San Diego Classic Film Calendar

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Summer Movie Blogathon – Pajama Party

This post is part of the Summer Movie Blogathon hosted by yours truly. 




The blogathon is broken into categories. Pajama Party falls in the Movies about the Beach, Surfing, or Summer Sports category. It is the fourth in American International Pictures Beach Party series, sandwiched between Bikini Beach and Beach Blanket Bingo. Though in some respects, it's not a proper sequel, Annette Funicello plays, Connie not Dee Dee, and Frankie Avalon plays a Martian. But if you are trying to keep track of continuity in a Beach Party movie, you are so overthinking it. Still, it has all the earmarks of a Beach Party movie:

  • Frankie and Annette, though not as a couple
  • Series regulars, like Harvey Lembeck, Jody McCrea, Don Rickles, and Candy Johnson
  • Stupid broad humor
  • Rent-paying roles for classic film actors, Buster Keaton in his first of four appearances in Beach Party films, along with Dorothy Lamour, Elsa Lanchester, and Jesse White
  • Bikinis and dancing to music that was not quite good-enough to sell many records

In Pajama Party, Tommy Kirk plays a Martian scout Gogo sent to prepare Earth for a Martian invasion. He lands in Elsa Lanchester's rose garden. She takes him in, renames him George, throws a bathing suit on him, and sends him to the beach to meet girls. Jesse White plays J. Sinister Hulk, who with the help of Buster Keaton, wants to rob Elsa Lanchester, because her husband died years earlier leaving her a fortune stashed behind a bookcase in what looks like an automat vending machine with stacks of cash. Of course, Harvey Lembeck leads the world's most ineffectual biker gang and is upset at the beach kids for getting footprints on their beach. Right, makes perfect sense.


Native American Buster Keaton gets a scalp (wig), yes, that's
about the level of sophistication you can expect in Pajama Party
Then again, you don't watch Pajama Party for the story. You watch for the stupidity, the girls, and cameo roles for people on the downside of their acting careers. In a way, it's kind sad to think of Buster Keaton having to don dark makeup and a feather in his signature pork pie hat to play Native American, but I'd rather see that than hear that he was pumping gas or drank himself to death in a hotel room. And this time, you get Dorothy Lamour as the manager of Elsa Lanchester's dress shop and singing a number, "Where Did I Go Wrong in front of dancing models, including very young Toni Basil and Terri Garr.

Of course, there's the obligatory chase scene with speeded up car and motorcycle stunts, rear-projection, vehicles plowing through pedestrians sending them flying in the air, a crash that drops into cartoon animation of smoke, debris, and granny's bloomers, and finally, Harvey Lembeck  going off an ocean bluff in a motorcycle side car, "Why? Why me all the time?" Though incredibly stupid, I still find these sequences very funny.


Susan Hart, shakin' butt and takin' names
Though Candy Johnson is credited and can be seen, the hip shaking devastation is mostly done by Susan Hart as she pops caps off Dr. Pepper bottles, breaks glasses, melts candle, and makes a bowl of flowers wilt. Someone should've told the producers that hip shaking causing flowers to wilt  is not sexy, but a sign of poor hygiene. Oh well.

Through much of the film, Annette is frustrated as her boyfriend, Jody McCrea, is too busy organizing volleyball games to realize that she wants some. And next best thing Martian Tommy Kirk is being distracted by one of Jesse White's cronies, a Swedish bikini model (Bobbi Shaw). Annette laments to this in "Stuffed Animal" where she sings about how much better stuffed animals are than the boys in her life. While you're kind of used to Annette staying virginal in these movies, having her on verge of begging for it is an unusual but somewhat sad twist. 

Toward the end, Jesse White throws a Pajama Party for the beach kids and asks Elsa Lanchester to chaperone, but he just wants to get her out of the house so he can look for her money. When Harvey Lembeck and his gang crash the party a fight ensues and just about everybody gets knocked in the pool. Sadly, though everyone is wearing PJs and night gowns, there are virtually no thin wet fabric stuck to hot young bodies shots that you would hope for. Ultimately, Tommy Kirk figures out that Jesse White is up to something and uses a Martian device to teleport White, Buster Keaton, and another henchman to Mars. 

Largely missing from the film is Frankie Avalon. He and Don Rickles play Martians back on Mars observing Tommy Kirk's progress. Through most of the film, you just see the back of Avalon's head and hear his voice. All ends well with the Martians abandoning their invasion plans and  Annette hooking up with Tommy Kirk. I assume Jody McCrea ends up happily sleeping with his volleyball. 


Dorothy Lamour (center) Terri Garr (in yellow, left) and
Toni Basil, I think (purple top, right)

As Beach Party movies go, Pajama Party is nothing Earth shattering. I chose it mostly because it is one that is not shown all the time. If you hate Beach Party movies, you will hate this one too. If you like them, you will be happy to know that Pajama Party doesn't depart from the tried and true formula by more than a fraction of an inch. And having Elsa Lanchester, Dorothy Lamour, and Jesse White and very young Toni Basil and Terri Garr make it well worth the watch. 

8 comments:

  1. THe only reason to watch an AIP Annette Funicello movie is to see her in a bikini... Wait... Did you say Martians...?

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    1. Yep, but not cool Martians. Tommy Kirk looked like Tommy Kirk in an usher uniform, and if memory serves, Don Rickles and Frankie Avalon looked like Don Rickles and Frankie Avalon in silver space uniforms.

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    2. Speaking of Tommy Kirk as a Martian, have you ever seen "Mars Needs Women"?

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    3. If so, it would have been as a kid and I don't remember it. It sounds fun though.

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  2. I own this on a video tape paired with "Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine"!

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    1. Cool, it's stupid like the rest but a fun watch.

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  3. So far the only beach/surf movies I've seen are Gidget and of course Ride the Wild Surf. This story line certainly sounds wild! I would be interested in seeing Lamour's part.

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  4. I think they might have been worried about the surfing fad having run its course. Ask me, seeing all the Golden Age people paying the rent in the beach movies is one of the main reasons to watch them.

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