Saturday, July 14, 2018

Ski Party (1965)

 (This post is part of the Winter in July Blogathon hosted by Moon in Gemini)

American International Pictures' series of "Beach Party" movies remain well known. Baby Boomers remember them fondly from their youth. Younger generations remember them fondly from repeated viewings on television (which is how I first saw them). What is sometimes forgotten is that the "Beach Party" series included movies whose settings were sometimes far from the beach. The first of these was Pajama Party in 1964. The second was Ski Party (1965), which was set on the slopes of a ski resort (it was shot on location in Idaho).

Although part of AIP's "Beach Party" series, like Pajama Party before it,  Ski Party was not a proper sequel to the earlier "Beach Party movies (Beach Party, Muscle Beach Party, et. al).  Annette Funicello only appears briefly as a college professor (not Dee Dee of the "Beach Party" films) and while Frankie Avalon stars in the film, he plays an entirely different character. None of the other regular characters from the "Beach Party" series appear, although actors who had previously appeared in "Beach Party" movies do, albeit in different roles. Deborah Walley had previously appeared in Beach Blanket Bingo (1965). Dancer Bobbie Shaw appeared in both Pajama Party and Beach Blanket Bingo before appearing in Ski Party.

AIP's "Beach Party" series began in 1963 with the movie Beach Party starring Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon. The movie proved to be a hit, so it was followed by the sequels Muscle Beach Party (1964), Bikini Beach (1964), and Beach Blanket Bingo. Because of the success of Beach Party, other studios soon jumped onto the bandwagon. United Artists put out For Those Who Think Young (1964). Universal released The Lively Set (1964). Paramount came out with The Girls on the Beach (1965) and Beach Ball (1965). And there were yet other movies that imitated AIP's beach films. By 1965 not only had there been three "Beach Party" movies (four if one counts Pajama Party), but there had been several imitators released as well. It was getting more and more difficult to keep the films fresh and interesting. The solution for AIP was then to simply change the setting, yet keep the "Beach Party" formula of teenage independence, fun, music, and mild sexuality. The end results were the movies Pajama Party and Ski Party.

Ski Party centred on college students Todd Armstrong (played by Frankie Avalon) and Craig Gamble (played by Dwayne Hickman, then as now most famous for the title role in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis), who are having no luck in pursuing co-eds Linda Hughes (played by Deborah Walley) and Barbara Norris (played by Yvonne Craig, later to gain lasting fame as Batgirl). Much of the problem seems to be that they, like seemingly every other woman on campus, are drawn to the handsome, athletic, but none too bright Freddie (played by Aron Kinkaid). When Freddie, as president of the college's Ski Club, invites a number of beautiful women (including Linda and Barbara) on a ski trip to Idaho, Todd and Craig go to the same resort, despite the fact that neither of them can ski. Complicating things further, Todd and Craig decided to dress as two English girls in order to observe the girls and with any luck learn how to succeed with them. One can perhaps guess what happens from there...

Of course, one of the major attraction of the "Beach Party" movies is the music that appears throughout the series. A very good argument can be made that Ski Party features the best music of any of the films. Surf band The Hondells (who had earlier appeared in Beach Blanket Bingo) played the film's title track and the song "The Gasser". Lesley Gore performed her hit "Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows". Perhaps the biggest surprise among the music acts is the appearance of James Brown and the Famous Flames, who perform "I Got You (I Feel Good)". Even if one doesn't enjoy Ski Party itself (and I don't see why he or she wouldn't), chances are good they will enjoy the music!

Like the earlier "Beach Party" movies, Ski Party is a slight concoction that goes down easily. It is filled with the same sort of misunderstandings and innuendo, although in the case of Ski Party there is a touch of Some Like It Hot (1959) thrown in for good measure. Ultimately, Ski Party is a fun movie that one can sit down and enjoy without thinking too much.

Despite this, Ski Party performed very badly at the box office. In fact, it performed so badly that AIP cancelled plans for their upcoming film Cruise Party, even though it had been announced at the end of Ski Party. It is difficult to say why Ski Party failed. Perhaps audiences wanted to see Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon together (the previous "Beach Party" movie, Beach Blanket Bingo, would be their last in the series together). Perhaps they wanted to see pretty girls in bikinis instead of pretty girls in ski suits. Perhaps it was the timing of its release. Despite the fact that Ski Party is set during the winter, it was released on June 30 1965, when most people probably aren't thinking about snow! Regardless, it was an enjoyable movie that really deserved to make more money than it did.

Ski Party would not be the last audiences would see of Frankie Avalon and Dwayne Hickman's characters Todd and Craig. The two were the main characters in Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965), although in this film Mr. Avalon played Craig and Mr. Hickman played Todd. Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine would be the penultimate "Beach Party" movie. With the series running out of steam and making less money with each new release, Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966) would be the last of the "Beach Party" movies. Regardless, Ski Party is unique among the "Beach Party" films in being one of two that are not set on the beach (along with Pajama Party) and the only one set at a ski resort in the middle of winter.


Caftan Woman said...

It is a fun movie, and sometimes that is all you want. I wonder if it was as much fun to make as it is to watch. H'm.

Debbie Vega said...

They used to show the Beach Party movies a lot on TV when I was a teen, and I'm sure I must have seen this one at some point. They're loads of fun.

Thanks for contributing this to the blogathon!