Frankie's enlisting the aid of the witch doctor Bwana (Buster Keaton) to create Cassandra, an irresistible female (Beverly Adams), to lure Hickman's character away from Dee Dee. Complications ensue when Cassandra is pursued by horndog surfers, a besmitten Eric Von Zipper and the Rats, while being wooed by two advertising executives, played by Brian Donlevy and Mickey Rooney (who reportedly took the role to pay off a tax debt). Also in the mix are The Kingsmen (the frat rock band best known for "Louie Louie"), John Ashley, Marianne Gaba (as "Animal"), and Jody McCrea as "Bonehead."

While probably the worst of the AIP beach movies, "How to Stuff a Wild Bikini" has its moments, including some inspired (if racially insensitive) comedy from Keaton and Bobbi Shaw, claymation credits from "Gumby" creator Art Clokey, and the eye candy offered by the gorgeous Adams, plus the usual bevy of beach beauties. Elizabeth Montgomery, Asher's wife at the time, even shows up, in a nod to her "Bewitched" character. Noticeably absent is notorious wild man Timothy Carey's "South Dakota Slim" character, here replaced by Len Lesser as "North Dakota Pete."

By 1966, the Beach Party was over. In an ironic twist that Eric Von Zipper would have adored, American International started cranking out biker movies like "The Wild Angels" and "The Glory Stompers," leaving Frankie, Dee Dee, Bonehead and the rest of the "beach bums" out in the cold.

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