This is the tenth entry in The Retro Set’s nostalgic look back at the beach party films of the 1960s.
The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini: Not Invisible Enough
“I’ve heard of love at first sight, but never hate!”
The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini is one of those movies where you sit through the end credits in hope of an apology. It’s bizarrely bad, with four story lines intersecting with little or no care. Shall I explain it to you? It’ll save you from watching the movie, which may just save your life.
The framing narrative is Boris Karloff sitting in a crypt. He’s dead, and has left his fortune to a number of cute kids whose parents he’d swindled. He must do a good deed to ensure his entry into heaven within 24 hours, and he can’t leave his crypt for some reason. (Presumably to keep Karloff in that comfy looking chair.) Instead he must send Susan Hart as the titular ghost to muck about in everyone’s lives and prevent a greedy lawyer from embezzling the whole estate.
A note about this: after the film was complete, AIP watched it and realized it was, oh, a goddamn clusterfuck. Searching for some new hook, they enlisted Hart and Karloff as framing devices. Hart’s interactions with the rest of the cast are all inserted in post-production, making them both unnecessary and unbelievably grating. It takes the already scraping-the-bottom-of-the-IQ-barrel hijinks down to preschool level, with all of the jokes underlined with a ‘follow the bouncing ghost’ visual hint to keep the extraordinarily inattentive focused.
The main plot has the reading of Karloff’s will at his spooky haunted mansion commencing. His scummy lawyer, played by a very ‘dear god, how much was I drinking when I signed this contract’ Basil Rathbone, plots with a litany of henchmen to bump off the heirs. Those include Tommy Kirk as Tommy Kirk, Deborah Walley as barely there, and Patsy Kelly as the person most likely to be screaming in any given scene.
Supporting actress Patsy Kelly, one of the few openly gay women of early cinema, is clearly having fun camping it up with the bounty of 60s bikini-clad women, and chances are good that Kelly is the only one who got a lick of enjoyment out of this film. Everyone else looks miserable.
The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini is considered part of the Beach Party series because of the appearance of Harvey Lembeck as Von Zipper, even though at no point do the teens actually make it to the beach. Everyone sticks to the haunted mansion, and, in fact, the party itself arrives via double decker bus. This introduces Aron Kincaid as a blonde dupe who should be in love with the voluptuous Nancy Sinatra but instead chases after the wicked ‘Sinistra’, played by Quinn O’Hara at full-Magoo mode as all of her character’s humor comes from her blindness.
It’s OK. The rest of the film’s humor comes from the lamest gags you can imagine– the worst episode of “Scooby-Doo” is light years ahead of this in both character and intelligence.
Lembeck and the rest of the Rats wander around most of the film, making the same gags they made in the last six movies made even worse by the ghost’s appearance to egg them on. By the time the climax came, they’d wandered off, as had most of the supporting players. Characters wander in and out of scenes– at one point, when Kirk finds Kincaid hiding hiding in his bedroom, I couldn’t remember if the two had met already or not. There’s also a giant gorilla, ghosts real and fake, and a sort of dull immorality that makes it feel like a Old Hollywood horror fan had a nihilist fever dream at the beach.
Hillbillies in a Haunted House puts this movie to shame.
Best & Worst Attributes
- Best song – The story stops a couple of times for musical numbers, but the best is undoubtedly Nancy Sinatra’s slinky rendition of “Geronimo.” Why wasn’t Nancy Sinatra a bigger star? I mean, she was in this movie, which definitely counts against her, but she’s still the most appealing thing in this movie outside of a quick, painless death.
- Best shot I could get of Nancy Sinatra in a bikini – Look, it wasn’t easy.
- Strongest female character – Well, it’s not Deborah Walley’s, who spends the entire climax tied to a log and threatened by the good ol’ James Bond treatment from a saw.
- Moral of the story – Life is bleak and meaningless. This is like a grim version of a Lars Von Trier movie.
This movie can be found on Amazon. The trailer (which features Hart looking a lot more normal than her actual appearance in the movie, for some reason):
Next week: the sweet release of death. … oh, no, wait.