Dec 10, 2022

Beach Movies 1: The Beefcake

The beach movie crazy began with Beach Party (1963), and lasted through Catalina Caper (1967).  During that 4 year period, American International Pictures churned out a dozen beach movies, starring former teen idol Frankie Avalon and former Mousketeer Annette Funicello, or if they were too busy, Dwayne Hickman, Tommy Kirk, Deborah Walley, and Yvonne Craig.  Other studios churned out their own teen-idols-in-Speedos movies, starring Bobby Vinton, Fabian, James Darren, Tab Hunter, and when they ran out of teen idols, Rod Lauren, Frankie Randall, Michael Callan, James Stacy, and Edd "Kookie" Burns.

The plot of the beach movie is the same in every installment: a gang of teenagers arrives in Malibu for a summer vacation.  Frankie and Annette (or their stand-ins) argue: she insists that they plan for marriage, the next step in embracing their heterosexual destiny, but he is too happy surfing, skydiving, and drag racing.

That is, he refuses to give up his homoerotic buddy-bonding with gay-vague chums.They separate, flirt with others, complain about each other to their friends, snipe at each other at the teen hangout, and walk forlornly on the beach.

Meanwhile a greedy corporation hopes to exploit the teenagers, or else salt-peter their heterosexual passions.  Maybe some juvenile delinquents cause trouble.  The climax comes in the form of a cartoonish teenagers vs. adults or delinquents brawl or car chase.  Frankie and Annette save the day, reconcile without resolving their disagreement, and head for home.

The teens are staggeringly affluent, white, and free from parental intervention of any sort.  They have all of the freedom of adulthood and none of the responsibilities.  They are living in their own surreal world of spies and saboteurs, drag races and skydiving contests, musclemen hanging from helicopters, gorillas riding surfboards.  There are Martians, mermaids, witch doctors, dime store Indians, bumbling crooks, and a girl whose gyrating hips cause volcanoes to erupt.

Every now and then Frankie mugs at the camera and asks "Can you believe this?"

And there is endless beefcake.  There are many girls in bikinis, but the beach is crowded with swimsuit boys; bulges are displayed as prominently as cleavage.  Jody McCrea's bulge makes a regular appearance.

John Ashley is dragged along the beach, the camera zooming in to capture the curve of his thighs, the tight muscles of his legs and calves, and even his frontside.

Tommy Kirk (left) wears a purple swimsuit so revealing that one can't imagine how it passed the sensors (not this photo).

Frankie doesn't bulge, but he is constantly shirtless, bedding down among his chums or standing tall and iconic beside his surfboard, his smooth, toned body preternaturally bright.

 In Fireball 500 (1966), which doesn't have a beach scene and only counts as a beach movie because it stars Frankie and Annette, Frankie spends a long scene shirtless, being interrogated by the police in his hotel room.  He never thinks to get dressed, though the officers stare at him, and one cheekily inserts his business card under Frankie's pendant, against his bare chest, like someone might insert a card into a woman's bosom.

Too bad the Disney Channel's Teen Beach Movie (2013) doesn't fare as well.

Next: The Duds

Dec 7, 2022

"Three Pines": Murder in a Small Town in Quebec, with Gay Characters


I don't usually care for mysteries -- why be stuck in a stately English manor when you can soar across the galaxy?  But the setting of Amazon Prime's Still Life, a small town in northern Quebec, sounded intriguing, and the original novel has gay characters, so here goes.

Scene 1:  The headquarters of the Sûreté in Quebec City.  First Nation women are  protesting the disappearance of their loved ones. 5,000 have gone missing during the last 10 years, and the cops refuse to investigate.  Superintendent Francour (Marcel Jeannin) criticizes them, but Inspector Gamache (Alfred Molina) sympathizes; he rushes down to the street to save an elderly woman from being arrested for "protesting while First Nation."

Scene 2: Inspector Ganache driving with the elderly woman and her daughter and granddaughter back to their tribal community, Ioten'ton:ni, talking about  their missing loved one, 18 year old Blue Two-Rivers: she vanished a year ago, leaving a baby daughter.  The Sûreté concluded that she ran away, case closed.  The Inspector promises to take the case.

Scene 3: 
Back in Quebec, Christmastime.  The Inspector is late for a house party.  He greets two women, one of whom has little girls at home, and two men, one of whom (Rossif Sutherland), has a wife at home.  Heterosexual identity established in the first line, naturally.   An inspector in charge of the tribal community gives him some details: Blue and her boyfriend, Tommy Kris, were last seen getting into a truck driven by Tommy's brother, Kevin.  The truck was filmed crossing the border into the United States,  Obviously they ran off together.

Scene 4:
In  a large house lit up with Christmas lights, Dad Richard (Robert Maloney) tells his teenage daughter to hurry up, or she'll be late for her big night. Daughter complains: "She won't show up."  Elsewhere, Saul (Iannicko N'Doua-Legare, top photo) is in bed with a woman holding a Christmas tree ornament.  She explains: when she was 10, her mother tore all of the ornaments off the tree and smashed them, leaving just this one.  After they discuss how much they love each other, she rushes out -- to make a grand entrance at Daughter's Christmas pageant.  Why say "She" instead of "Mom"?  I hate obfuscation for its own sake.  And a pageant where she's not even soloist is a "big night?"  

Side note: In French, it's a "hopeful Christmas" and a "brave New Year."

Scene 5: Back home, Daughter tries to pull a chocolate snowflake from the tree, and accidentally smashes the Last Ornament.  Mom has a break down: "My only mistake was marrying you and giving birth to that!"  Wait -- so she took the Last Ornament from the tree, brought it to her boyfriend's house for show-and-tell after sex, and then returned it? 

Scene 6:  A small town, Three Pines. Christmas music playing on loudspeakers.  Olivier and Gabri (Frederic Antoine Guimand, Pierre Simpson) are running an outdoor coffee stand. I know from the book that they are a gay couple, but there's no evidence here. They are tall/thin and short/fat, like Mutt and Jeff or Laurel and Hardy, so I'm guessing comic relief.  Their customers, the town gossips, complain about an elegantly dressed woman who has written a book, and therefore thinks she's better than them.  Oh, it's C.C., Mom from the ornament-breaking meltdown.  C.C.'s husband sees her talking to her boyfriend, famous artist Saul Petrov, roils with jealousy, and rushes over to break them up.  

Time for the Boxing Day Curling Match -- the four most Canadian words in the English language!   C.C. sits in a seat reserved for the Three Graces Curling Club.  When the match begins, there's a zap -- she's electrocuted!  Wait-- if you wanted to kill one of the Three Graces, why time the electrocution to the middle of the game, when they will be busy curling? 

Scene 7: Inspector Gamache working on the missing girl case, when the Superintendent calls to assign him the Three Pines case.  So the series will be about C.C.'s murder? What was all that about the missing girl for?   He and his wife discuss how much they love each other, kiss a billion times, and he's out the door.  Wait -- he went to the party alone.  I thought he was single. I'm out.

Back to galactic empires.

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