1/19/07

817 Horror of Party Beach

(1964, Horror, b&w)

Sodium!

Rating: **1/2

In a nutshell:

Amphibious bloodsucking Muppets terrorize an oceanside community.

Summary:

Actually, not all that bad.Barely clad youths Hank and Tina seem to be married, affianced, or otherwise committed, because they stay together despite the intensity of their mutual hatred. They drive to a beach party amid a cloud of wispy bikers, hurling insults at each other all the way. Tina gets drunk at the dance and flirts with one of the diminutive bikers, forcing Hank to defend what remains of her honor. One intricately choreographed fight later, the defeated bikers slink away. Hank turns his back on Tina. Distraught, she strips to her bathing suit and swims out to the end of the jetty.

Interspersed with the above-described scenes, we see a garbage scow dump radioactive waste into the ocean. One of the barrels didn’t have its cap screwed on tight enough; it pops off when it hits bottom, spewing clouds of mutagenic waste all over a nearby skeleton. Naturally, the skeleton turns into a multi-tongued, Muppet-headed sea monster, which climbs up onto the jetty to eat Tina.

Hank and his scientist boss Dr. Gavin work hard to discover what kind of creature killed Tina, while Dr. Gavin’s daughter Elaine frets over how long she needs to wait before she puts the moves on Hank, while their servant Eulabelle raves about voodoo and other stereotypical ethnic mutterings. The various scenes that follow chronicle a tentative courtship between Hank and Elaine, while an ever-growing army of many-tongued monsters eats an entire slumber party, a trio of long-faced New Yorkers, and a pair of inarticulate drunks.

One of the monsters breaks a department store window, severing its own forearm on the broken glass. Dr. Gavin runs some tests and reaches a number of nonsensical conclusions, but can’t figure out how to kill it. One mistaken identity, pratfall, and chemical spill later, Eulabelle shows them how the monsters can be made to explode upon contact with pure sodium.

Newspapers spin and news anchors announce while a montage of monster footage depicts an unfettered killing spree. Finally, Dr. Gavin figures out how to track them (something to do with radioactive water) so they test every body of water in the immediate vicinity while Hank runs to New York for more sodium. Elaine happens upon the monsters’ hideout and promptly sprains her ankle. Her father arrives just in time to save her, while Hank arrives just in time to save him. They all hurl fistfuls of sodium left and right, reducing their scaly foes to smoking husks. Dr. Gavin spends the next day in the hospital, while Elaine and Hank go home to make out in front of Eulabelle.

Introduction:

Despite their one-word song, these guys aren't bad either.Mike tries to explain the premise of the show, but Tom has become a Tibetan monk and won’t stop his grumbling chant for anything. Despite Mike’s wager to the contrary, he manages to harmonize with the infinite universe.

Host Segment One:

Mike discovers the sound of the harmonizing universe comes from a set of stereo speakers placed just off screen. Tom runs away when confronted. Down in Roman times, Pearl and Brain Guy summarize last week’s exciting episode, and then continue their story. The Roman natives, Flavia and Callipygeas, demand to know who they are and what they’re doing there. Pearl and Brain Guy claim to be the gods Apearllo and Braingaias. When asked to prove their deific claims, Brain Guy conjures up a pair of spoons with his mind. Their hosts remain unconvinced, so they consult with Mike and the ‘Bots about what they should conjure up next. Mike et alii suggest either a gas grill or a pony, but before Brain Guy can come up with either, Flavia asks them about the gods in the sky. Specifically, the “average-looking man god,” the “golden spider-duck,” and the “squat crimson pig.” Crow is incensed, but Mike couldn’t be more pleased. Quoth he, “She thinks I’m average-looking!”

Host Segment Two:

The ‘Bots dress up for a manly beach dance, but the shorts they made for Mike are invisibly small. He turns towards them to do the twist. They gasp in horror and avert their eyes.

Host Segment Three:

The suspicious Flavia badgers Pearl with questions about her divine portfolio. Pushed into a corner, Pearl declares she is a goddess of music. To prove it, she and Brain Guy play a meat-related ditty while Flavia and Callipygeas square dance.

Host Segment Four:

Tom dons the cap and bag of the up-to-date newsboy in the film. He delivers constantly changing newspapers, with such headlines as: “Mike Buys Newspaper From Servo,” “Mike Buys Another Newspaper From Servo,” and “Mike Starting To Lose Patience With Newspaper Gag.”


Host Segment Five:

Mike and the ‘Bots dress as the Del-Aires (the beach party band from the movie). They sing a little song about sodium, the lyrics of which are as follows: “Sodium!” (repeated ad nauseum). Down in Roman times, Brain Guy and Callipygeas head off to the vomitorium. Left to themselves, Pearl and Flavia move quickly from backhanded compliments to veiled insults, finally arriving at open contempt for one another.

Stinger:

A man dances in miniscule swim trunks.

Thoughts:

How many tongues does one monster need?You can tell Horror of Party Beach is proud of its monsters. As well it should be. It’s easy to see the time and attention and detail the costumers poured into at least a dozen carefully crafted monster masks. Sure, the plot is tedious, the dialogue is stilted and unfunny, the dancing painful, and the characters are utterly inept. But the transformation from human remains to bloodsucking fiend is painstakingly (even boringly) filmed, showing all the stages in between skeleton and monster. Those things obviously took a lot of time and skill to build.

Too bad they all look like primordial Cookie Monsters, their mouths crammed with hot dogs instead of chocolate chip treats. Seriously, in an era when most movie monster costumes looked like they were either a) pulled directly out of someone’s closet, or b) manufactured overnight in the director’s garage out of items pulled from someone’s closet, what was the point of putting so much effort into a monster if it was going to look so goofy? Come on, movie. If you’re going to try that hard, could you at least make something scary? Something that doesn’t look like it wants to recite the alphabet while it drags its screaming victims into the murky depths?

The host segments alternate between the movie-themed sketches and the Roman-themed storyline that will dominate the next few episodes. On the whole, I prefer the movie-themed sketches, but the Roman-themed storyline provides us with my favorite moment of this episode’s host segments—Mike’s joy when a woman finds him “average-looking.” “Behold, from nothing, I produce this…spoon,” from that same segment comes in a close second. Mike’s manly beach dance was hilarious (thankfully they kept the camera aimed high enough for a family show) and the Paper Boy Servo sketch was well done. The “grumbling monk” sketch was an interesting idea, but didn’t really do anything for me.

The satellite crew fights an uphill battle against this wretched movie in the film segments, and they mostly win. A shot of the beach-goers’ pathetic attempts to clap along with the beat prompts Tom’s comment, “White people attempting rhythm.” When the biker leader offers a handshake after the fight, Mike says, “You have defeated me, sir—you and your noble band of choreographers.” When a victim appears with half his face torn off, Crow says, “He couldn’t get his contact out.” There are also various running jokes, which include various repetitions of a random sign’s exhortation to “Look Polish” (whatever that means), cries of “Me want cookie” whenever the monsters appear, and a whole scene where the satellite crew says nothing but “sodium” at the screen while two of the main characters exhaustively rehash a plot point that had been well established half an hour before. Their skillful mockery mostly manages to redeem an almost irredeemable movie, making this episode well worth at least one viewing.