Beach Girls

The missing link between the Beach Party movies of the '60s and the teen-sex romps of the '80s, a genre of films developed in the '70s whose low-key action implies that their creators probably had drive-in screens in mind. With laid-back plots conceived to include as many pot references and as much T&A as possible while still maintaining some semblance of a narrative, drive-in teensploitation films are generally as worthless as they are entertaining, as evidenced by two recent reissues. From 1976, The Pom Pom Girls stars a fresh-faced Robert Carradine as a high-school football player who spends his senior year engaging in shenanigans, some of which involve tense food fights and easy-listenified, AM-radio-ready remakes of Motown songs. One line of dialogue ("I sure would like to get her in the back of my van!") and a single image (a teen's ass mockingly pressed against the rear window of a souped-up hot rod) pretty much sum it up. But what must have looked forgettable in '76 coasts pretty easily on kitsch value today. You don't watch movies like The Pom Pom Girls—an early film by future Stepfather, Sleeping With The Enemy, and Return To Paradise director Joseph Ruben—for entertainment in the conventional sense; you watch to see things like a mustachioed juggler wearing a Space Invaders T-shirt, one of which turns up in The Beach Girls. Released in 1982, just prior to the domination of the more high-spirited, but also more mean-spirited, Porky's/Hardbodies school of teen films, The Beach Girls carries on the spirit of '70s drive-ins. Debra Blee (who no doubt found her experience here useful in her future parts in such films as Hamburger... The Motion Picture and The Malibu Bikini Shop) stars as a virginal, sweater-clad high-school grad who takes up residence in her uncle's beach house with two more party-friendly friends. After placing a few calls to lure unsuspecting pizza-delivery boys and TV repairmen, the trio begins to party, an activity greatly enhanced when six oversized trash bags of marijuana mysteriously turn up on the beach. The gang's frequently nude antics provoke disparate reactions from those around them, causing tongues to be clucked and middle-aged men to flail about madly and fall off decks, but also providing a background to the story of Blee's emotional maturity, as symbolized by her tendency to wear fewer layers of clothing as the film progresses. Aside from imparting a valuable lesson about the importance of partying and not being uptight, The Beach Girls has no reason to exist, which, as with The Pom Pom Girls, accounts for every bit of its appeal.

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