In 1963, American International Pictures ignited the beach party movie craze with the release of Beach Party, a surprise hit that inspired countless knockoffs from other studios. The beach party genre hit its peak in 1965 and found the genre daring to depart from the typical teenage fun in the sun. Filmmakers started blending the surf and sun with the musical genre, science fiction, and yes, even the horror genre. One of the most well-known beach party horror movies is director Jon Hall’s corny B-movie The Beach Girls and the Monster. Heavy with soap opera melodrama and light on legitimate scares, The Beach Girls and the Monster is basically The Creature from the Black Lagoon in Santa Monica with only a forth of the budget. More of a whodunit than a straight up monster movie, The Beach Girls and the Monster runs only about an hour long, but that is an hour too long. The film features one of the most glaringly fake monsters to ever terrorize the silver screen and it fills itself out with long stretches of surf stock footage, kids laughing, joking, and singing around a campfire, and plenty of hip shaking from bikini-clad babes from a local Hollywood night club. It is perhaps the weirdest summer cocktail of a movie you may ever sit through. Seriously.
After almost losing his life in a car accident, Richard Lindsay (played by Arnold Lessing) has given up a promising career in favor of a life of sand and surf. He spends his days hanging out at the beach with his girlfriend, Jane (played by Elaine DuPont), and his nights sitting by a bonfire and strumming his guitar for his free spirit friends. This behavior has greatly displeased his oceanographer father, Dr. Otto Lindsay (played by the film’s director, Jon Hall), who is busy dealing with his cheating young wife Vicki (played by Sue Casey). After one of Richard’s beach bunny friends is brutally murdered on the beach by a monstrous sea creature, the local authorities begin to suspect Richard’s handicapped friend Mark (played by Walker Edmiston), a sexually frustrated artist who was with Mark during the accident. But the kids who hang out on the beach are convinced that there is a sea creature lurking on the beach and any one of them could be the beast’s next victim.
Considering that The Beach Girls and the Monster is one of the most well known beach party horror mash ups out there, you’d think that there may be a bit of suspense lurking down around the beach. Sadly, the film lacks any sort of tension or spine-tingling moment that will have you yelling at the characters on your screen to turn around and behold the terror creeping up behind them. Nope, instead the monster, which is CLEARLY a person wearing a cheap rubber Halloween costume, awkwardly lumbers into the frame with its arms outstretched like a zombie and then wraps its claws around a bikini clad chick who wriggles around like a worm. These sequences are more effective at delivering laughs than they are at making you scream. The surprising aspect about these attacks is that the victim is usually left with bloody scratch marks across their face, neck, chest, etc. Besides for some blood and torn flesh, nothing else really stands out about any of the so-called scares. Plus, maybe someone should have told the director that it is pretty tough to freak the audience out when you have surf rock guitars strumming over the soundtrack. You half expect the monster to steal a surfboard and start hitting the waves before slashing someone to ribbons.
When you’re not yawning or chuckling over the monster, you’ll be astonished at the melodramatic acting that would have been more at home in a daytime soap opera than a horror movie. Lessing is all forced rebellion and cheesy sun baked cool as he dashes around the beach after babes or thrills over a film reel of surfer dudes catching waves. He shares a number of “serious” moments with Edmiston’s crippled Mark, who tries to convince Richard to restart his once promising career. The uptight and repressed Edmiston is a bit more convincing than Lessing, but you’d never guess in a million years that he is crippled. They have to continuously remind both the audience and Edmiston that he is crippled and that he should be walking with a limp. DuPont’s Jane basically blends in with the scenery, pretty eye candy for the male viewers and a sidekick when the big chase/investigation kicks in during the final ten minutes. Casey is sexy and commanding as the unfaithful Vicki, a seductive siren that makes dates right under her scowling husband’s nose. Hall is suspicious and testy as Richard’s disapproving father, Dr. Otto Lindsay, the man called in to take a look at the strange footprints found in the sand. Hall probably gives the best performance of the entire film, but you can tell he is really digging deep to keep things from totally sinking to the bottom of the ocean.
At barely over an hour, The Beach Girls and the Monster is desperate to fill itself out any way it can. There are drawn out sequences of girls doing the twist to surf rock blaring from their transistor radios. To make sure the gals put on a good show, Hall enlisted the help of “The Watusi Dancing Girls” from the local club Whiskey a Go Go on Sunset Boulevard and they certainly put in 110% for the cameras. They almost wear the viewer out with all their shimmying and shaking. About the only thing that The Beach Girls and the Monster has going for it is the toe-tapping surf rock soundtrack that will have you dashing to your computer and searching high and low for a copy of it. The opening credits claim that Frank Sinatra Jr. provided the music, but he is only responsible for the film’s theme song. Still, it is some of the most fun beach music that you may ever have the pleasure of hearing. Overall, with plenty of skin, surf, sand, sun, rock n’ roll, sleaze, sex, monsters, and tongue in cheek violence at its core, you’d think that The Beach Girls and the Monster would be the perfect drive-in movie for a slow summer night. Instead, the party is busted by stiff dramatics, cheap production values, amateur performances, and more technical flubs than an Ed Wood movie. At least the go-go dancers showed up!