Saturday, July 14, 2007

Turner Classic Beach Blankets

In an effort to meet our goal of being both more culturally diverse and snooty at parties, Katie and I have been tuning in quite frequently to the Turner Classic Movies channel.

As soon as TCM’s Robert Osborne walks on the screen to introduce the movie, I feel immediately more cultured and refined. Almost certainly more so than, say, if I had instead decided to stick with the That’s So Raven marathon in which I was thoroughly engrossed. With Turner Classic Movies, it’s almost as if I shouldn’t be sitting there watching TV so casually dressed, but in more formal attire. Something with pants, perhaps.

You only need look around the living room set from which Mr. Osborne is addressing the viewers, regaling us with trivia and scandal that surrounded this particular movie, to realize you are in the presence of a man who knows and appreciates exceptional filmmaking.

Yes, thanks to Turner Classic Movies and Robert Osborne, Katie and I have been treated to such industry standards as Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, From Here to Eternity, Sunset Boulevard, and of course, Bikini Beach and it’s much heralded sequel, Beach Blanket Bingo.

What? Could it be you are calling into question TCM’s screening of these two mid-1960s gems? Do you find yourself wondering how Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello managed to finagle their way onto such highbrow programming? My snooty senses tell me you are not alone.

When Robert Osborne introduces the movies, you can sense something is wrong. (If you know Bobby like I know Bobby, you can just sense these things.) He’s awkward. He’s off kilter. He's embarrassed. Then, as if trying to redeem himself and maintain the integrity of the channel and Mr. Turner himself, Robert leaves the script. “….uhm…(shuffling of feet, light stammering, small chuckle)…other movies also released this year were, uh, Doctor Zhivago, The Sound of Music, and Othello, uh, starring Laurence Olivier! And now…(as if admitting defeat) on with the movie….”

So, we had to watch. Of course we did. We knew we were in for a delicious, anomalous treat. And oh, the pain! The inelegance! What a timeless tribute to surfers and blonde beach bums world wide. And by “timeless” I mean 1960s. And by “world wide” I mean southern California, between San Diego and Ventura. (Seriously, these movies were made for a very small demographic of people.)

And please note, Beach Blanket Bingo wasn’t so much a sequel as it was … well, somebody taking the template of Bikini Beach and changing a few names. For example, in Bikini Beach, Don Rickles owns a racing track and goes by the name of Big Drag; in Beach Blanket Bingo, Don Rickles owns a skydiving place and goes by the name of Big Drop. You can’t make this stuff up, folks. Well, actually you can. But don’t expect Turner Classic Movies to show it. I think they learned their lesson. It just about broke my heart when, at the end of the movies, they clipped back to Robert Osborne, huddled in a corner of the living room set, a whisky flask in one hand and his other hand attempting to hide his face from the camera. At least it made me feel better about watching TCM in my underwear.