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Review: The Horror Of Party Beach

Weird! Horrifying! Fantastic!

Hear The Del-Aires Swing Out 6 Big Beat Songs!

Weird atomic beasts… who live off human blood!

Horrifying!!! Teenage slumber party attacked by demons from the dead!

The first horror monster musical!

They rose from the darkest depths of the ocean; hideous sea zombies stitched together from the decaying bones of a sailor’s cadaver, given new life by a vat of atomic waste. They rise to the surface in the hunt for their favourite food – teenagers!

They don’t have to look far either ‘cause there just happens to be a groovy beach party in full swing, where the local teeny boppers shimmy and shammy to the rocking tunes of the dynamic Del-Aires. One of these google-eyed fish monsters attacks a feisty young philly named Tina (Marilyn Clark); coming at her with the speed of a snail, gnashing his terrifyingly un-terrifying mouth full of err, bratwursts, and gruesomely smearing fake blood around her neck. And that’s just for starters!

That’s right folks, The Horror Of Party Beach has gained itself the awesome reputation of being one of the most mind-bendingly bad movies ever made, quite an accolade. Standing head and shoulders over lesser contenders, Party Beach is a full-on assault on the senses, so shockingly bad, it’s simply hard not to love – Groovy hip young cats tearing up the beaches, leather-clad biker gangs, gore aplenty, rampaging sea monsters, wild untamed youth, horny teenagers jiving around in tinny bikinis, all thieving to that dastardly rock n’ roll music – what’s not to love?

Produced and directed by Del Tenney in the spring of 1964 for the paltry sum of $60, 000, it calmed to be the world’s first monster musical (thanks to the swingin’ sounds of the mighty Del-Aires), although Ray Dennis Steckler’s mind-blowing The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies came out the year before this, so it only seems fair that Steckler’s flick hold that distinction. But it can calm to being the first slumber party massacre movie, as a dorm full of teenage girls who, thinking the rustling outside is a group of boys approaching, unwittingly open their door to a hoard of the rampaging sea zombies. No one lives to tell the tale. These monsters mean business.

Party Beach is by far Tenney’s most famous work, thanks largely to the aforementioned sea monsters; imagine the Gill-Man from Creature From the Black Lagoon with a mouth full of hot dogs and you’re half way there. In fact these bad boys sport quite possibly the funniest creature costumes ever created for the motion pictures. Whoever thought of attaching sausage-appendages protruding from the inside of the monster’s mouth deserves to be hailed as some kind of comic genius.

The film was released as part of a double-bill in the spring of ’64. Playing alongside The Curse of the Living Corpse, which was also directed by Tenney, both flicks became something of a minor phenomenon on the drive-in circuit. But it was Party Beach which captured the hearts of millions of bad movie fans around the world, even spawning a highly collectable comic book adaptation produced by the Warren Publishing Company, who also published the seminal 60’s horror comics Eerie, Creepy and Vampirella. The book used photo images from the flick rather than drawn artwork and helped gain the notoriety the movie still holds to this day. Although the artists at Warren must have also found the monster’s sausage mouth hilarious because they altered them with more fitting vicious fangs, why Tenney never thought of this is anybodies guess.

Del Tenney, a director whose talents definitely exceeded his budgets, formed a partnership with drive-in theatre owner Alan Iselin, and together they dreamed up what they termed as the ‘Fright Release’. On entering the picture house, audiences were told the following:
“Because the two films are packed with horror and frightening action and suspense, the management feels that the public should be warned in advance so that the faint of heart may take the necessary precautions. At the same time, the theatre is seeking protection by issuing a ‘Fright Release’ certificate to absolve the management of all responsibility of death by fright.”

Amazingly, Iselin also persuaded 20th Century Fox to release both films. The story goes that when they screened the flicks for the top brass at Fox, Tenney had his set designer dress up in one of the monster suits and hide in the executive bathroom, when the studio head went to the growler, the sea zombie leaped out. Legend has it that the poor guy nearly dropped dead of a heart attack.

Obliviously influenced by master gimmick producer/director William Castle, Tenney and Iselin had even more ingenious stunts up their sleeves. The theatres were equipped with so-called ‘shock pills’ and smelling salts in case anyone passed out during the film(s). They also had a man stand outside the cinema wearing suit with a yellow stripe painted down the back, carrying a live chicken in a cage, and holding a sign proclaiming he was too chicken to see the double feature.

The flick’s box office was also helped by the release of the movie’s tie-in song, ‘The Zombie Stomp’ by the aforementioned New Jersey garage rock n’ roll band The Del-Aires, which become somewhat of a minor hit on American radio. The group even released an album featuring songs from the flick, after which they unfortunately slipped into B-movie oblivion.

Between 1963-’64, Tenney made a total of three pictures, The Horror of Party Beach, Curse of the Living Corpse and finally I Eat Your Skin a.k.a Zombie Bloodbath, he then left pictures for other ventures, eventually setting up a successful real estate business in Connecticut. He did however return behind the camera for 2003’s Descendant, leaving a forty year hiatus which makes Terrance Malick look like workaholic.

The Horror Of Party Beach is a film not easily forgotten, one of the most hilarious B-movies ever created. Go check it out!


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