Terry Wells (Patricia Morrow) is headed to California with two of her friends, Sylvia (Lory Patrick) and Junior (Jackie DeShannon), to visit her brother and learn to surf.
Upon arrival in the sunny state, it doesn’t take long for the girls to get settled in and become a nuisance to the local police sergeant, who seems to disapprove of the beach bum lifestyle. The sergeant already despises Terry’s brother, Skeet (Jerry Summers), who he seems to see as the leader of the rascals.
But that doesn’t stop them from having a good time. On the trip, the girls learn to surf while finding excitement and a little bit of romance. Terry falls for Len Marshal (Bobby Vinton), a local surfer who offers to give them lessons.
Maury Dexter directs 1964’s Surf Party, an imitation of 1963’s Beach Party. The film was written by Harry Spalding.
As you may have assumed from the bare premise, there isn’t a complicated plot or any big dramatic moments at play in this film. The point of the film simply seems to be to provide the audience with a bit of fun and showcase the musical talent of Bobby Vinton, Patricia Morrow, The Astronauts and other cast members. Very few beach flicks have plots that are too engrossing, but they can still be highly entertaining.
There are a number of funny moments that make the film worth watching despite its apparent lack of plot. These moments are usually of the ultra-corny type, such as one of the girls falling out of a hammock, but they keep the film fun and aren’t too full of cheese to be enjoyed.
The film lacks some of the excitement that most “beach party” films have, which could be partially due to the fact that it was released in black and white. Vibrant technicolor is one of the trademarks of the genre, and the visual appeal of the colors adds to the mood and environment of such films. The silly moments do give it a bit of a boost, but visual appeal definitely would have helped the film as well, making the flat, black and white cinematography an odd choice.
With songs serving as the film’s focus, the best thing about Surf Party is, by far, the music. Not all of it is typical of the “surf” genre, but all of the songs are very fun to listen to. Jackie DeShannon’s “Glory Wave” is performed as somewhat of a spiritual; “Never Comin’ Back,” performed by DeShannon, Morrow and Patrick is a folk song. “Never Comin’ Back” and Bobby Vinton’s “If I Were an Artist” are the film’s best tunes.
As a result of the emphasis on musical talent rather than acting talent when casting this film, the performances aren’t anything to write home about. They can feel a bit stiff, and it’s very hard to buy some of the performers as actual surfers. They seem like what they are: singers playing surf whiz for a day or two.
Surf Party is a decent beach flick, low on substance and without stellar acting performances, but quite enjoyable due to the abundant musical talent on display. The film has never been released for home viewing, so give it a watch if you catch it on TV. The score: 2.5/5