Thursday, November 24, 2022

Ski Party (1965)

After a few years, the popularity of the Beach Party series was beginning to wane. Partly due to a horde of imitators, and also because AIP rushed out an 8 film franchise in barely over 3 years. In their slight defense, they did try and branch out a little, with differently themed entries like Ski Party...

Todd Armstrong and Craig Gamble are two male youths in search of women. Having zero luck with their dates back home, they join a trip to an alpine ski lodge. Still unsure how to understand women though, they disguise themselves as a pair of female British maidens. Shenanigans ensure, with rivals, love triangles, ski accidents, and more, making for a real fun time...

Ski Party is a winter-themed alternative to the Beach Party series. Not strictly related, but sharing the DNA of those films, not to mention the cast. As a time capsule of the 60s, it's fairly inoffensive, even if it's not the best example of the genre. It succeeds at the bare minimum. There's a thin plot, and it's fairly contrived. Why are Todd and Craig going all this way only to try charming the same two girls who already weren't interested?

The idea of horny guys trying to seduce women is a tale as old as time, and this hardly reinvents the wheel. It does capture the feeling of introverts trying to integrate themselves into a very public gathering.

What it also does is lightly copy Some Like it Hot, when the two leads dress up in women's clothing to figure out how the other half thinks. This is predictably cringey, and I could've done without it and the silly voices. They don't even attempt English accents, although let's not pretend Americans could tell the difference. One point I will give though is that at least the film acknowledges its source.

This isn't the funniest of movies, but it gets a chuckle every now and then. As with many of these films, Ski Party has a weird side in places. There's the bizarre car scene early on, as well as a recurring polar bear who dances and skis with everyone. I also got a laugh at the drive-in date early on, where the two girls are seated together, and Todd and Craig are stuck next to each-other. Who's taking who on a date here??

Then there's the climax, which isn't weird, but does verge on the ridiculous, with several leaps of logic. And the ending itself drops everyone back onto the beach with barely a word. It's disappointing, really. This is supposed to be Ski party, but they couldn't even stay away from the original cash cow for a single movie. That shows a lack of confidence.

The characters are tolerable. Todd and Craig are fairly hapless heroes, and occasionally border on the annoying. I liked how athletic they were too (just goes to show even top athletes can struggle getting the girls if they don't have the magic touch!).

The girls meanwhile are alright, though are a bit silly. Do they like these boys or not? They keep insisting they're not interested, then act jealous at them hanging out with other women. Even they acknowledge this, and eventually come around, after typical romantic misunderstandings.

Smooth casanova Freddie is a thorn in the heroes' sides, but quickly falls for Craig's female disguise. 'She' naturally plays hard to get, and this only incenses Freddie further, who stops just short of being an ace-crazed lunatic! And lastly there's foreign gal Nita, who provides an idealistically sexy image of Sweden.

Despite its preoccupation with sex, Ski Party is every bit as innocent as all the other AIP 'teen' movies were. There's no swearing, no nudity (in fact there's an overdressed pillow fight).

The dialogue can get pretty funny.
From Freddie to his uninterested date: "I don't understand, why won't you let me kiss you?...I'm a nice clean-cut American boy with a C-plus average."
Then there's the questionable lesson from their teacher: "The male becomes the most romantic between the ages of 17 and 19, while the female doesn't reach her romantic peak until her 35th year"

Onto the cast. Frankie Avalon and Dwane Hickman are good leads, and share decent chemistry. They enjoyed working together, and this comes through onscreen. Deborah Walley and Yvonne Craig are serviceable, while Aron Kincaid amuses, and Bobbi Shaw is sexy. Annette Funicello has a small but funny cameo at the start, showing off a different side to her!

The direction here is pretty good. Of note is the conversation that spans multiple scenes, and how it's accomplished. We also get neat transitions, and occasionally cute fourth wall breaking. The location meanwhile is very pretty! The snowy grounds, the wintery trees, the huge mountains in the distance, etc. They really spared nothing with the visuals here.

The soundtrack here is alright. Half of it is pre-existing songs, making this not feel like much of a proper musical. The theme is decent, Lots Lots More is alright, I was a little annoyed by Painting the Town, We'll Never Change 'em is probably the best, and Gasser at the end just feels like a leftover Dick Dale and Del Tones song (probably because it is!). Of the most note is Lesly Gore's iconic track Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows. The 'music video' this movie provides has probably been seen by far more than the film itself! And then there's James Brown of all people, with I Feel Good! Talk about a surprise, seeing such an A-list singer with such a well known classic in a random AIP movie!

Of note are the film's increasingly ludicrous poster taglines: "It's where the he's meet the she's on skis, and there's only one way to get warm."
"When 10,000 HE'S meet 10,000 SHE'S and they're all on SKIS, it's gonna present a problem, and the answer is a...SKI PARTY."
Then there's the incomprehensible: "When the Ski'nicks meet the Ski'chicks, it's called Snow-a-go-go with bikinis, yet!"...Yet what? I dig 60s slang, but what in God's name are they on about?!

Despite AIP's best efforts, Ski Party didn't lead to an influx of winter-themed follow-ups. I can understand why. The beach is right there, and easy to film at, as long as the sun's shining. But alpine mountains are more temperamental, you've gotta trek a lot more to even get there, you can only film in winter, etc.

The last thing to discuss is the tease that comes at the end. The credits advertise the next entry in the series-Cruise Party. This of course never happened. For one reason or another, the plan fell through, which is a bit of a shame. It would be a fun idea, and sounds like a proto-Love Boat. But then again we got 9 seasons (and 250 episodes) of The Love Boat, so I really don't think this film would've added much.

Ski Party isn't the best in the series, and it failed to achieve what it set out to do, but as it is it's really not awful. It's worth at least a single watch if you like this sort of thing. And at least there's Lesley Gore, which is worth a little attention...

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