G: The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966)

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A couple of boilerplate pieces of policy around here to start off with: on challenges like this, I try to either make the movies chosen ones I have not seen before, or at least one I haven’t seen in ten years or so. The second is I toss myself at least one softball per challenge.

An unofficial policy is that I have at least one Boris Karloff movie per Hubrisween, and I found to my horror that I had not included one in this year’s lineup (although I somehow managed to schedule four, count”em, four Paul Naschy movies). So imagine my surprise and delight and downright relief when I discovered that in the years and years since I had last seen Ghost in the Invisible Bikini I had somehow conflated it with How to Stuff a Wild Bikini, and instead of Buster Keaton, I got Boris Karloff. I never thought I’d be so happy to miss out on Buster Keaton.

Boris is Hiram Stokely, aka “The Corpse”, so-called because our titular Ghost, Susan Hart, visits him in his crypt to tell him he has a chance to get into heaven if he can engineer a good deed within twenty-four hours. The best opportunity will be at the upcoming reading of his will, making sure that his rightful heirs get his ill-gotten million dollars, and not his evil lawyer, Reginald Ripper (Basil Rathbone). Since he can’t leave the crypt, the Ghost will act as his agent in making that happen.

So these rightful heirs – Chuck (Tommy Kirk), Lili (Deborah Walley) and Myrtle (Patsy Kelley) arrive at Hiram’s mansion. Myrtle has invited her nephew Bobby (Aron Kincaid), since he’s her only blood kin – and therefore another rightful heir – and he brings along what we are asked to believe is the whole Beach Party gang, and suddenly Ripper’s plan to simply murder what he thought were the only three heirs has gotten dreadfully complicated.

Wait, did we say complicated? Ripper has hired J. Sinister Hulk (Jesse White) to do the dirty work, and he brings in his associates, Princess Yolanda (Bobby Shaw), the incredibly Jewish Indian Chicken Feather (Benny Rubin) and Monstro the Gorilla (George Barrows). AND. Eric Von Zipper and his Rat Pack manage to get themselves in there, too.

Ripper’s plan also involves his daughter Sinestra (Quinn O’Hara) seducing and murdering Bobby, much to the disgust of Bobby’s girlfriend Vicki (Nancy Sinatra!). When the truly lovely Sinestra, a redheaded knockout, is introduced, Ripper commands her to take off her glasses. As all right-thinking Americans know, eyeglasses only serve to make women super-hot, so all this does is verify Ripper’s villainy in our eyes. Actually, it saves Bobby’s life at least twice, as Sinestra has the Velma problem, and keeps killing statues and suits of armor instead of Bobby.

Needs more eyeglasses

I don’t think Ghost in the Invisible Bikini gets near enough credit as a work of demented, if desperate, genius, as one stupid thing after another happens. For instance, the production number which is a commercial for a toy that doesn’t exist, the Swing-A-Ma-Thing™, complete with theme song by the Bobby Fuller Four:

Honestly the Swing-A-Ma-Thing™ is so ridiculous, I had to spend a half hour on Google convincing myself that Wham-O hadn’t actually put it on the market that summer. Another thing that sticks out from the far remove of 2017 is the presence of Piccola Pupa (Piccola Pupa), who sings a song to Nancy Sinatra about why she should wear a bikini. Since the way she’s presented is pretty much a case of the movie saying “Look! Look! It’s Piccola Pupa!” some research is also justified there. Ms. Pupa was a discovery of Danny Thomas, made the rounds of TV in 65-66, and this is her first – and last – film role. Also, even if, like me, you only saw Big Top Pee-wee once, you will always think of her as “Piccolopoopalo”.

Did I mention That Hiram’s mansion also houses a Chamber of Horrors, so we can have our slapstick fight scene climax there? Or that Larry Buchanan’s monster suit from Attack of the the Eye Creatures has a cameo?

The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini, as amazing as I find it, killed the Beach Party franchise. It is obviously a dead franchise walking, anyway, as its two star attractions, Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, had both declined to participate. Tommy Kirk had only appeared in one previously (Pajama Party) and ditto Aron Kincaid (Ski Party). The only actual regulars are Eric Von Zipper and the Ratpack, the true Rosetta Stone of the Beach Party franchise. It is also, tellingly, the only Beach Party movie with absolutely no beach in it.

Producers Samuel Arkoff and James Nicholson outright rejected the first cut of the movie, and inserted the subplot with Karloff and Hart to increase the marketability. Their later inclusion is quite obvious, even before you know about it, but I do agree that The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini is a bigger draw than the original title, Beach Party in a Haunted House. Though the more salaciously minded among us might be disappointed that “invisible bikini” means Susan Hart did her scenes against a black velvet background wearing a black bikini, rendering those parts of her invisible, too.

This is the very definition of disposable entertainment, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a big, stupid grin on my face the entire time I was watching. You’re allowed to have fun on Hubrisween, after all.