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STUDIO: Dark Sky Films
RUNNING TIME: 162 Minutes
• Feature Commentary on both films
• An interview with Del Tenney (Party Beach)
• Photo Gallery (Living Corpse)
Party Beach: Beach Blanket Bingo meets The Creature from the Black Lagoon
Living Corpse: Seven meets House on Haunted Hill
Party Beach: John Scott, Alice Lyon, Allen Laurel, Eulabelle Moore, the Del-Aires
Living Corpse: Roy Scheider, Helen Warren, Candace Hilligoss, Robert Milli
In The Horror of Pary Beach, the second film by Del Tenney, dumped atomic waste turns human skeletons into blood-sucking sea monsters who terrorize the inhabitants of the titular beach. This film is billed as the first horror musical and while there is an abundance of music and original songs, they’re performed in the film not by the cast (as a traditional musical) but by a band at the beach. So, I don’t think it qualifies as a musical (although the only reason I bring that up is because the trailer makes a big deal of hyping it).
In The Curse of the Living Corpse, Tenney’s third film, an old man dies leaving behind vast amounts of money. In order for his family to receive their respective inheritances, they must follow certain rules set forth in his will, otherwise they’ll meet their deaths by means of their worst fear. How will Papa know? Well, he has a rare condition that renders his body cold and rigid every so often, giving him the superficial appearance of death. Nobody followed the rules, so the all-important question – is Papa really dead?
Nothing like a little head to start your day.
The Horror of Party Beach is a spoof film all the way. It takes off on the Frankie and Annette beach party movies as well as the Radioactive Monster flicks of the period. The only problem is that it’s not very good and as a spoof film it almost takes itself too seriously. It’s definitely a marked improvement from Violent Midnight (my review here), Tenney’s first film, but it still has its little problems. First, there’s the music, which rather than taking a backseat to accompany the story, is presented front and center as an element in the film all on its own. That’s fine to do in a musical (which this movie hypes itself as) but the numbers in a musical usually serve the story and help the narrative along, while the songs here have absolutely nothing to do with the story at all and only serve to cease the progression, becoming distracting and ultimately hurt the pacing.
The other problem I have is with the complete first act. We’re introduced to our main man Hank and his girlfriend Tina. Hank and Tina’s relationship has gotten a little rocky and she decides to have a little fun with the leader of the local biker gang at the beach party. Hank gets pissed off and ends up in a fight with the biker, which works as that’s what drives Tina off on her own, setting her up as the first victim of the monster. However, after the fight is over and Hank wins, the biker guy gets up, dusts himself off, shakes Hank’s hand and we never see him again. And Hank? It seems like he doesn’t even care that Tina’s dead as he immediately starts another relationship with local beauty Elaine. The fight, the girlfriend, it all seems like it was thought up solely to get Tina off by herself, but there are so many more efficient ways to do that rather than setting up storylines that have some potential just to leave them behind once Tina’s met her end.
Never have The Toadies seemed more relevant.
It’s also in the first act that we see how our monsters are created. A garbage ship dumps a barrel of toxic waste into the sea that hits a rock, splits open and leaks the material over a bunch of skeletons. Apparently toxic waste turns skeletons into sea monsters. Fine, I’ll suspend disbelief and go with that. But later, when the scientists are discussing the creatures’ origin, there’s this whole element of the toxic waste mutating the organs and tissues in the bodies of the dead, turning them into the zombie-like sea monsters. I guess they forgot that they spent 10 minutes showing a skeleton turn into the monster. Newsflash, skeletons don’t have tissue and organs.
However, all of that accounted for, the rest of the film is pretty decent. The monsters are of the man-in-suit variety and you can tell a great deal of their budget was spent designing the costumes, which look pretty great, if not a little ripped off from Gillman. The performances are nice and technically, the film was great as well. Aside from a few lighting issues, the photography and editing are well-done and it reminds me of Attack of the Giant Leeches, one of my favorite Corman films, so that’s a good thing.
Now, if Party Beach was good, The Curse of the Living Corpse is great. And it is, at least for it’s time. The concept is tight and interesting, the dialogue was restrained for a period piece, the acting was pretty damn good and most importantly, the plot device that gets Papa out of the coffin was believable, logical and creative, not relying on the easy-outs of voodoo, satanic intervention or black magic.
Attention musicians: Playing shitty music WILL make you go crazy.
There’s a decent body count here as well and even though there’s the usual cut-away from the violence aspect that are prevalent in most of the films from that era, there is a relatively healthy amount of gore, including a nice little severed head on a platter. In terms of the big reveal, I’m a little torn on how it was handled. It was really sudden and didn’t get really any dramatic buildup and, for some reason, I both like and dislike that at the same time. In an era where movies are built around the twist it’s nice to go back to a time when movies didn’t have to rely on that and can stand on the two legs of the story and the acting without having to hide behind the surprise, but at the same time I really didn’t see it coming so maybe it was worthy of a little buildup.
At any rate, even if I didn’t enjoy Party Beach, Living Corpse alone would be worth the disc, but the fact that I enjoyed both flicks is a bonus.
Again Dark Sky does an excellent job of designing the cover art here. Although while Violent Midnight’s excellent design didn’t sell the film at all, the cover here doesn’t have that problem, structured like the double feature bills that used to be in newspapers and on theater walls. The Party Beach artwork does an awesome job of selling the camp and is a great representative of the film inside. Living Corpse really captures the period aesthetic and features the aforementioned severed head, which is probably the highlight effect of the whole movie.
It’s the lost Village Person!
Each flick has it’s own set of special features, with Party Beach getting a commentary and an interview with Del and Living Corpse getting a commentary, a photo gallery and some trailers. The interview was nice and had some nice information about how Del got into the industry and how these two films were created, but honestly, I didn’t listen to either commentary. My curiosity was satiated with the interview and I didn’t think there would be anything worthwhile in the commentaries, especially given how soft and relaxing (read: sleep-inducing) Tenney’s voice is.
All-in-all, this is a good disc to own if you’re a fan of Tenney or campy black and white horror films in general.
7.0 out of 10