Cast & Crew
Terry, Sylvia, and Junior arrive in Malibu Beach from Arizona to vacation and to visit Terry's brother Skeet, a former football star whose career was ended by a skull injury. Sylvia falls in love with Skeet; Terry falls in love with Len, the operator of a local surf shop; and Junior falls in love with Milo, another surfer. Milo is injured in an accident while trying to qualify for membership in Skeet's unruly surfing club, "The Lodge." As a result of the accident, Len argues with Skeet, and they are about to fight when Terry warns Len that Skeet's football injury is still dangerous. Skeet is further humiliated when he gives a party, and Pauline, a wealthy older woman, finds him in the bedroom with Sylvia. Pauline reveals that she has been keeping Skeet. Skeet realizes how much he loves Sylvia and decides to return to Arizona with her. The girls enjoy the rest of the vacation with their boyfriends.
Harold E. Knox
Harold E. Knox
Surf Party was directed by Maury Dexter from a script by Harry Spalding, who had collaborated on several films, including Fox's The Young Swingers (1963). The plot is the usual teenage fare; three girls, Terry (Patricia Morrow), Sylvia (Lory Patrick), and Junior (singer Jackie DeShannon) come to California from their home in Arizona to learn to surf. Once there, they visit Terry's surfer brother, Skeet (Jerry Summers) who had to abandon his football career after a head injury and is living in a Malibu beach house. Predictably, Sylvia falls for Skeet, Terry falls for Len (singer Bobby Vinton, who only worked three days on the film), the owner of a surf shop, and Junior falls for surfer Milo (Ken Miller). Like most teenage films of the time, there are conflicts with the establishment who are against surfers, fights, misunderstandings, and makeups. What makes Surf Party interesting is the footage of real surfers Mickey Dora and Johnny Fain, doubling for the stars, and the cast of musicians. Along with Vinton and DeShannon, who both sing, there were the bands The Routers and The Astronauts (a surf band from Denver who hit the Top 10 with Baja), who make an appearance to perform a few songs. Member of The Routers, who had a hit with Let's Go!, included Scott Walker, who would later score several hits with The Walker Brothers, and Michael Z. Gordon, both of whom later became successful producers and composers.
Surf Party was released in early 1964 and received the type of reviews expected of such blatant teenaged fare. Eugene Archer of The New York Times wrote that he'd seen it all before, comparing it to the "youth" oriented films of the 1920s, with only the bathing suits and the dances changed. "[T]hey bounce into passionless love affairs, take reckless surfboard risks in pointless tests of courage and display an alarming lack of inhibitions and not a trace of social responsibility. It's enough to make you wonder what modern youth is coming to." The critics may not have liked the film, but it went over big with its intended audience - and that was most definitely not the critics.
In his profile of Bobby Vinton in Life magazine the following year, writer Alan Levy related an anecdote about how Surf Party was considered at its home studio. "The pile of clippings I accumulated revealed that Bobby Vinton had made one movie - Surf Party. I launched an effort to see it. [...] There were indications that Surf Party was released through 20th Century-Fox, so I phoned a friend who works there. 'You've got the wrong number,' he told me. 'We don't release that kind of movie. Columbia Pictures does. We make Cleopatra and The Longest Day. Call Columbia about Surf Party.' I did and was told [...] 'I'm sorry to say he made Surf Party for Fox. I wish to hell he'd made it for us because it's earned a fortune in the drive-ins. [...]'"
By Lorraine LoBianco
Archer, Eugene "'Surf Party' Opens" The New York Times 12 Mar 64
The Internet Movie Database
Levy, Alan "He's at the top of the charts and his records sell like there's no tomorrow, so who is this Bobby Vinton?" Life 12 Mar 65
Lisanti, Thomas Hollywood Surf and Beach Movies: The First Wave, 1959-1969
Rowan, Terry Bikini, Surfing & Beach Party Movies