Review Date: February 22, 2006
Released by: Image Entertainment
Release date: 5/7/2002
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
The 1960ís Frankie and Annette-style beach party movies are so ingrained in our cultureís collective memory that many people forget that the ďbeachĒ genre was actually a very short-lived fad. It began in 1963 when American International Pictures struck it big with Beach Party
, and from there AIP cranked them out at an exhausting pace (three in 1964 and another three in 1965) until the tide was completely out and there wasnít any more life left in the idea. There werenít even very many knock-offs produced by other companies. But there were several ďcreativeĒ pairings of the beach genre and the horror genre, most famously Horror of Party Beach
in 1964. But, less famous but no less tacky comes this little opusÖThe Beach Girls and the Monster
Itís another beautiful, sunny day in southern California, the type of day perfect for swimming and surfing, and that is exactly what one group of young men and women are doing. Amongst the boys and girls present at the scene are handsome young hunk Richard Linsday (Arnold Lessing
), his girlfriend Jane (Elaine DuPont
) and ultra-hot bikini-clad babe Bunny (Gloria Neil
). After playing a silly practical joke on her boyfriend Bunny runs off down the beach laughing and disappears from sight. She stops to hide behind an outcropping of rocks in front of a dark cave. But no sooner than she does than a hideous fishlike monster emerges from the cave and strangles her. The beach partiers discover her body soon after. The police show up and search the area and discover strange, flipper-like footprints in the sand. They take a cast of the prints to Richardís father, renowned oceanographer Dr. Otto Lindsay (Jon Hall
), who says they look like the prints of the South American fantigua fish, only much, much larger.
Though him and his friends are in shock over Bunnyís death, Richard has other problems as well. A number of months earlier him and his artist friend Mark (Walker Edmiston
) were in a horrible car accident that nearly cost both their lives. Ever since then Richard has become unmotivated and has spent all his free time surfing on the beach, while Mark, who sustained a permanent injury to his leg during the accident, has moved into the Lindsay house. Dr. Lindsay himself is a widower who is now on his second marriage to a tramp named Vicki (Sue Casey
), but that isnít his only problem either. He had been looking forward to his son following in his footsteps as an oceanographer, but ever since the accident Richardís interest in surfing has surpassed his interest in science, and his father is growing increasingly resentful of the crowd of kids on the beach who he feels have taken his son away from him. With the drama rising and a horrible sea creature lurking in the surf outside their beach house, will this family ever be happy again?
The Beach Girls and the Monster
is a typically tacky monster movie that contains a lot of clunker lines, amateurish acting and implausible events. It contains several Plan 9 From Outer Space
-type goofs, including a beach scene in broad daylight that is edited between two night scenes that are supposed to be taking place right after each other. The monster itself is one of the worst to ever appear onscreen, and the dysfunctional family sub-plot seems tiresome. But, unlike other movies of this type, both of these things have their own place in the internal logic of the film. The family drama (particularly the conflict between Dr. Lindsay and his son) really is part of the plot, and the filmís disappointing, Scooby Doo-style ending gives partial justification to the shoddy construction of the monster suit. This is not a good movie in any way, but at least thereís a sort of warped logic to the whole thing that helps make it interesting. Though it only runs sixty-six minutes, it feels like a longer movie, in a good way. It feels like it delivers a lot more content and plot than it really does.
In the role of Dr. Lindsay, Jon Hall brings a slight level of credibility to the movie (he is also credited as the filmís director, though by some accounts he only directed limited portions of the film). He is a familiar face in a cast without anyone else readily recognizable. His career had started in the 1930ís, and he was a busy performer throughout the 40ís. However, by the time the 50ís rolled around the parts became less frequent. Other than starring in the short-lived TV series Ramar of the Jungle
he didnít even get much work on TV, which is a medium that saved many other performers from complete oblivion. This was the last screen appearance of his career, and it appears that it was the only screen appearance he made during the 60ís. Graying and somewhat overweight, Hall underplays the part most of the time. He tries to seem like he cares about whatís going on, but isnít convincing. He had probably given up on his acting career a long time before. Some have mistakenly reported that Hall committed or contemplated suicide after he finished the film, but even though his death in 1979 was indeed a suicide, it was the result of the pain caused by a terminal illness. Still though, I wouldnít blame him if he was upset about having his name associated with the production. God knows I wouldnít want mine to be.
Two of the supporting players, Sue Casey and Walker Edmiston, also manage to hold their own under the contrivances of the story. Vicki, as played by Casey, is appropriately slutty and sleazy, while Edmiston is upright and repressed as the misunderstood artist Mark. Not that either role requires very much talent, of course, but they both come across without making huge fools of themselves (both went on to have fairly lengthy screen careers; Edmiston in particular became a busy voice artist), which is more than can be said or Arnold Lessing or Elaine DuPont, who are both amateurish as the hero and heroine. Though DuPont had a number of uncredited roles in various productions during the 50ís, she dropped out of site after this film, and judging by her performance itís not surprising that she never went on to have a real screen career. Arnold Lessing never went anywhere either.
Though few know it, The Beach Girls and the Monster
actually exists in two different versions, a theatrical one and a TV version retitled Monster From the Surf
. The theatrical cut, which is the one featured on this disc, runs the aforementioned sixty-six minutes while the TV cut runs just shy of seventy-four minutes. Presumably AIP, who distributed the film on TV (even though itís theatrical release came via a different company), needed it to be a little bit longer for syndication, thus sending the editor back to search through the footage that hadnít made the theatrical release. However, this is not simply a case of one cut having more footage than the other. In fact, the two cuts are actually notably different, and each one including footage not present in the other. The principle differences are as follows:
- The beach scenes prior to Bunnyís death are longer in the TV version.
- In the TV version Bunnyís death is longer, but the theatrical version features close-ups of the monster mask that arenít present in the other edit.
- After Bunny is killed there is more footage involving the teens discovering her body, and then more footage showing the police investigating the crime scene.
- In the theatrical version the scene where Dr. Lindsay examines the cast of the monsterís footprint is shown immediately after the scenes of the police investigating the beach area, while in the TV version that same scene doesnít appear until much later on.
- There are differences during a scene where the monster stalks Vicki from behind and almost grabs her. The scene runs the exact same length in both versions, but with one or two exceptions each cut relies on a completely separate set of shots to show the monster sneaking up on her.
- There is a major difference during a scene where Mark watches, from a distance, a number of babes on the beach. In the theatrical cut he simply sees a number of bikini-clad beauties shaking their booties. In the TV cut he sees a different set of girls getting down with it, and overhears three sunbathing honeys talking about their surfer boyfriends.
- During a nighttime beach party sequence there is a scene that is only present in the theatrical version. In it a young couple sneaks away from the party for a little one-on-one time and is almost attacked by the monster.
- Near the climax of the film there is a scene where Richard searches a drainage culvert for signs of the creature. In the TV version it simply shows him going into the culvert and out again, while the theatrical version shows him briefly exploring inside of it.
So which version is better? I prefer the TV version. It feels more complete and the extra running time doesnít hurt the pace at all. Unfortunately, itís doubtful that the TV cut will get a legitimate release any time soon (itís available on VHS and DVD-R from several mail order sources, though). That leaves us with the theatrical cut, and as a cheap monster/exploitation film itís perfectly watchable. The Beach Girls and the Monster
almost delivers on its title, but not quite, and those who have already seen the movie will understand what I mean. But as a guilty pleasure thereís nothing wrong with enjoying for what it is.
The Beach Girls and the Monster
is presented in a 16x9 enhanced 1.85:1 letterboxed transfer. There are two things about this particular transfer which are really good. The first good thing is the level of detail and contrast. It features a pleasingly sharp image, with bold, deep blacks and clean whites. The second good thing is the framing. In recent years there has been a movement towards slapping anamorphic mattes onto old films, regardless of whether or not they were designed to be shown in a letterboxed format, and resulting in framing that seems excessively restrictive. However, I am pleased to announce that the framing on this transfer looks just right, cutting off the excessive space at the top and bottom of the frame that has always been visible on past home video presentations. The screen grab comparisons below will you give some idea of the difference. The left is from the transfer itself, while the right is from the full-frame theatrical trailer. Note the glaringly obvious boom microphone over Sue Caseyís head:
Unfortunately, the transfer is not without problems. It features an abnormally severe and noticeable amount of print damage, with numerous scratches, specks and blemishes, and almost constant vertical lines. In fact, during the first two thirds of the film I would estimate 65-70% of the total shots are affected by some sort of distracting damage. The last third of the film looks better, but still features noticeable damage during some parts. The Beach Girls and the Monster
needs a full-scale digital restoration, though anybody with the business sense to acquire that kind of capital is also probably sensible enough to know better.
The only soundtrack option is a Dolby 1.0 Mono track. The volume of the track is pretty low. I had to turn my speakers way up before I could hear anything comfortably, but once I did everything sounded more or less fine. The original sound recording is surprisingly competent, though not without a sometimes tinny and hollow sound. Occasional background crackling and popping is audible. Nothing spectacular, but, as is usually the case with old films like this, itís tolerable.
The disc itself contains three extras, two of which are accessible from the main menu and one of which is only accessible to those with DVD-ROM drives.
The two on-disc extras are a theatrical trailer and a still gallery, the latter of which is an excellent example of what we should be expecting out of such an extra. It is a real
gallery featuring dozens upon dozens of actual production photos (some of which are even in color) and promotional art. This is in welcome contrast to the galleries of nothing but screenshots that so many other companies try and pass off on us. I compliment Image Entertainment for being able to put it together.
The DVD-ROM extra is an excerpt from the original screenplay, when the production was entitled Surf Terror
. Itís eight pages long and covers the very beginning of the movie up until Bunnyís death. It differs slightly from the finished film in terms of dialogue and staging, and the formatting of the script itself is far different from that of a modern screenplay. Itís too bad the whole thing wasnít included.
Lastly, there are some very extensive liner notes by genre writer Tom Weaver and promotional trailers for The Flying Saucer
. The Crawling Eye
, She Demons
, Monster From Green Hell
and Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla
, all of which are also available on DVD from Image.
The Beach Girls and the Monster
is a bit below the average low budget monster movie from the 1960ís, and it must be remembered that the average from that period in time was already pretty low for films of this nature. Itís not that it canít be fun, itís just that it can never be considered truly good. This DVD from Image Entertainment is decidedly above average, with an adequate but problematic video presentation and a surprisingly decent selection of extras. It may not be the definitive version of the film, but itís not a bad bargain either.
Movie Ė C-
Image Quality Ė C
Sound Ė C
Supplements Ė B-
- Running Time Ė 1 hour 6 minutes
- Not rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English 1.0 Mono
- Theatrical trailer
- Still gallery
- Script excerpt (DVD-ROM)
- Liner notes
- Bonus trailers