Sunday, December 4, 2022

The 2022 Ed-Vent Calendar, Day 4: Publicity stills from 'The Beach Bunnies' (1976)

Based on that spelling of "colour," I'd say this Betamax copy of The Beach Bunnies hails from England.

I've said it before, but depending on how you look at it, Stephen C. Apostolof's The Beach Bunnies (1976) could be considered Ed Wood's final film. After all, it's the last feature film based on one of Eddie's original scripts to go into production during his own lifetime. Wood and Apostolof would collaborate on one more film, the ill-fated jewel heist comedy Hot Ice (1978), but I'll be darned if I can figure out precisely what Eddie did on that one. (On at least one resume, he claimed to have written it, but Apostolof himself disputed that.)

My point is, despite being a sleazy seaside sex comedy with an unfortunate rape subplot, The Beach Bunnies is a milestone film in the Ed Wood canon. 

Anyway, while researching Dad Made Dirty Movies: The Erotic World of Stephen C. Apostolof, Jordan Todorov and I went through reams of photographs from Steve Apostolof's personal archives, including some rarely-seen B&W publicity stills from The Beach Bunnies. I thought, for the fourth day of the Ed-Vent Calendar, we'd go through them together.

Marland Proctor (lower right corner) admires the elusive Pink Bikini Girl.

One of the oddities of The Beach Bunnies is that it devotes a sizable amount of its climactic bonfire scene to a character who is never named nor even credited: a raven-haired lass I have dubbed Pink Bikini Girl. While the film's other characters are sorting out their romantic misunderstandings and wrapping up assorted subplots, director Steve Apostolof apparently gets bored with them and simply points his camera at this striking young lady as she dances sensually on the beach. It's a good decision. There's even a publicity still of this dancer, so Steve obviously wanted to use her image to market The Beach Bunnies.

Johnny Fain and Linda Gildersleeve in The Beach Bunnies.

The closest thing The Beach Bunnies had to a "star" in its cast was professional surfer Johnny Fain, charmingly billed as Johnny Aquaboy. His character, an overprivileged layabout named Dennis, romances one of the film's four main female characters, Sheila (Linda Gildersleeve). In the photo above, we see Johnny and Linda posing with Johnny's now-antiquated Kennedy longboard. Incidentally, Kennedy is a maker of custom surf equipment in the Woodland Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles. Their family-owned Ventura Boulevard store is still open as of 2022. 

A Japanese tourist (right) and his parasol-toting companion in The Beach Bunnies.

To the extent that The Beach Bunnies has a "main" storyline, it involves celebrity gossip reporter Elaine Street (Brenda Fogarty) as she relentlessly pursues movie star Rock Sanders (Marland Proctor) for a story. (She wants to confirm whether or not Rock is undergoing a sex change. Spoiler: he isn't.) Like Wile E. Coyote, Elaine tries one wacky ploy after another to get Rock's attention. One gambit involves wading into the ocean and pretending to be attacked by a shark, hoping that Rock will rescue her. Instead, it's an unnamed Japanese tourist who "saves" the day. Ed Wood and Steve Apostolof were not known for their subtlety when it came to humor. So the Japanese man has the obligatory giant camera dangling around his neck, while his companion carries one of those pleated parasols (properly known as Wagasa).

Wendy Cavanaugh, Mariwin Roberts, Brenda Fogarty, and Linda Gildersleeve.

Though the Elaine/Rock story takes up the most screen time, The Beach Bunnies is an ensemble comedy at heart. Set at a beach resort, the film focuses around four vacationing female friends: the aforementioned Elaine and Sheila, plus Bonnie (Wendy Cavanaugh) and Lorrie (Mariwin Roberts). Each lady gets her own, individual subplot, and all four of them meet up occasionally to discuss how things are going. Director Steve Apostolof may have been trying to cultivate a new repertory cast, since three of these ladies (Cavanaugh, Roberts, and Gildersleeve) returned for Hot Ice. Sadly, that turned out to be Steve's final film.