Waterlogged: CATALINA CAPER (Crown International 1967)

Beach Party movies had run their course by 1967, as AIP released their final entry in the surf cycle, THE GHOST IN THE INVISIBLE BIKINI, with Tommy Kirk  and Deborah Walley replacing Frankie and Annette , and nary a beach in sight. Crown International Pictures, AIP ‘s impoverished cousin (if one can imagine!), produced what is considered the last of the genre, CATALINA CAPER, also starring Kirk and a cast of dozens.

CATALINA CAPER is basically an lame excuse to get a bunch of young hardbodies on the beach and let ’em dance around to some dated rock music. Believe it or not, there’s a plot (though not a very good one) involving the theft of an ancient Chinese scroll masterminded by one of the teen’s con artist parents (Del Moore, Sue Casey) and a gangster trying to get ahold of it. There’s also a subplot (imagine that!) about Kirk torn between his bud’s sister (Venita Wolf) and a beautiful foreign chick (Ulla Stromstedt of TV’s FLIPPER), whose current boyfriend is working for the gangster. Said boyfriend is played by a pre-CAROL BURNETT SHOW/WONDER WOMAN Lyle Waggoner, who I’m pretty sure would like to leave this off his resume!

There are other Familiar Faces caught up in this no-budget nonsense. Robert Donner, known for roles on THE WALTONS, MORK & MINDY, and 6 John Wayne Movies, tries to be funny as a bungling insurance investigator. He’s not. Peter Duryea, son of noir icon Dan Duryea , is one of the young’uns, and proves that talent isn’t always inherited. Michael Blodgett of BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS infamy is another groovy teen, and gets a choreographer’s credit to boot! The rest of the cats and kittens are undistinguished unknowns who never went on to anything of note.

We do get some music, consisting mostly of past-their-expiration-date acts that probably cost short money to hire, though somehow the producers got Motown’s Mary Wells to sing the title tune, “Never Steal Anything Wet”. 50’s rock pioneer Little Richard is onboard to do “Scuba Party”, complete with his signature “Woooo”s, and it’s the best thing about the film. The Cascades and their puffy shirts cover a Kinks number, “There’s a New World”. Ray Davies should’ve sued! Carol Connors (not the porn star, but the former lead singer of The Teddy Bears) performs “Book of Love”, backed by The Cascades and those puffy shirts. Connors did better for herself when she cowrote “The Theme from ROCKY (Gonna Fly Now)”, earning an Oscar nomination.

Lee “Roll ‘Em” Sholem directed with all the subtlety of an anvil dropped on your head. Sholem managed to have a long career doing B’s like SUPERMAN AND THE MOLE MAN, TOBOR THE GREAT, CANNIBAL ATTACK, and a slew of episodic TV. The DP is none other than Ted “TV” Mikels, future director of cult classics THE ASTRO-ZOMBIES, THE CORPSE GRINDERS, and THE DOLL SQUAD. Robert Caramico, another name familiar to Grindhouse fans, is credited as camera operator. The two did manage to get some good underwater photography done, at least.

CATALINA CAPER ended the Beach Party era with a definite whimper, not a bang. There’s not a whole lot to recommend here, even if you’re a fan of the genre. The plot’s dumb, the comedy unfunny, and the music isn’t that great. The bikinied babes are all hot, though. I guess that counts for something!

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