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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Beach Girls and the Monster
The Beach Girls and the Monster
Image // Unrated // May 7, 2002
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted May 14, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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When most film enthusiasts look back at the 1960s, critically acclaimed titles like 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Man for All Seasons, The Sound of Music, Psycho, Doctor Zhivago, My Fair Lady, Cleopatra, and Lawrence of Arabia are certain to come to mind. These are films that are not merely among the best of a creatively fruitful decade, but inarguably among the finest ever produced. I, on the other hand, have significantly less discerning taste, doting over schlocky monster movies and beach party fare. 1965's The Beach Girls and the Monster, as the title suggests, offers a blend of these two beloved subgenres.

Filmed as Surf Terror and later distributed on television by AIP as Monster From The Surf, The Beach Girls and the Monster marked both the final silver screen appearance by former leading man Jon Hall and his directorial debut. Hall's career behind the camera was short-lived, limited to some uncredited work the following year on the Day of the Triffids knockoff, The Navy vs. the Night Monsters. Perhaps not coincidentally, Navy... is also part of the Wade Williams Collection and will probably be released in the not-too-distant future by Image Entertainment.

Hall stars as Dr. Otto Lindsey, an oceanographer who has invested an extensive amount of time and energy establishing a reputation in the field for his son Richard (renowned voice actor Walker Edmiston). Rich doesn't share his father's interest, and following a car accident that crippled a close friend, all he wants to do is party on the beach with his surfer buddies and perpetually-bikini-clad girlfriend. It's become increasingly dangerous to embrace the beach bum lifestyle, though, as some unseen force is picking off the surfers one by one with its razor-sharp claws. Is the monster a mutated fish-creature or someone a little closer to home?

The Beach Girls and the Monster is easily the most fun I've had watching a movie in the past couple of months. Sure, it's not exactly overflowing with artistic merit, but what else would someone expect from a movie with this sort of title? Hall's direction is uninspired, most of the acting is limp, and the dialogue is laughable. The monster costume is as unlikely to inspire terror in the audience as the movie's cliched snake-in-the-can gag is to make 'em laugh. Its 65 minute runtime is padded to ridiculous lengths, with extended sequences of gals boogeying Wild World of Batwoman-style on the beach and one scene where Rich projects a reel of random surfing footage. Other memorable moments include a lion hand puppet kicking off the musical number that "you got a monster in the surf, yeah yeah yeah" and a frantic car chase with the most poorly synced rear projection ever captured on film. Frank Sinatra Jr. is credited with providing much of the surfy music, and his score doesn't seem appropriate to any given scene.

Still, a film doesn't have to meet Merriam-Webster's strict definition of 'good' to be entertaining, and it was rare for more than a couple of minutes to go by without someone in my deranged little group laughing hysterically. Unlike similar "so bad, it's good" efforts (including Horror on Party Beach, a movie that bears more than a passing similarity to this), The Beach Girls and the Monster doesn't overstay its welcome or feel tiresome halfway through.

A movie with a title like The Beach Girls and the Monster is understandably only going to appeal to a limited audience. It's a "love it" or "hate it" flick, with little gray area in between. I pleasantly fall in that first category, though, and apparently so do Wade Williams and the folks at Image Entertainment that have brought this overlooked cult classic to DVD.

Video: I believe that The Beach Girls and the Monster is the second DVD in the Wade Williams Collection to be presented in anamorphic widescreen, following December's The Crawling Eye. A quick glance at the soft, full-frame theatrical trailer on this disc probably provides some indication of how the film looked in previous video releases. Judging from the poorly framed trailer, which has a monstrous amount of dead space and a boom mike visible in one shot, The Beach Girls and the Monster is the poster child for proper matting. Thankfully, Image Entertainment has presented the movie in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The DVD isn't entirely indicative of how The Beach Girls and the Monster was shown theatrically, though. The opening sequence is heavily windowboxed, and the once-colorful surfing footage is now black and white to match the rest of the film.

The image isn't quite as eye-catching (terrible pun intended) as The Crawling Eye, but the source material is fairly crisp and doesn't appear to have endured much wear over the past four decades. Specks and the like are only present to any great extent in the film's opening and closing moments, and the only moderately distracting trace of such flaws in the meat of the movie are a series of thin vertical lines. Some light film grain is visible, giving the image somewhat of a pulsing appearance at times. The only genuinely annoying flaw would be some visual distortion that I spotted five times throughout the course of the film. This strange sort of erratic vertical compression only appears for a couple of seconds at a time, and it isn't distracting enough to make or break a purchase. Ballpark time codes for this distortion are 36:35, 41:44, 45:00, 51:20, and 56:25.

The Beach Girls and the Monster isn't the best looking entry in the Wade Williams Collection, but it's almost certainly a considerable improvement over previous releases and much better than I would expect from a film of its age and relative obscurity.

Audio: The Dolby Digital mono audio is about what one would typically expect. The audio elements don't appear to have help up quite as well over time as the visuals, and much of the dialogue has a slightly harsh, distorted quality to it. There's a brief, abrupt dropout at the 26 minute mark, but I didn't notice anything else along those lines in the remainder of the film.

Supplements: The previously mentioned full-frame trailer and over five minutes of still comprise the set-top accessible supplements on this DVD release. An excerpt from the screenplay is included on the DVD-ROM portion of the disc, and sci-fi/fantasy historian Tom Weaver contributes another excellent set of detailed liner notes.

Conclusion: It was painfully evident from its title alone that I'd get a kick out of The Beach Girls and the Monster, and I'd expect that others who had a similar reaction to those six words would feel much the same way. The DVD release isn't spectacular, and its $25 list price may be a bit too much for some to swallow. It would probably be worth shopping around for a discount, but I enjoyed this movie enough to recommend it to those unfortunate enough to share my schlock-cinema mindset. Recommended.
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