I have not seen BACK TO THE BEACH in many years; even in its 1987 release, both Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon had aged significantly in years and even the concept of bringing the BEACH BLANKET BINGO stars back was a strange concept for Paramount, who at that point seemed more invested in sequels, the TOP GUN success and John Hughes pictures. There isn’t terribly much of a plot here and more tongue in cheek jokes with then celebrity cameos. The movie imagines what life is like for Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello if they went past their prime, moved to Ohio, had a wise-cracking kid (a very funny Demian Slide) and get an opportunity to return to California for a vacation, and the 80s version of Beach movie wackiness ensues.
The level of camp here is terrific. The filmmakers are very aware, for example, of process photography (the process where the “action” is just projected on a screen behind the actors as they pretend to be in the actual setting, a process that is replaced these days by green and blue screen imaging) and even have some fun clearly pointing it out. Pee Wee Herman is the standout cameo here with a Surfin Bird cover that was great timing due to the success of PEE WEE’S PLAYHOUSE at the time. And even though times have changed and much has happened over the year, I admit I still laughed at OJ Simpson still makes for a fun cameo at the airport.
I remember seeing some of the Frankie and Annette movies as a kid on TV and these totally were a product of their time. Even with that said, it’s all so wonderful to see this movie again and the amazing fun detail. I can’t see a 2022 update or reboot really happening, even though a lot of the surviving talents here still prevail in one form or another.
BACK TO THE BEACH is very unapologetic about what it is and its intentions, and it’s somewhat refreshing to see all of this. I wonder if a remake or reboot that called back to the 60s would work, but either way it’s nice to see a re-release of this movie for new audiences to find.
About the Blu Ray:
This re-release of BACK TO THE BEACH is a very strong one, featuring a new transfer in the proper 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This is a 80s movie through and through and the 35mm film stock is very noticeable right away on an airplane sequences. The opening title cards have vibrant, hot pink colours that really stood out. There are also a few flashbacks to older Frankie and Annette shows and I was very impressed by the quality. The sound mix is remastered in DTS Master Audio and in 5.1, but it’s mostly a flatter Dolby Stereo presentation with limited surrounds and a decent presentation of the VERY fun soundtrack (hey, remember Eddie Money?). As per usual, I would hope that Paramount would go on the full on 4k/HDR disc restoration, or even supply a 4k transfer to Apple, but this still is a solid release and went way beyond expectations.
The only bonus feature here is a quick featurette from director Lyndall Hobbs and is featured against a lovely drawn menu screen. As per usual, a Digital Copy is also included which redeems to HD in Apple TV. While I would have loved a 4k disc and added features, this is still a solid release with a vibrant new transfer. This is a Paramount Presents title in the United States but a standard Blu Ray release in Canada.
BACK TO THE BEACH is now available on Blu Ray. Our thanks to Paramount for sending along a copy for review.