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The Beach Girls(1982)
A coming-of-age story about a bookish young woman who changes during her summer vacation from a bespectacled bookworm to a femme fatale.
For more about The Beach Girls and the The Beach Girls Blu-ray release, see the The Beach Girls Blu-ray Review published by Brian Orndorf on January 4, 2014 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Debra Blee, Adam Roarke, Jeana Tomasina
Director: Patrick Duncan
» See full cast & crew
The Beach Girls Blu-ray Review
The Ogle of '82.
Reviewed by Brian Orndorf, January 4, 2014
How does one approach a film like "The Beach Girls," with all its questionable material and fixation on titillation? It's not an especially good movie, with fumbling performances, on-camera mistakes, and a screenplay dripping with goofy stereotypes. At times, it's downright horrible. However, this 1982 production carries a weird aura of innocent fun, with silly shenanigans its only real concern, generating a party atmosphere of dancing, sexin', and imbibing while it shares copious amounts of nudity to guarantee screen interest. A major force in the beach picture revival of the 1980s (1984's "Hardbodies" being its crowning achievement), the feature sets out small goals for itself and accomplishes them without much of a fuss. "The Beach Girls" is just amiable enough to entertain, though a steady finger on the fast-forward button is recommended to slip past the moldy vaudeville routines that pass for a sense of humor here.
An intelligent, bookish young woman, Sarah (Debra Blee) has been gifted the use of her Uncle Carl's (Adam Roarke) beach house for a few weeks in the summer, with party time pals Ginger (Val Kline) and Ducky (Jeana Tomasina) along for the ride. Tired of Sarah's withdrawn, no-fun demeanor, Ducky and Ginger line-up a massive party to celebrate their freedom, calling in all sorts of characters and professionals from around the area to help boost participation numbers in the revelry, including Scott (James Daughton), a hitchhiker who takes a shine to Sarah, trying to coax her out of her shell. When Carl returns to check on his niece, he's alarmed by the gathering, with his protest quickly quelled by Ginger and Ducky, who work diligently to seduce the older man, hoping to prolong the merriment. Also in the mix is Captain Blye (Herb Braha), a Coast Guard leader out to crush the drug running plans of Captain Jack (Paul E. Richards), who has dumped his shipment of marijuana before capture, with the loaded garbage bags finding their way ashore and into Carl's house to amplify the festivities.
Written by Patrick Duncan and directed by Pat Townsend ("Coach"), "The Beach Girls" doesn't aspire to be anything but drive-in fodder. Updating the beach party movies of the 1960s to fit the ravenous demands of teenage audiences in the 1980s, the sweetness of the genre has been scraped off, replaced with more programmed plot that concerns numerous acts of seduction and defiance, while the celebratory interests of the effort lean more toward carnal appetites and chemical distractions, replacing hand-holding with sex and sodas with weed, a smoky pastime that assumes control of the feature's final act. It's a paint-by-numbers endeavor (with repetitive use of music from the band Arsenal), never reaching beyond established borders of comedy and heartbreak, and while it's dim, it's rarely ugly, showing some life as an R-rated distraction populated with excitable characters who frequently disrobe.
Of course, ample nudity helps the "The Beach Girls" finds its place as a B-movie event, with the cast (women and men) habitually removing clothing to spice up the show, finding Blee's eventual topless scene treated with an almost ceremonial concentration. If only the film's sense of humor held the same allure, with much of the script devoted to broad antics that resemble junked ideas from "Laugh-In," sold by an ensemble desperate to make hoary premises work, including Bert Rosario as Carl's gardener, a poor Mexican man who can't quite land his leering opportunities without hurting himself or the property. There are dirty campfire sing-alongs, beach mischief (the promise of a food fight merely consists of people dressed up as food, fighting), and a local peeper who grips his telescope tightly as he monitors all the available bare breasts while his shrew of a wife (Mary Jo Catlett) ruins the fun by calling in Carl's wife, Julie (Fern Fitzgerald), to break up the carousing. It's the type of movie where a man dressed in scuba gear announces that he's going "muff diving," and there's a third-act mud wrestling battle royal. When Ginger asks a pizza delivery man if there's a salami in his pocket or if he's just happy to see her, he has log of cured meat in his pocket (cue the rimshot). The jokes in this feature can be seen coming from a mile away.
The dumb comedy clomps into some unsavory areas, including Julie's "rimo" driver Wang (George Cheung), a blistering Asian stereotype with haphazard martial art skill and unmotivated antagonism toward the gardener. The Coast Guard characters, led by Captain Blye, are all fey homosexual caricatures, though this idea is quickly dropped to play up wacky World War II reenactments as the troopers storm Paradise Beach in search of the missing weed. There's also an overweight girl in the mix the boys run away from, adding just a pinch of cruelty to the proceedings that's thankfully never pursued in full.
Perhaps most painful is the lasting message of "The Beach Girls," which finds Sarah, an intelligent and responsible woman, bullied out of her dignity, reduced to a bikini-peeling Malibu Stacy-type to entice Scott, a failed musician and tanned vagabond who's unnervingly comfortable talking his bizarrely immediate love interest (they don't even have a meet cute) out of a bright future as a lawyer. Granted, this is 1982 we're talking about here, but the misogyny remains pungent, creating unintentional laughs in a project that was clearly conceived and executed by men.
The Beach Girls Blu-ray, Video Quality
The AVC encoded image (1.78:1 aspect ratio) presentation is in decent shape for a forgotten 1982 beach comedy. Only a minor amount of damage and speckling is noticeable, finding most of the viewing experience consistent, offering a fresh look at the action. Detail is satisfactory for this type of low-budget endeavor, supplying welcome textures for the parade of bare skin, while the summery locations showcase a pleasing natural appearance through gauzy cinematography. Costuming also supplies a comfortable feel for fabrics, see-thru and otherwise. Skintones run a tad pinkish, but remain in control, while the general color palette is nicely defined and communicative, with bold primaries. Black levels are stable but rarely taxed beyond the odd low-lit scene, making depth easy to spot. Grain is successfully managed, gifting a filmic look to the picture.
The Beach Girls Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The 2.0 DTS-HD MA sound mix isn't quite as sharp as the visual experience. While far from muddled, the highs here are rough, with a crackly, fuzzy quality that makes a few moments of extreme action harsh on the ears. Dialogue exchanges are largely acceptable, with basic conversations and exposition easy to follow. Some jokes are muffled, suffocating punchlines. Soundtrack selections dominate as intended, with instrumentation adequate if not stunning, while scoring cues register as intended. Atmospherics add to the listening event, separating indoor and outdoor excursions, and the group dynamic is tended to, sustaining the party mood.
The Beach Girls Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
"Kat's Meow" (8:14, HD) returns to the comedic stylings of host Katarina Leigh Waters, who opens the featurette with a prank phone call skit before switching over to nautical yuks, using footage from "Death Ship" for some reason. Focus quickly settles on Waters as she shares IMDB trivia with the viewer, highlighting genre connections for the cast and crew. For superfans, an extended dance sequence closes out the festivities. A Theatrical Trailer has not been included.
The Beach Girls Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It's easy to linger on the persistent idiocy of "The Beach Girls" and its painfully low-budget production limitations. Despite obvious reservations, the picture is an entertaining snapshot of the era, with its pawing and jesting creating a summery slice of escapism that could never be made in today's uptight marketplace. It takes a special viewing headspace to embrace "The Beach Girls," but when the jokes die and the performances wobble, there's plenty of randy behavior to set the mood in an adequate manner.
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