‘The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini’ – 1966
The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini is one of the last in the line of Beach Party movies. It also has the distinction of being the only Beach Party movie that takes place not at the Beach, but rather a Haunted House. Of course, that doesn’t seem to stop a group of random rowdy teenagers from partying in the front lawn as if Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon were still starring. By the way, they’re not, but we do get a dose of Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone, so it’s not all bad.
I chose to review this film because I realized that every other film I’d talked about on this blog were horror films. And while horror films are a genre I adore and are abundant in the B movie catalogue, it was time for something new. There are a lot of other genres to choose from.
The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini starts off with a death; that of Hiram Stokley, but there was a previous death that also bears some weight here. Stokley’s girlfriend from days of yore (a circus performer who died after falling from a trapeze, a fact we discover because the newspaper clippings are helpfully lying around), Cecily, is the titular character. She informs her recently deceased ex-lover that he has exactly twenty-four hours to do a good deed so that he can get into Heaven, and be young again. Otherwise, his less than pious life will have to speak for him.
Conveniently, at just the same moment Stokley’s crooked lawyer, Reginald Ripper (Rathbone) is holding a séance in Stokley’s mansion to discover where he left his hidden fortune. It’s all a bit muddled, but the idea I got was this: Stokley stole a lot of money over the years tricking people out of their paltry fortunes so he could lump it in with his enormous one. In other words; he would have made it perfectly on Wall Street. But the man is trying to make amends in his death by making sure the rightful heirs receive the money that was taken from their families. Ripper is none too pleased with this, wanting all the money for himself. So he concocts a plan where everyone gets their chunk of change after spending the night in Stokley’s haunted mansion. And of course he’s employed a whole host of people to scare the living daylights out of the guests, including his near sided daughter, Sinistra, J. Sinister Hulk and his inexplicably circus dwelling Native American associates Princess Yolanda and Chicken Feather. Oh and, of course, the latter two have an enormous, violent ape in a cage. His name is Monstro (no relation to the whale in Pinocchio).
The plot is complicated further when, during the séance, the nephew of elderly heir Myrtle arrives toting a bus full of people to have a Beach Party in the front yard of the mansion. The mansion isn’t located near any decipherable beach, but that’s never hindered a good beach party before. The bus is backfiring like crazy, just like every other car that drives up to Stokley Manor (I’m a little unclear as to why all the cars in this film needed tune-ups but I’m letting it slide), but it’s carrying Nancy Sinatra and Piccola Pupa, so we’re sure to have quality music time, as just for fun sometimes these characters break into song. Not in the musical type of way where it has any sort of point to the plot. We’re not singing our inner monologue here, we’re performing impromptu concerts.
And, then of course, because the plot isn’t convoluted enough and because this is a Beach Party movie, the Rat Pack gang led by Eric Von Zipper gets involved because Von Zipper sees Yolanda on the road and follows her around for awhile all stalker like. And then involves the whole gang as he noses around the creepy tunnels and secret passages of Stokley Manor. I guess because he’s discovered there may be riches aboard, but that’s not completely clear.
And of course there’s Cecily, the girl in the invisible bikini. Now, now, don’t get excited because the skin under Cecily’s invisible bikini is also invisible.
Causing me to think that it should be called The Ghost in the Bikini That Makes Her Invisible, but that’s just picking at straws. She’s there to make sure that Stokley’s good deed comes to pass, because Stokley can’t leave the Mausoleum where he’s buried. She really doesn’t do much except for distract Ripper every once in awhile and make gestures to the audience.
The whole thing is basically a sort of clusterfuck. In some ways it’s your basic Beach Party movie, with the farcical Rat Pack gang led by Von Zipper, the quasi-famous pop stars breaking into song every once in awhile to add both a musical element and minutes to the total runtime of the film, and the two youngsters who eventually fall for each other in their very sweet, innocent, and sixties way. And then in other ways it’s completely apart from the rest of the Beach Party series. It’s the only one that doesn’t star either Funicello or Avalon and it’s the only one that doesn’t take place on or anywhere near a beach. Which… well, they’re both glaringly obvious things to set it apart. But still, the spirit of the thing is the same and it’s all good fun. Overall I think I’d have to recommend this because it is what it is and there’s no way you could watch it expecting anything different. It was fun and ridiculous and pretty much exactly what I’d want from any B movie.