Monday, May 31, 2021

Pyjama Party (1964)

Gogo is a young martian sent to Earth as reconnaissance/a scout for an upcoming invasion. He lands at the house of Aunt Wendy, a charmingly dotty older lady who takes an immediate liking to who she considers to be a strapping young man. While  Daisy's neighbour J. Sinister Hulk is plotting  scheme to steal her vast fortune, and between him, bikie Eric von Zipper, and all the rowdy teens on the beach, the Martians will be left wondering if they ever stood a chance...

Pyjama Party represents the first real confusion in the Beach Party chronology. The AIP teen series had a main cast and setting in each film, but every now and then you'd get a diversion. Sergeant Deadhead for example shares the tone and much of the cast, but none of the characters. Ski Party had the naming the same, but was otherwise unconnected. While Pyjama Party (yes, I said pyjama, not pajama! Take note]!) is the same, barring some notable exceptions. This kind of thing does muddy up the waters a little, and make it unclear which movies you can really count as part of the series or not. Pyjama Party is one of the more clearer cut examples of a side entry, yet also just as confusing, if not moreso. But this is probably all thinking way harder about the subject than the folks at AIP ever intended.

Pyjama Party is a film I used to have very different thoughts on. Back when I first got into the series, I caught this on tv, and had very strong, negative opinions on it. I wrote a brief post outlining my general thoughts. I was annoyed by the main character, I didn't like the plot, which was outlandish even for a Bikini film, and a lot of little things bugged me. Though even then I did recognise there were really good qualities, I switched off halfway through. It's been a few years now, and I've always intended to give it a full watch-through, especially curious how I'll see it now. Would I think the same, or would my opinion have changed? Well now I can say that yes, it actually has!

Pyjama Party contains everything you'd expect from the series. As the 4th (or 5th, it's hard to keep straight at this point!) entry in the series it makes for a fresh enough diversion, featuring enough new elements, but also enough of the old.

Amusingly enough, not only did I enjoy the first half a lot more this time round, it's actually the unseen second half I didn't like as much! Although it's not the fault of those acts, but the movie as a whole. This leads me into Pyjama Party's big issue-The structure. We've got at least 3 different plots here vying for screentime, along with a plethora of little subplots to boot. They're all good, but none get as much time to really  breath as they could've. The fact that Martians are plotting an invasion of Earth almost feels like an afterthought at times!

The film stars Annette Funicello  but not as Deedee, and her love interest here is Tommy Kirk. No other familiar characters feature among the beach teens either. With all these differences, is there anything familiar here? Why yes, there sure is-Eric von Zipper and his Rat Pack!

They're always a hoot, especially in the therapy scene, where they act like parents to a toddler after Eric's near death scrape during the chase sequence. Some of their best scenes in the series are here! Their reasons for being invovled in the plot are pretty flimsy at first, but they gradually get more of a connection, leading to a brawl in the climax, and some hilariously old-fashioned PJ's!

The acting  is pretty neat all round. The best performance by far comes from Elsa Lanchester, who is such an old dear! She breathes full life into her character, and delivers each line in hilarious and = ways.   Tommy Kirk is a serviceable enough lead here. Nothing remarkable, but not as bad or grating as I first thought. Annette Funicello can do these kinds of roles in her sleep, and has a great level of sass.

Jesse White is fun as the wonderfully named villain, with Ben Lessy doing well as his long suffering assistant. Buster Keaton and Bobbi Shaw make for a great pair too, with Keaton especially doing a funny job as a Native American goofball/=. Jody McCrea is amusing, and feels different enough from his other Beach Party character, while still filling the role of a simple minded dope. Harbey Lembeck and his crew are on perfect form as the Rat Pack, with special mention going to the lovely Alberta Nelson.

The songs in Pyjama party are all fun, typical songs of the 1960s pop scene. First is the intro theme, which is an enjoyable teen anthem. That's the Way it's Done Among the Young feels less like an organic song and more like a random pop charter = in (performed by Donna Loren and the = named Nooney Rickett 4). It's a good song though, barring the annoying end.

There Has to be a Reason is a nice romantic number (which itself is amusing considering these two have only just met!), though the [sound sounds] off, like the song was recorded on a different = than everything else.   Where Did I Go Wrong has an amusing presentation and dynamic ring to it, even if it is a bit hurried and repetitive. It also gives Dorothy Lamour her final musical performance in a film! It may annoy some (like me several years ago), but others may like it (like me now).

Stuffed Animal is a cute and melancholy tune that Annette sings with her cuddly bedside friends, much to the = of her roommates. And lastly, Pyjama Party Tonight is a peppy final number, really getting you in the mood for a party. Overall I don't have any problems with the songs, though there are a few gaps here and there. The movie isn't that long, but it still feels like a little too much time passes between some numbers.

I have zero complaints with the direction here. It's all perfectly competent, and everything from the chases, to the songs, and the frequent dancing, are all shot well. Also, this is a random observation, but this is the second Beach Party film I've seen to feature someone coming out of a grandfather clock, which makes me wonder if Jean Rollin really was a fan!

Unlike last time, I do recommend Pyjama Party. If you're not a fan of the goofy antics this series had to offer, this is not likely to impress you, but it's a harmless and amusing film, and fits well into the series...

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