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  Ride the Wild Surf Don't Forget The Water Wings
Year: 1964
Director: Don Taylor, Phil Karlson
Stars: Fabian Forte, Shelley Fabares, Peter Brown, Barbara Eden, Tab Hunter, Susan Hart, James Mitchum, John Anthony Hayes, Roger Davis, Catherine McLeod, Murray Rose, Robert Kenneally, David Cadiente, Mark LeBuse, Paul Tremaine, John Kennell, Yankee Chang
Genre: Comedy, Action, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: This may look like a normal jet plane, but for surfers it's a magic carpet flying to Hawaii where they can spend the winter riding the waves on their boards. They hail from all over the world, but these three men, Jody Wallis (Fabian Forte), Chase Colton (Peter Brown) and Steamer Lane (Tab Hunter) come from mainland America and have plans to enter the big contest which will be happening once the New Year's celebrations are over. In the meantime, they set about practicing, getting down to the beach and meeting their fellow surfers, and in some cases rivals, though a bonus they didn't count on is romance with three lovely ladies...

When A.I.P. were cleaning up at the box office with their Beach Party series, itself inspired by the success of Sandra Dee in Gidget, there were a number of pretenders to their surf flick throne, and Ride the Wild Surf was the attempt by Columbia to capitalise on that market. It didn't work out brilliantly, as while it was a modest hit it was Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello audiences wanted to see most in this context, but writers and producers Jo and Art Napoleon managed to secure the services of a couple of teen idols to make the girls swoon in the shape of Fabian and Tab, with male interest centering on the girlfriends in bikinis, Shelley Fabares, Barbara Eden and Susan Hart.

So if after all these years of I Dream of Jeannie reruns you have ever wondered what Barbara's navel actually looked like (she wasn't allowed to show it on television), then this was the movie for you, though she had her famously blonde hair dyed to a russet brown for some reason, presumably so all three leading ladies would have crowning glories of different hues all the better to distinguish them - Shelley was platinum blonde. The moviemakers knew what viewers wanted to see, so within about three nanoseconds of the opening credits everyone is in their bathing suits and hitting the beach, though they had a different motive other than showing off the beefcake and cheesecake, and that was to put Frankie Avalon's surfing to shame.

Not that Fabian, Peter and Tab actually performed their own stunts, the producers hired professionals to do that, but the footage of them riding the waves was among the best of the era, with selected shots to make the enthusiasts green with envy. This was the same year the indie Endless Summer was released, often considered the great sixties surf movie, but this one gave it a run for its money, only spoiled by the frequent inserts of the stars obviously in the studio and pretending to take part - was anyone fooled by that, even back then? That's not to mention the clips of them out on a suspiciously calm-looking ocean as they converse and prepare to take on the next big wave, but you had to expect a degree of movie magic.

If you could call that magic, but the Napoleons did have a sincere wish to depict surfing culture, so we spend as much time away from the water as we do in it. The trouble was, there was a distinct soap opera flavour as not five minutes go by without someone's feelings getting hurt, both romantically and in friendship, with the rivalries getting out of hand as Frank Decker (John Anthony Hayes) proves the chief antagonist, plus Robert Mitchum's lookalike son James Mitchum as Eskimo, the man they all have to beat. Surprisingly, the plotline didn't shy away from the injuries you can sustain while entering the sport, so noses and ribs get busted, which is a little more dramatic than the banal girlfriend problems the three leads have. Originally this was set to be a vehicle for pop duo Jan and Dean, but an unlucky association with one of Frank Sinatra Jr's kidnappers scuppered that idea (though the boys were innocent), yet with Fabian and Tab it's difficult to say if anyone would have noticed the difference anyway. They remained to perform the theme, co-written by Brian Wilson, and Stu Phillips took care of the groovy orchestral score.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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