Each issue Lorihajitura takes a look at one of the so bad they’re good films featured on Mystery Science Theatre 3000 – the Comedy Central/Sci-Fi Channel cult show from the late 80s and through the 1990s. This issue we focus on episode 817: The Horror of Party Beach, which broadcast on September 6th, 1997.
(Mystery Science Theatre 3000 – MST3K to the fans – ran from November 24th, 1988 to August 8th, 1999, and starred Michael J. Nelson, Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy, Bill Corbett, Josh Weinstein, Jim Mallon, Patrick Brantseg, Frank Conniff, and Mary Jo Pehl. Each week the evil Dr Forrester (and later his mother, Pearl) held hapless space prisoner Mike hostage on his craft the Satellite of Love and forced him and his robot friends Tom Servo and Crow to watch the worst movies ever made, as part of a mad scientist experiment.
Each week the experiment failed to drive Mike insane, as he and the robots found endless ways to poke fun of the movies and keep their sanity intact. This week’s episode featured Mike and the robots with their song “Sodium”, and Pearl attempting to pass herself off as a God in Ancient Rome.)
The Horror of Party Beach (1964) proclaimed itself the “first ever horror musical!” – despite the same boast from the makers of The Incredibly Strange Creatures… the year before. Director Del Tenney gives us irradiated monsters from the ocean, swinging teens on the beach, the usual quasi-science, and a surf band! What more could you want?
For starters, a way to close the two MASSIVE plot holes that threaten to collapse the entire movie.
A small tugboat cruises out to sea off the beach coast of Somewhere Near New York and dumps a bunch of nuclear waste there. Said nuclear waste floats to the bottom and Godzilla-style reanimates a couple of skulls into full-blown monsters! Can you reanimate an entire body from a skull?
You need to suspend your disbelief for the entire duration of the film, at this juncture, and just let that part wash over you that surfer boys, bikers, and beach babe teens continue to swim in the ocean for at least several weeks after you saw a consignment of nuclear waste leak into the water.
That doesn’t account for the sequence where our heroes trudge about the town in espadrilles and Capri pants and search the terrain with Geiger counters. As you do. This is The Horror of Party Beach, not Silkwood, people. The monsters, composed of your mum’s patchwork sample fabric, and a mouthful of hot dogs (study the pictures – I kid you not), proceed to terrorise the small town and go on a killing spree.
But let that occupy the back of your mind. We have bigger sea monsters to fry at this point.
We see hot rods a plenty, the stereotypical black maid joins in, the surf band plays throughout and there’s even an existentialist bike gang clad in berets and striped t-shirts. Swinging!
Square-jawed hero, Scientist Man, Daughter of Scientist Man, and a bunch of policemen step in to stop the monsters and their reign of death – and here’s where that major league plot hole kicks in.
They wipe out the monsters and save the day when they throw sodium at them. Ka-boom! Big explosions! Dead hot dog monsters! A whole bunch of sodium! Big kiss! End titles!
They kill a monster, from the ocean, with sodium. (Never mind the plutonium that floats out there.) Let that sink in for a minute. Ocean. Sodium. A creature that lives in a large body of salt water… and salt. Not enough B-movie pseudo-science exists in the world to explain that one.
“So let me get this right, Dave. A walking Hiroshima with hot dogs in its mouth explodes when you throw salt at it, despite the fact that it lives in salt water? What gives, man?”
I can’t answer that question. I don’t know why the bike gang (the real life Charter Oaks M. C.) follow Jean-Paul Sartre. I don’t understand the radiation part, and I don’t get the hotdog thing either. The music swings if you’re into the surf. But the rest you need to take with a huge pinch of salt. Pun intended.
I watched The Horror of Party Beach as part of Nightmare Theatre which ran on WTTV in Indianapolis throughout the 60s and 70s. Host Sammy Terry (a pun on the word “cemetery”), played by Bob Carter, came out with bizarre monologues at the top and tail of the show, and before the commercial breaks.
For the Horror of Party Beach episode, he rambled at length about the nature of chemicals and pollution and paused every now and then to drink from a strange mug that clearly held no liquid whatsoever. He worked without a script in these segments, and that, coupled with the vintage adverts, elevated the whole thing to high camp!
As for The Horror of Party Beach itself, it isn’t the worst movie shown by MST3K, but it’s, without doubt, one of the most bizarre – and you’ll never look at hot dogs in quite the same way again.
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