Psycho Beach Party
|Psycho Beach Party|
|Directed by||Robert Lee King|
|Produced by||Virginia Biddle
|Written by||Charles Busch|
|Music by||Ben Vaughn|
|23 January 2000 (Sundance Film Festival)|
Psycho Beach Party is a 2000 comedy horror film based on the off-Broadway play of the same name, directed by Robert Lee King. Charles Busch wrote both the original play and the screenplay. As the title suggests, Psycho Beach Party, set in 1962 Malibu Beach, is a parody of 1950s psychodramas, 1960s beach movies and 1980s slasher films.
Florence Forrest (Lauren Ambrose) is a Gidget-like character determined to learn to surf, and earns the nickname "Chicklet" from the surfer guys. However Chicklet begins displaying multiple personalities, experiences inexplicable blackouts, and fears that she might be the one responsible for a series of mysterious murders in her beach-side town. The deaths are investigated by Captain Monica Stark (Charles Busch), who also suspects Chicklet's mother (Beth Broderick), Chicklet's best friend Berdine (Danni Wheeler), surfing guru The Great Kanaka (Thomas Gibson) and B-movie actress Bettina Barnes (Kimberley Davies).
Other characters include university drop-out (and Chicklet's love interest) Starcat (Nicholas Brendon), purported Swedish exchange student Lars (Matt Keeslar), surfers Yo-Yo (Nick Cornish) and Provoloney (Andrew Levitas), Starcat's girlfriend Marvel Ann (Amy Adams), whom he humiliates by accident when he rips off her bikini bottoms, leaving her bottomless on the beach, and the wheel-chair bound class "queen bee" Rhonda (Kathleen Robertson).
- Lauren Ambrose as Florence "Chicklet" Forrest
- Thomas Gibson as Kanaka
- Nicholas Brendon as Starcat
- Kimberley Davies as Bettina Barnes
- Matt Keeslar as Lars
- Charles Busch as Capt. Monica Stark
- Beth Broderick as Ruth Forrest
- Danni Wheeler as Berdine
- Nick Cornish as Yo-Yo
- Andrew Levitas as Provoloney
- Amy Adams as Marvel Ann
- Kathleen Robertson as Rhonda
- Nicholas D'Agosto as the counterman
Play and productions
The play was originally entitled Gidget Goes Psychotic, but the title was changed due to concerns about copyright. In the original 1987 production, Charles Busch played the role of Chicklet. Deciding that he might not be believable in the role of a sixteen-year-old girl ("while I can still manage, with the aid of a sympathetic cameraman, to play a sophisticated 25, 16 would be a stretch"), he added the character of Monica Stark to the movie.
After over 20 years, the play had its premiere UK production by Vertigo Theatre Productions in Manchester in March 2011. The production returned in August 2012 at Sacha's Hotel Ballroom. A production was held in Australia at the Bondi Pavilion Theatre from November to December 2012; productions also ran in Melbourne (notably at the Midsumma Festival) in early 2013, receiving generally positive reviews.
In a positive review, Stephen Holden of The New York Times states that the film "accomplishes what no stage production could. By assiduously copying the look and sound of those '60s movies -- the wriggling title sequences, the twangy surf music and the gawky gee-whiz screen acting style -- it definitively skewers the false innocence of American pop culture on the eve of the countercultural deluge. Most of the play's subversive humor has arrived on the screen intact." Los Angeles Times critic Kevin Thomas compared the film unfavorably to its source material, opining that it "has to be twice as funny a play as it is as a movie"; he further explains that "deliberate camp like this film presents a special challenge: It must generate and sustain a high level of energy or it will swiftly fall flat. The latter is too often the case here."
Praising the "strong women" of the film, Bob Graham of the San Francisco Chronicle also wrote that Busch (as Monica Stark) "captures the woman-alone-in-the-world toughness of the roles played by the stars he loves. It goes beyond camp. He is sincere." However, Graham reasoned that the film has "rough edges", despite conceding that "they probably work to this larky, cheeky picture's advantage". He subsequently notes that "In some instances, it's hard to tell the really bad acting from the intentionally bad acting." Dennis Lim of The Village Voice was negative, concluding that the film is an "awkward combination of garish set decoration and muffled humor" and that "the viewer is left to ponder the number of levels on which this counts as a pointless exercise—a parody of parodic movies, a deconstruction of transparent genres, [and] a self-negatingly knowing example of camp".
The film was released unrated on Region 1 DVD on November 8, 2005, by Strand Releasing. The disc contains an audio commentary with director Robert Lee King and screenwriter Charles Busch, the theatrical trailer, and the music video of "Tempest" by the band Los Straitjackets.
A Blu-ray was released on 18 August 2015.
The film runs for 95 minutes NTSC on its American DVD release, but the version that was submitted to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) runs 85 minutes. It was passed uncut with a 15 rating. suggesting that it may have been pre-cut by TLA Releasing before submission. Similarly, the version submitted by Magna Pacific to the Office of Film and Literature Classification in Australia in 2001 ran for 84 minutes. The film was rated M in Australia, indicating that the film may not have been cut due to concerns over material.
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- Graham, Bob (September 22, 2000). "Busch's 'Beach Party' In Awe of Strong Women / Comedy blends thriller with camp - SFGate". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- "Sand and kooky silhouettes prove perfect fit for summer". smh.com.au, Fairfax Media. Retrieved April 29, 2013.
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