‘Weird atomic beasts who live off human blood!’
The Horror of Party Beach is a 1963 American horror feature film co-produced and directed by Del Tenney, which he himself described as “a take-off on beach parties and musicals” from a screenplay by Richard Hilliard (also the cinematographer). The movie stars John Scott, Alice Lyon, Allen Laurel and Marilyn Clarke.
The original 1964 theatrical release by 20th Century Fox (!) paired it with another Tenney feature, The Curse of the Living Corpse, in a studio-sanctioned double feature.
Unlike the beach party movies filmed up to that time, this film was shot in black and white and on the Atlantic coast. Produced in Stamford, Connecticut, the beach scenes were filmed in an area of town called Shippan Point. The film was shot in three weeks.
The monsters for the film were constructed at Gutzon Borglum’s sculpting studio at Mount Rushmore. There were three monster suits, and when they dried, one was too small for the stuntman. Production assistant Ruth Glassenberg Freedman had a son who was sixteen at the time. He fit perfectly into the suit and thus portrayed a monster in the film.
The “underwater” transformation scene of the monsters was actually shot on a stage with images of fish in an aquarium superimposed over the dissolving stage shots. Chocolate syrup was used for blood during the monster attack scenes.
Although billed in its promotional material as “The First Horror Monster Musical,” all the songs heard in the film were presented as either soundtrack music or source music, as opposed to the style of a traditional musical with songs sung by central characters of the story.
Ray Dennis Steckler’s The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies also made the same claim a few months earlier.
Future movie actor and director Edward Earle Marsh aka Zebedy Colt (The Devil Inside Her) composed the film’s soundtrack; Wilfred Holcombe was credited as the musical director. All six songs in the film were performed by The Del-Aires.
A small East Coast beach town experiences a wave of attacks from creatures derived from water plants and dead human tissue mutated from radioactive waste. The monsters coalesced into humanoid form by attaching themselves to skeletons in a shipwreck. They immediately proceed to hunt down and kill (mostly young) women, as is common in the horror films of this era.
Despite the murders committed by the monsters, young women in large numbers conveniently keep returning to the area for activities like slumber parties. Trying to stop the monsters are scientist Doctor Gavin, his young-adult daughter Elaine, and her boyfriend (and Doctor Gavin’s employee) Hank Green, with some unexpected assistance from housekeeper Eulabelle and metallic sodium.
Hank and his immature girlfriend, Tina, are driving to the beach. Tina is drinking alcohol. Hank expresses disapproval and they argue. Meanwhile, a boat dumps toxic waste into the ocean, which lands on a sunken ship and the skull of a dead sailor, which transforms slowly into a half-human, half-fish monster. The monster then proceeds to make its way to the surface…
“Making the film even more awkward is the fact that the filmmakers didn’t even bother clearing the beach and a crowd of people are always around the dancers and actors just watching, as if partying on the beach is some sort of spectator sport. The whole setting is just awkward and lazy.” Sam Tweedle, Confessions of a Pop Culture Addict
“It carries itself with a passable energy and basic professional competence and never drags or wears out its welcome. The film is at its best during about the first 15 minutes where Del Tenney seemingly conducts a tick list of 1960s exploitation elements…” Moria
“This film is panned by most critics but those people don’t know what they’re talking about. This film is a blast, it’s definitely original and the lower budget adds to the charm. The monsters are goofy looking and the acting is bad, but that’s what makes this so good. If you were a fan of the classic Humanoids from the Deep this is right up your alley.” Movie Graveyard
“This film does have a noticeably high body count, which is sensationalised in setpiece sequences with bunches of extras and bit part actors being clawed to death, and a curious section where a montage of women being drained of blood is superimposed over clips of an office and some bloke walking beside a building. Dynamic! Yes, it is daft, it is cheesy, it isn’t exciting, but it has a certain verve and enthusiasm that keeps the whole affair afloat.” Graeme Clark, The Spinning Image
“Script, direction, acting and make-up are all quite execrable.” Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook
“A classic of superior ineptitude.” John Stanley, Creature Features
“The question in The Horror of Party Beach is, which is more horrible – the monsters or the rock ‘n’ roll?” The New York Times, 1964
The advertising for the double feature of Horror of Party Beach and Living Corpse capitalised on a gimmick first utilised by director William Castle, in which some newspaper advertisements included a call-out that stated: “For your protection! We will not permit you to see these shockers unless you agree to release the theater of all responsibility for death by fright!” Movie houses were encouraged by the distributor to have patrons sign a “Fright Release” before they took their seats. The trailer for the double feature also included this claim.
On August 28, 2018, Severin Films released the movie on Blu-ray featuring a new 2k scan from the original negative, plus extras.
Buy Blu-ray: Amazon.com
- Return to Party Beach: A Retrospective Documentary on The Horror of Party Beach
- It’s the Living End: An Encounter with The Del: Aires – Interview with band members Bobby Osborne and Ronnie Linares
- Shock & Roll: Filmmaker Tim Sullivan on Rock & Roll Horror Movies
- Archival interview with Director Del Tenney