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Countdown to Halloween: The Horror of Party Beach (1964)



WHY I'VE NEVER SEEN IT


I've wanted to see The Horror of Party Beach ever since I ran across the "Famous Film" magazine that told the story with comic book captions placed over photos from the movie (a primitive version of the "Fotonovel" paperbacks from the mid-to-late 1970s). However, I don't know why I never actually saw the movie.


WHY I BOUGHT IT


Its significance embellished in my mind all these years, the simple fact the the movie was being released on Blu-ray was enough for me to buy it. Good or bad, I felt like it belongs in my video library.


WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT IT

The Horror of Party Beach is the West Side Story of Atomic Age horror movies. When two rivals for the affection of Tina (Marilyn Clarke) start a fight and their friends join them, it looks more like a choreographed gymnastics routine than a real skirmish. The stakes aren't very high, I guess. First, the fight ends with a handshake and, second, Tina soon becomes the first victim of a creature created when barrels of radioactive waste are dumped into the water.


Hank Green (John Scott) is more interested in Elaine Gavin (Alice Lyon), anyway. He's an aspiring scientist under the tutelage of Elaine's father, Dr. Gavin (Allan Laurel), who thinks Hank has a great future. Elaine attends Tina's funeral, but shares with her father that she has feelings for Hank. He asks, "Is it because he's free now?" One-third of The Horror of Party Beach is made of this teenage melodrama.


Another one-third is made of good old rock and roll. Early scenes of the birth of the creature and the subsequent murder of Tina are intercut with full musical numbers. Wisely, these diminish as the public learns of the threat by not just one creature, but several. I enjoyed these scenes quite a bit; the groovy dance moves of the '60s give The Horror of Party Beach some great energy. So far so good, but then we get to the final one-third…


…the creature(s). Hey, I'm the guy who likes the look of the alien bird in The Giant Claw, but the monsters in this movie are really bad. I can accept them, but amid all the other shenanigans, the serious tone taken as the scientists try to figure out what they are and how to stop them, feels out of place. They determine they're giant protozoa that can be killed with sodium… if they can find enough. They need more than any stores in town stock, yet they don't need so much that Hank can't drive his tiny sports car to New York City to pick it up.


With each of these thirds, The Horror of Party Beach is 100% something else: dumb fun. Full of "humor" such as, "Do you like bathing beauties?" and "I don't know; I never bathed one," the movie has to be a spoof of horror movies instead of a legitimate one itself. As they test the water in various locations to find the creatures, Dr. Gavin has a revelation: "Fingel's Quarry? What didn't I think of that before? It's the deepest water around and where those girls were killed." Yeah, he probably should have thought of that before. Hey, I said it was "dumb fun," not "smart fun."

Written by Richard Hilliard Directed by Del Tenney Starring John Scott, Alice Lyon, Allan Laurel, Eulabelle Moore, Marilyn Clarke Released April 29, 1964 (New York City) RT 78 min. Home Video Severin Films (Blu-ray)

ABOUT THE COUNTDOWN


We all have them... stacks of movies we've purchased, but never watched; or, movies on the DVR, filling them to capacity. This year for the annual Countdown to Halloween, I'm going to make a dent in my "stack," watching one movie a day for the month of October that I've never seen, then writing about it.

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