Musical Monday: Pajama Party (1964)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:

Pajama Party (1964) – Musical #318

Studio:

American International Pictures

Director:

Don Weis

Starring:
Annette Funicello, Tommy Kirk, Elsa Lanchester, Jody McCrea, Harvey Lembeck, Jessie White, Buster Keaton, Bobbi Shaw, Donna Loren, Candy Johnson, Ben Lessy, Susan Hart, Luree Holmes, Cheryl Sweeten, Michael Nadar, Kerry Kollmar, Joi Holmes

Cameo: Frankie Avalon, Dorothy Lamour, Dorothy Kilgallen

Dancers: Teri Garr (as Teri Hope), Toni Basil

Plot:
Connie (Funicello) is frustrated because her boyfriend Big Lunk (McCrea) is more concerned with athletics than her. When Gogo/George the Martian (Kirk) visits Earth to help with an invasion from Mars, he falls in love with Connie. In the meantime, J. Sinister Hulk (White) wants to rob Big Lunk’s rich Aunt Wendy (Lanchester), and Eric Von Zipper (Lembeck) and his gang have beef with Big Lunk.

Trivia:
• Only film of Cheryl Sweeten, who was Miss Colorado of 1963.

• The first “Beach Party” film appearance for Susan Hart, Bobbi Shaw and Buster Keaton.

• Keenan Wynn appears in a portrait of Aunt Wendy’s late husband, though he isn’t credited.

• Showed strong similarities to the play “The Maid and the Martian” though the play writers weren’t credited.

• Luree Holmes (the perfume seller who dumped perfume on Buster Keaton) was the daughter of producer James H. Nicholson. The child modeling the “topless bathing suit,” is Joi Holmes, daughter of Luree Holmes and granddaughter of James H. Nicholson.

• One of only two AIP beach films not directed by William Asher. The other is “Ghost in the Invisible Bikini.”

• The young boy who kept saying “Mush,” was Terry Kollmar, Dorothy Kilgallen’s son. It was his only film role, which Dorothy also has a cameo in.

Highlights:
• David Winters choreography

• Dorothy Lamour’s scene

Notable Songs:
• “Pajama Party” performed by Annette Funicello

• “Among the Young” performed by Donna Loren

• “Where Did I Go Wrong?” performed by Dorothy Lamour

• “There Has to be a Reason” performed by Tommy Kirk and Annette Funicello

Donna Loren singing "Among the Young"

My review:
If you are looking for an Academy Award-winning musical, you should stop right here. But if you are looking for a ridiculous good time, you’ve come to the right place.

PAJAMA PARTY (1964) is downright silly with some jokes that will leave you shaking your head. But it is also so much fun, extremely colorful, and has excellent dancing and songs.

However, I’ll also note, that if you want to see surfing footage, you should maybe stop here too. Instead of surfing, there is dancing and volleyball on the beach, but most of the action takes place besides a luxurious swimming pool.

There are lots of characters and subplots to keep up with in this movie:

-Connie (Annette) is angry that her boyfriend Big Lunk (McCrea) is more interested in volleyball practice and doesn’t pay much attention to her.

-Martians want to invade Earth. They send Gogo (Kirk) to Earth to pave the way, but he falls in love with Connie.

-Big Lunk’s Aunt Wendy (Lanchester) runs a dress shop that doesn’t make much money but she is still somehow rich. Gangster J. Sinister Hulk (White) thinks the money is in the house and plots to rob her. He is helped by a Native American (Keaton) and his Swedish sidekick (Shaw).

-Erik Von Zipper (Lembeck) hates Big Lunk and his friends and wants to get rid of them. 

Now while this film is called PAJAMA PARTY, no one gets into their jammies until 58-minutes into this 75 minute movie. And the actual pajama party doesn’t happen until an hour and 11 minutes into the film. So until the slumber party occurs, there’s dancing, singing and gags throughout.

Compared to most of the beach films, this film matches more of a musical format than most beach films. This film features fantastic choreographed dances by David Winters, famed choreographer and also Arab in “West Side Story.” Some highlights are a volleyball game featuring Toni Basil (who later became a famed choreographer) and the title “Pajama Party” number at the end. It should be no surprise that Annette Funicello dances well during these numbers as well, since she was a trained dancer.

Another major highlight is Dorothy Lamour’s number in the dress shop, where she sings about the differences between dances of her day and the contemporary dances, as she tries to keep up with the models. The whole number makes me smile the whole time.

There are some laughs in the movie. One thing that maybe was unintentional (I’m not sure) that gave me a big laugh was when Annette gets mad at Tommy Kirk because she fell in love with a Martian. Not because he’s a Martian trying to invade Earth.

Of course with most beach movies, my biggest complaint is “not enough Annette.” And if you are missing Frankie Avalon here, just wait until the end. My other complaint with this and every other beach movie is that there’s too much Erik Von Zipper. I could do without him entirely. As for Buster Keaton, I have conflicting feelings about it. These films revitalized his career and popularity, but the roles were also demeaning to his true talent. Here, Keaton plays a Native American which is in poor taste.

Also keep your eyes peeled for a Keenan Wynn “cameo” (sort of) in the form of a painting.

PAJAMA PARTY is colorful, absurd, and a lot of fun. Even though some parts are so silly, you can’t help but laugh and smile.

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