Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Shatner's Bikini

No, unfortunately William Shatner is not seen in 1963's OPERATION BIKINI, but he does play a part in its memorable (but stupid, as Arte Johnson might say) finale. AIP house editor Anthony Carras made his directing debut with this very inexpensive black-and-white war drama with a beach party cast. It is not good at all, but I’m glad I stuck it out to the better end. Note my surprise when the closing narration was read by none other than William Shatner, who probably recorded his speech during one of his sessions dubbing star Mark Damon in AIP’s THE YOUNG RACERS. I’d be curious to know how Shatner landed these voiceover gigs, as he never starred in an AIP production and was at the time an in-demand television and stage actor too busy, one would think, for voice roles.

Lt. Hayes (Tab Hunter) and his underwater demolition team hitches a ride about a submarine captained by Carey (Scott Brady), who takes them to Bikini Atoll, so they can destroy a sunken American sub before the Japanese can salvage it. Carey’s crew resents being used as a taxi, especially because they’d rather be out firing torpedoes at the ship that sank their buddies, and Hayes’ men are uncomfortable cooped up in the sub’s tight quarters. Eventually, they get to the atoll, where Hayes’ team run into more of the enemy than they expected, as well as native girl Reiko (Eva Six), who rubs lotion on Tab’s back as foreplay the night before the big mission.

Slow pacing and dumb scripting seriously hobble this cheapie, which had to have played the back ends of AIP double bills. Carras digs a ton of stock footage out of the library to try to hold this movie together, but the tiny budget producer Sam Arkoff stuck him with meant he had to shoot everything on small sets and familiar backlots (actually, I think the GILLIGAN’S ISLAND lagoon may have been a location). At least the cast is a capable one; Frankie Avalon, Gary Crosby, Jim Backus, Jody McCrea and Aki Aleong (who still acts!) play Hunter’s team, and Michael Dante and Richard Bakalyan are on Brady’s crew. However, John Tomerlin’s screenplay makes little attempt to provide the characters with any background, outside of Crosby’s story about hunting with his dad and Avalon being girl-crazy.

Oh, yeah, Avalon. The most bizarre moments of this otherwise humdrum drama are Frankie’s musical fantasies, in which he sings two songs while he and two girls are superimposed over color jungle scenery. And for this, Frankie’s manager, Bob Marcucci, receives a “Technical Advisor Dream Sequences” credit! Even stranger is the end, where Shatner’s monologue first plays over an atomic bomb blast, which cuts to color footage of two contemporary honeys frolicking in bikinis on a beach, while the credits flash. I have no idea what Carras was doing here, except AIP probably used the bikini girls in the trailer to trick unsuspecting moviegoers. Carras, by the way, never again directed for AIP, but he did receive a promotion from editor to producer of several Beach Party movies.

No comments: