Sunday, May 22, 2011

The double bill to end all double bills - JASON X & BEACH PARTY

Having partaken of a peyote button the size of a hockey-puck (as we are wont to do) one late May evening the purveyors of this site, after viewing eternity in a grain of sand, in their infinite wisdom saw a direct aesthetic, logical and metaphysical connection between two seemingly antithetical films, the horror extravaganza Jason X and the 60's surrealist masterpiece Beach Party. 

You can't keep a good man down!

Jason X is the kind of trash they just don't make anymore. It would be the perfect film to see at a drive-in theater with a bottle of cheap wine. The sets are obviously recycled from some science fiction television series, as are many of the actors (the two female leads, Lexa Droig and Lisa Ryder starred in the television series Andromeda). The script is pretty much nonexistent but that's okay. The stories haven't exactly been a hallmark of quality for of the Jason series. Having finally figured out that Jason is indestructible the US government figures their best bet is to cryogenically freeze the big lug until they figure out what to do with him. The particulars of Jason's ability to regenerate are never discussed in detail. One character mentions the authorities tried to electrocute him, shoot him, stab him and hang him. Now, those are all classic methods of execution but in the case of someone like Jason perhaps more inventive methods were in order. Would he be able to survive being pushed into a wood chipper by Peter Stormare? Would he reassemble like the T-1000? Unfortunately, we never get the answers to these pressing questions. And we probably won't until they make Peter Stormare vs. Jason. Which would be amazing. Especially if it was directed by David Lynch.

The film stays completely within the boundaries of the genre which is to its favor. It never tries to overextend itself and has a nice sense of humour about the whole proceedings. Every character is a sci-fi/horror cliché and there are moments of delectable and gratuitous gore, although female nudity is rather lacking for a film of this ilk. All in all a very commendable effort, quite the enjoyable failure and a much more entertaining addition to the series than most of the previous entries.

You stooooopid!!!

After Buñuel and Dali did Un Chien Andalou Hollywood played catch-up with regards to surrealist cinema until this gem of a film came along, a bizarro-world masterpiece starring the demonic Frankie Avalon and the saucy yet disturbing Annette Funicello along with great supporting work from Robert Cummings as a bearded sociologist whose primary academic research consists of ogling young women in bikinis and Harvey Lembeck as Eric Von Zipper, a leader of a bike gang modeled after Brando in The Wild One and Nicholson in Batman (even though that film was made thirty six years later - yup, he's that good). Beach Party makes the filmographic ouvre of Elvis Presley seem like the collected works of Emeric Pressburger. This is a THC-infused cacophony of the best sort, consisting of bad jokes, pre-Easy Rider innuendos and a cast of characters so ridiculous and a story so bad that it takes the better part of a bottle of bourbon to even get the gist of what the hell is going on: (Frankie wants to shag Annette; Annette invites all of their friends over for no apparent reason; Frankie gets pissed and tries to make Annette jealous so she returns the favor; Robert Cummings is a perv and Annette hooks up with him; Eric Von Zipper wants to beat everyone up but keeps getting frozen by Robert Cummings' Vulcan death grip; Big Daddy keeps it cool; a mentally handicapped person keeps showing up at inopportune moments; beatnik chicks keep getting frozen in yoga poses... WHAT THE HELL!!!) . If this kind of film were made today it would seem overwrought and forced in its attempt at being post-modern and strange. But the original product is surprisingly fresh and fun, flowing smoothly along in all its idiotic glory, a testament to the strange and bizarre pseudo-culture of the early 1960's American teenager, a last, wasted breath of innocence before the Kennedy assassination, Vietnam and the tumultuous times of the later 60's counterculture.  

Beach Party is in many and authentic ways a good film, well made and honest in its dumbness. It has a kind of authentic stupidity which is, frankly, a breath of fresh air from the manufactured stupidity of modern Hollywood. It also contains one of the best celebrity cameos I have ever seen, a moment so strange in its silliness that it could have been proudly followed by the theme song from Twin Peaks. If you are an adventurous lover of cinema Beach Party comes highly recommended, a well crafted gem of a strange cinematic era and a hallmark of Hollywood silliness.  

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