Wednesday, February 5, 2020

The Beach Girls and the Monster (1965)

After a near miss in a car accident months ago, young Richard Lindsay now often hangs out at the beach, with many new friends. One day however the young Bunny is murdered by a mysterious creature. The police vicit noted fish expert Dr. Lindsay, and he suggests the possibility of a mutated fish doing the killing. The police are open to the idea, but aren;t sure if the killer truly is an animal, or a more human monster...

Beach Girls and the Monster is a very promising title. Sure, you'll expect a b-movie of the cheapest and cheesiest order, but it just sounds like it'll be such fun! Does this movie disappoint then? Oh hell yes, but how is a good question!

This starts out as a fun-loving beach party flick, but that atmosphere is broken by the first murder, and from that point on this is a pretty serious affair. The beach and its denizens are rarely seen, and the movie focuses mire on Richard's home life. Where I think the movie makes a major misstep is in not focusing on the fish man at all. 40 minutes in and he's only had two short scenes, and is barely mentioned. The murder investigation isn't even part of the story. We just see lots of family drama!

The characters are a diverse bunch. We've got the soulful teen Richard, with a believable rift with his stern father. He on the other hand is an unreasonable and mean cockhead (he hates those no good beach tramps!), but has times/moments of humanity, both with his son and his bitchy wife, that make him more than just a one note parent.

Richard's stepmother Vicky is a real piece of work! One of those characters you love to hate, she gets on the nerve of everyone here, seducing and insulting every member of the male cast in equal measure. She's so unfaithful/philanderous and promiscuous that in one scene she arranges a date with a guy named Bob and comes home with one named Phil!

Richrd's friend Mark, crippled in that fateful car accident, is interesting .He's a nice enough guy, and a good friend, but with moments of high emotion that make you wonder if he could go off the deep end and snap. Richard's girlfriend Janie is sweet enough, and is..errr, well endowed! Oh don't look at me like that, it's the movie's fault!

The police/authorities in this movie seem remarkably open to accept the possibility of a fish man roaming the beach. It's very refreshing!

Getting back to the plot, there's the mystery at play here. The killer may well be just a mindless fish man from the sea, orrr it could be a man in a costume, using it as a disguise! This has its pluses, though the movie spends so much time away from the fish man that you know it's gonna be a human, otherwise we'd see more monster action on its own.

What kills this angle of the movie though is that the killer is exactly who you think it is. There's a healthy suspect pool at first, and the most obvious one is the one you discount for just that reason, but then one of them dies and the other works out the mystery and hunts the real killer, so it can only be that one character.

The climax is a real disappointment. If you're expecting the protagonists to actually do something, you'll be disappointed. A supporting character does most of the work, and the heroes are so useless they arrive too late to save them. Then they do nothing while the police take the killer down!

The dialogue is alright here and there, but pretty bad at other times, like Richard wondering if these two murders committed in the same way at the same place could be connected, or at the end when Richard says he 'thinks' the killer has gone mad. He's just butchered three of your friends, mate, and you only think he's insane?

As a beach party movie, The Beach Girls and the Monster is a true failure. It focuses so little on this aspect, which is a shame. It's such a fun concept! God knows we're starved of good beach movies, especially beach monster movies! This coulda been such a fun picture, but instead it's a pretty glum and serious picture with an ending just as mopey as everything that came before. Only a couple of short but fun scenes live up to what the title promised (and lied). Despite this overly serious tone though, the monster looks so goofy! And why the ill-fitting happy music when the monster kills people?!

The film has its share of weird scenes, too. The discovery of the second body on the beach is one. From the acting taking a bizarre downturn, to everyone rushing their lines, the victim's girlfriend's insistence on nailing Mark as the murderer, and the police taking instant potshots at him when running away, it's just strange.

The acting here is good for the most part. Good heroes, neat villains, etc. The acting is a little cheesy from the supporting players, but the main ones all do good jobs, even if these 'teenagers' are all in their 30s.

The effects aren't that great. The fish monster is the main draw, of course. The mask looks really detailed despite its goofiness. The rest of the costume is pretty cheap and tatty though. It's like a jacket made of seaweed. Since there's a possibility it might be a guy in a costume in-universe, that could be a justification, but I don't think so. The killer could at the least design a more intimidating costume!

One random scene I found amusing was when Mark digs his hands into a sculpture of Vicky, intending to crush it. But I don't think the actor counted on how strong the sculpture was, so it ends up staying mostly intact, only getting off a bit of its cheek at the end. Still enough damage for the scene to get across what it intended though.

The music in this film is a bit of a mixed bag. It's pretty good, but they keep using the same party track over and over, which is a bit frustrating. Couldn't they foot the bill for a few more tunes? I really liked the tune that plays during the climax. It's a creepy piece with an experimental sound, with a sometimes groovy jazzy twinge, which really propels it. What ruins some scenes though is the groovy music being played even as the monster stalks and kills.

There are a few songs here, and they're ok. The opening track gets the job done and draws you in. There are no more until 40 minutes in, where we get two in a row. One is an acoustic guitar song, a gentle love melody. Then it's followed by a goofy novelty song about monsters, complete with squeaky voices! It's silly, but harmless, and expresses a tone I wish the film had more often.

The direction here is another plus. It's pretty good! There's care put into the shots, as well as interesting things done to spice scenes up. The death scenes are decently filmed, and the aftermaths of the murders look freaky (minus the breathing victims you'll sometimes see).

To finish, Beach Girls and the Monster is an alright movie, but just don't expect any beach girls, fighting monsters or otherwise...

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