From the Surf to the Screen: A Cultural Analysis of Beach Party Films

Paper by Cole Kronman.

It’s the 1960s, and the American film industry is in a state of unrest. The studio system of classical Hollywood has crumbled due to dramatic social and industrial change, and from the wreckage, a new style of filmmaking emerges that, in a number of ways, challenges cinematic norms.

One of the more significant changes is the rise of “exploitation” films. Exploitation as a genre is broad, and contains many sub-genres, some well-known, some obscure; exploitation horror, exploitation sci-fi, and “blaxploitation” are all examples of the former. Beach party films are an example of the latter.

These films, which took off following the release of Beach Party in 1963, lasted for only the rest of the decade and were all low-budget and highly formulaic. And yet, their mass-market appeal made them highly profitable. This indicated not only the success and saturation of exploitation films, but also the existence of a burgeoning youth rebellion during the 1960s. Beach Party serves as an excellent lens through which to analyze these points, as it remains the genre’s archetypal film; all others following it were more or less imitations of its themes and

Posted at 6am on 05/24/16 | 1 comment | Filed Under: Academic Papers, DVD, Films read on

Shanghai Express (von Sternberg, 1932): USA

Viewed by Larry Gleeson during TCM Classic Film Festival.

Shanghai Express,  a 1932 Pre-Code U.S. production, based on a book by Harry Harvey, written by Jules Furthman, and directed brilliantly by Joseph von Sternberg, is a story of one-time lovers, Shanghai Lily, played by Marlene Dietrich, and Captain “Doc” Harvey played by Clive Brook, who rediscover each other during an exciting, yet dangerous, train ride from Peiping (Peking) to Shanghai. Complete with stabbings, machine gun fire, and plenty of physical altercations the Shanghai Express is a non-stop action/adventure with high production values encapsulated within a melodramatic narrative.

Interestingly enough, most passengers on the train are more concerned that the notorious Shanghai Lily is on board rather than the fact that the country is enmeshed in a bloody civil war. Shanghai Lily is referred to as a “coaster, a woman who lives by her wits along the China Coast.” In essence, it is a nice way of saying she is a woman who indulges in casual affairs as a means to an end – a lavish lifestyle of beautiful gowns and stunning jewelry. Yet, when Chinese guerillas stop the train

Posted at 1pm on 05/14/16 | no comments | Filed Under: Films read on