It's A Bikini World (1967) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

It’s A Bikini World (1967)

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It's time for some sadness, everyone. As I write this, it's late August. The days are getting shorter, the temperatures are dropping slowly, and the ability to go to the beach and 'just chill' is slowly being drained from our national lexicon.

It's time for the hazy dusk of nostalgia to kick in for me. And what would a child from of the 1980's who grew up in Illinois do but reminiscence about California in the 1960's?

Luckily, this was a fertile time for a certain type of cinema, one pioneered by American International Pictures and carried by the likes of the swimsuit clad bodies of James Darren, Frankie Avalon, and, of course, Annette Funicello. Carried in on the coattails of her bikini and the aching adolescent longings of doe eyed teeanger Baby Boomers, the beach party genre was born.

Always set on a beach somewhere and featuring surfing and a laborious rite of passage into monogamous adulthood, these films can be charming (Gidget) or amusing (Beach Party), but more often than not they become a vague mishmash of cliches. Watching most of these films today is a tepid experience of corny gags, hollow callbacks, and mild sexual innuendo that always reenforces cultural norms... but, damn, I can't say that they don't look like they're having fun while they're doing it.

Tommy Kirk and a horse's ass. The director's joke is not subtle here.

Registering in on the mishmash side of things is the 1967 Tommy Kirk vehicle, It's A Bikini World. It's a film that's as bland as its leading man, an actor forever doomed to have the description "clean cut" placed before his name. Kirk came from the same Walt Disney family friendly cloth that spawned Annette Funicello, and made the same leap from cheesy television movies to the beach party genre. He's easily recognizable for having the dorkiest smile in the world.

And for some reason, in It's A Bikini World, he plays a lady killer sports superstar who makes all the chicks swoon. Sure, movie, I can pretend that I could buy that.

With a black hole like Kirk and the lead and a leading lady by the name of Deborah Walley (yes, she of Gidget Goes Hawaiian) as the romantic foil, we can only expect the best from our plot, and that we'll get. Here you go: guy falls in love with girl, girl thinks he's too cocky. Guy invents alter ego named Herbert to seduce girl, girl goes for it. Girl still hates cocky guy, challenges him at all sorts of sports, seeks comfort for her losses in Herbert's arms.

You know, that rigamarole.

Another staple of these films are the musical performances from mostly inconsequential bands. Here we have The Toys, The Animals... yeah, I don't know who they are, either. The best is The Castaways with their song "Liar Liar." Here it is as it's shown in the movie. Pay attention to how the director frames the band:

(I never knew it wasn't a woman singing those high pitched parts until this movie.)

It's A Bikini World delves heavily into various hip sports-- water skiing, surfing, car racing-- and through these competitions we get to witness a phenomenon not solely limited to beach movies, but definitely a staple: faux feminism. Basically, Walley's character can't be satisfied until she beats Kirk. No matter how much she trains, prepares or knows more than Kirk, he still can beat her because he's a man.

How un-groovy!

Walley won't be defeated, and carries on in the name of womanhood. The final series of races-- which comprise the last thirty minutes of the movie-- comes down to the wire. Kirk loses, but simply because he let's her win. She accepts this, and the end up together, that whole Herbert thing quickly forgotten. It's such a dumb ending, but the beauty is that it still fits perfectly.

But, like I said before, as bad and bland as the movie is, it's a beach party movie. I can't hate it. It's dumb, it's stupid, but it's fascinating to me. This was considered risque fifty years ago-- today it's a children's cartoon. What will it be tomorrow?

Note: It should be said that, in spite of the title, not all of the characters in this film wear a bikini. This is probably for the best considering how Kirk looks in just swim trunks.

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Posted by Danny

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  1. Don’t know The Toys, OK, but not knowing The Animals?! You don’t deserve to be writing anything about the ’60s, even a low-grade beach movie.

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