Friday, November 3, 2023


I've always been a huge fan of those Annette Funicello / Frankie Avalon Beach Party movies. As a staple of Saturday afternoon TV growing up, I looked forward to them for their terrific music, minimal clothing, rhythm-challenged dancers, and engagingly silly plotlines. Essentially live-action cartoons, these lowbrow, low-budget musical comedies were a great deal of mindless fun enlivened by a knowing, slapstick playfulness and an utter lack of pretension. 

Funnier and far more clever than they tend to get credit for, those Annette & Frankie films appealed to me because they always seemed to be in on the joke. Loaded with satirical pop culture references and characters who broke the 4th wall to address the audience, the scripts for these movies knew that they were just soggy, song-filled teen nonsense and seldom passed up an opportunity to poke fun at themselves.
Plus, for a budding cinephile like me, the bonus was having folks like Yvonne De Carlo, Buster Keaton, Elsa Lanchester, Dorothy Malone, Mickey Rooney, and Timothy Carey turn up in minor roles.  
Even as a kid (which wouldn't have been more than a few years after these films were made), I knew that the stiff-haired, clean-cut, parent-free, all-white world of sun, sand, and surfboards these movies took place in was wholly untethered to anything resembling a recognizable reality. (Indeed, the entire Beach Party series borders on absurdist.) But as far as I was concerned, the patent artificiality of it all was just another part of what made these charmingly corny movies so endearing. 
"Are we the corniest couple you've ever seen, or what?|"
In their solo movie appearances, preternaturally boyish Frankie Avalon and eternal girl-next-door Annette Funicello were charismatic as all get-out, but neither had me reaching for my dark glasses to shield me from their megawatt star quality. Annette, whom I've been in love with since her Mickey Mouse Club days, always seemed to level off at "favorite middle-school teacher in a pageant" appealing competency, while Frankie, as a solo screen presence, tended to give facetious, all-surface performances that oozed a vaguely smarmy vibe. 
But together, they were beach blanket magic.

There's an oft-repeated quote attributed to Katharine Hepburn relating to the onscreen chemistry of  Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers: "He gave her class, and she gave him sex appeal."
I wish I could come up with something equally terse and succinct about Annette and Frankie's unique chemistry, for they were truly the heart of those Beach Party movies. They grounded the slapstick antics in something human. You liked them, you cared about them, and you were always rooting for them to end up walking off into the sunset together.  
Why did Annette and Frankie click? I dunno. The best I can manage is that Frankie took some of the starch out of Annette, and Annette made Frankie come across less (to borrow a line from Back to the Beach): "Like an Italian loan shark."
Hip To Be Square
Annette & Frankie made six Beach Party movies together, their final pairing in 1965. For many, this signaled the end of an era. But who would have guessed our suntanned sweethearts were saving the best for last? 
More than two decades after they wrote their last love letters in the sand, Funicello & Avalon reteamed in what both stars have called their favorite and best Beach Party movie: Back to the Beach
The debut feature film of Australian telejournalist, photographer, and short film/music video director Lyndall Hobbs, Back to the Beach is a candy-colored, polka-dotted slice of waggish-on-wry that good-naturedly spoofs '60s pop culture and the entire Beach Party genre. Serving up ample doses of surf, sand, songs, and silliness, Back to the Beach is also an affectionate tribute to its stars, who gamely and hilariously send up their own squeaky-clean images.

Annette Funicello as Annette
Frankie Avalon as The Big Kahuna
Connie Stevens as Connie

Costing more than all six Beach Party movies combined, Back to the Beach has Annette and Frankie recreating their singin' & surfin' screen alter egos twenty-two years after their final beach blanket kiss fade-out in 1965's How to Stuff a Wild Bikini. Unable to secure the rights to the characters they created in the original films (most often named Frankie & Dolores, aka " Dee Dee"), for Back to the Beach, Funicello goes by Annette, and Avalon's character isn't given a name at all. Billed in the credits as "Annette's Husband," Avalon is only referred to by his surfer glory days nickname, The Big Kahuna. A running gag has no one being able to get it right, calling him everything from The Big Chihuahua to The Big Caboose.
Demian Slade as Bobby
Serving double duty as narrator and audience surrogate, his sarcastic asides
 give us permission to laugh at Frankie & Annette's outmoded, absurdly wholesome image      
Lori Loughlin and Tommy Hinkley as Sandi and Michael
Now middle-aged and married with two kids, our one-time sun-loving, fun-loving couple have moved far from the beaches of California to suburban Ohio, where they live a life of pink-hued, mid-century modern splendor. But their lives have slipped into a rut. Frankie is a stressed-out used car salesman, Annette self-medicates her middle-class ennui with obsessive shopping (mainly for Skippy Peanut Butter), and their 14-year-old son Bobby (Demian Slade) is going through a rebellious stage (punk, I think) where he dresses like Alan Arkin in Wait Until Dark.
The solution for everybody is a much-needed Hawaiian vacation, but first, a quick detour to California to visit their college-age daughter Sandi (Lori Loughlin, decades before her association with the word “college” got all icky and felonious).
The Friendly Skies
And so, on the sunny shores of Malibu where it all began, our sand dune sweethearts of the Sixties revisit the past (old flame Connie Stevens); confront the present (their daughter did what Annette and Frankie never dared, shacked up with her fiancĂ©); and conquer old demons (surf-phobic Frankie squares off against the Humunga Cowabunga from Down Under). 
And along the way, to the rhythm of surf tunes, pajama parties, and celebrity cameos, love is rekindled, and a happy ending moral emerges: It's never too late to start creating your new "good old days," and when all is said and done, there's absolutely nothing wrong with being corny.

As an unofficial Mouseketeer overenamored of '60s music, pop culture, Beach movies, and Annette Funicello, in particular, I would appear to have been the ideal demographic for Back to the Beach. But in truth, upon its release, I was among those who mistakenly thought they knew what to expect (i.e., something along the lines of those absolutely dreadful "nostalgia trot-out" TV-movie reunions for shows like Leave It To Beaver and Father Knows Best), so I avoided Back to the Beach like an oil spill. (My looss. I would have loved seeing this on the big screen.)
Joe Holland as Zed
A contemporary beach baddie to replace Eric Von Zipper
(the late, great Harvey Lembeck)

When I finally got around to seeing Back to the Beach on cable TV, I was overjoyed (and more than a little surprised) to discover how deftly this irresistible little gem of a movie subverted all of my expectations. Against all odds and statistical probabilities, Back to the Beach turned out to be this knowing, shrewdly clever, laugh-out-loud funny, musical parody of the entire Beach Party genre. A zany delight from start to finish, Back to the Beach somehow—without being cynical or superior—struck a tone that balanced affectionate nostalgia and mockingly self-referential humor in a manner that created a kind of comic bridge allowing folks who like Beach Party movies sincerely and those who like them ironically to both have a good time.
John Calvin as Troy
In what could be called the "Aron Kincaid" role, Calvin plays a beach lothario
who (in a welcome change from the traditional Beach Party fetishization
of the wriggling female backside) offers some equal opportunity eye candy
in his itsy bitsy, teenie weenie, yellow tiger-striped bikini.

It couldn't have been easy spoofing a genre that spent so much of its time spoofing itself (as Back to the Beach's small army of 17 credited screenwriters most certainly attests), but the payoff is that the jokes--all playfully poking fun at the fashions, mores, music, and relentless cheerfulness of the Beach Party movies--are so varied in approach that they lend the film a loony exuberance. A movie ahead of its time, there's culture clash comedy that predates The Brady Bunch Movie (1995) and snarky riff humor of the sort that would make TVs Mystery Science Theater 3000 into such a hit the following year.
Guitar Legends
Dick Dale ("King of the Surf Guitar") and Stevie Ray Vaughn
Dick Dale & His Del-Tones appeared in Beach Party and Muscle Beach Party

It has always been something of a fool's errand trying to figure out where the real Frankie and Annette began and where their images ended. While both stars made token bids at counterculture relevance in 1968 (Funicello in the psychedelic Monkees movie Head, Avalon in Otto Preminger's paean to LSD, Skidoo), by and large, the two always seemed comfortable (or resigned) to forever being linked to their screen personas.
This comfort is evident in the fun they two appear to be having skewering their own images in Back to the Beach. The script declares open season on everything from Frankie's helmet hair to Annette's legendarily ample figure (never in a way mean-spirited or at the cost of making them look ridiculous ), and the pair get into the spirit of the things in a way that reveals them to be good sports and possessors of a hipper sense of humor than they've been given credit for. 
It has the cumulative effect of humanizing them, and both stars come off the best they ever have on screen. 
O.J. Simpson's cameo ups Back to the Beach's felon count 

Whatever type it is or whatever it's called, the comic sensibility 
of Back to the Beach is right up my alley. I love my nostalgia on wry. 
(The terrific Demian Slade has most of the best lines.)
Speaking of nostalgia, Back to the Beach is a boomer bonanza of '60s cameos. (Clockwise from top l.) Bob Denver & Alan Hale of Gilligan's Island; Don Adams of Get Smart; Tony Dow, Barbara Billingsley, & Jerry Mathers of Leave it to Beaver; and Edd Byrnes of 77 Sunset Strip.

What would a Beach Party movie be without music? In Back to the Beach, I like how the movie is a straight comedy until wound-tighter-than-mainspring Frankie drinks a Stunned Mullet at Daddy-O's and then launches into a rousing rendition of The Rivieras' "California Sun" with Connie Stevens. From then on, fun, colorful musical numbers pop up sporadically (but not nearly enough for my taste) throughout the rest of the film.
Frankie, Connie, and Annette all had Top Ten record  
hits during the late '50s and early '60s.
Annette updates her 1964 song "Jamaica Ska" with a  
little help from alt-rock band Fishbone 
Paul Reubens as Pee Wee Herman is joined by the cast to sing
 "Surfin' Bird."  Pee Wee's Playhouse had only premiered the year before. 
In 1988, Annette & Frankie were guests on the iconic Pee Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special
The cast sings "Some Things Live Forever," which failed to
make it to the film's soundtrack LP, but became a staple of 
Frankie & Annette's live concert "Back to the Beach Tour" 1989-1991

I blame it on our Culture of Closure, but there is an undeniable fantasy curiosity (among Boomers, especially) about the imagined futures of fictional characters from our pop culture past. Perhaps because these characters represented such wildly idealized visions of American life, gender roles, and traditional (conservative) values, pursuing the "Whatever became of?" is all about being reassured. 
If those eternal sweethearts Annette and Frankie finally got married and did indeed live happily ever after, then most certainly, those optimistic fantasies they promoted couldn't have been false. Could they?


Although I didn't see Back to the Beach until it began playing on cable TV, I recall at the time that it was heavily promoted with a soundtrack LP, TV commercials (with voiceover by Wolfman Jack), and ticket giveaways. Plus, as above-the-title stars and co-executive producers, Funicello and Avalon made themselves available for countless interviews and talk show appearances. But as director Lyndall Hobbs relates in the film's Blu-ray featurette, the eventual release of Back to the Beach was a virtual wipeout due to Paramount Studios' dwindling enthusiasm for their product. 
Polka Dot Paradise
You have to be a certain age (mine, apparently) to get that Sandi's friend Robin (far right -Laura Lanoil/Laura Urstein) is a throwback to Gidget's best friend Larue, who loved the beach but always wore a ton of clothes to protect her skin from the sun

Paramount (rightfully so, perhaps) saw Back to the Beach as a movie for the public, not the critics. The studio's eventual release strategy—declaring a media blackout and denying the press advance access to the film—may have succeeded in forestalling any anticipated bad reviews and granted their film an opening weekend driven by fan interest and word-of-mouth, but it also gave the impression that Paramount had given up on, or worse, was somehow embarrassed by, Back to the Beach.

Soundtrack LPs became essential movie marketing tools after Saturday Night Fever. The cover of the Back to the Beach album employs a tres-'80s Memphis Design whimsy to suggest the music's Old-School meets New Wave tone. My favorite track: David Kahne's "Sun, Sun, Sun, Sun, Sun," performed over the closing credits by Marti Jones. 

Further evidence of last-minute cold feet on Paramount's part is the fact that in Los Angeles, Back to the Beach was initially set to open on Friday, August 7, 1987, at the high-profile Mann’s Chinese Theater (as per the TWO full-page ads in the Sunday Times)in Hollywood. But opening day saw Mann's Chinese reluctant to relinquish its hold on the Ritchie Valens biopic La Bamba (then in its third week and the unanticipated sleeper hit of the summer) and bumping Back to the Beach to its less-prestigious sister theater, The Hollywood, just up the street. 
Director Lyndall Hobbs
It always surprised me that so little of Back to the Beach's advance publicity referenced its director. One would think that a woman making her feature film directorial debut (carrying her 4-month-old daughter on her hip, no less) with a $12 million musical comedy would be a made-to-order publicity angle. That is until I remembered how the $18 million 1978 Bee Gees musical Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band made its African-American director (Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame recipient Michael Schultz) its best-kept secret. (For his sake, in hindsight, perhaps that was a blessing.)
Lyndall Hobbs’ contributions to making Back to the Beach such a delight are incalculable (it was her idea to turn the script [co-authored by ex-husband Chris Thompson] into a musical), yet despite the film's emerging status as a cult hit, it has remained Hobbs’ sole feature film directing credit. 

For proof of what a miraculous feat and balancing act of nostalgia, music, and humor Back to the Beach truly is, one need look no further than the 1978 unsold TV pilot Frankie & Annette: The Second Time Around. Produced by Dick Clark, this labored, excruciatingly sincere 60-minute episode cast Annette as a Vietnam war widow working as a housemother at a girl's college dorm who reunites with her old flame, Frankie, now a failed pop singer.  A bid to cash in on the nostalgic goodwill ignited by Avalon's recent stint as Teen Angel in the hit movie Grease (1978), the program is 100% of what those Beach Party movies never were: boring.   

Annette and Frankie's final feature film appearance together was in the comedy Troop Beverly Hills (1989). It's a visual gag cameo that has the couple jogging outside The Beverly Hills Hotel, Annette breezily running along (in a hot pink tracksuit calling to mind Lisa Kudrow's "Aunt Sassy" in The Comeback)  singing her 1959 Top Ten hit "Tall Paul," while a winded and trailing Frankie calls out, "Annette, wait up!"  
The highlighting of Annette's effortless athleticism adds a note of bittersweet charm to this amusing coda to the duo's 26-year onscreen association, for in just three years, Funicello would go public with her MS (multiple sclerosis) diagnosis. The first symptoms of which she began to experience while making Back to the Beach. Annette Funicello passed away in 2013 at the age of 70. 

Annette Funicello was the eternal girl-next-door. She first married at age 22 on
Saturday, Jan. 9, 1965. On that day, this comic appeared in newspapers nationwide

Sure, maybe Annette & Frankie may have been the corniest couple I'd ever seen. 
But they were also one of the most endearing.   

Copyright © Ken Anderson   2009 - 2023


  1. loulou de la falaiseNovember 3, 2023 at 4:38 PM

    Hi Ken, great post as usual. A friend of mine saw this movie when it came out and didn't like it, so I never checked it out and enjoyed reading about it. Our PBS station does a classic movie Saturday night and BBB pops up. Anyhoo I'm from the Utica NY area (if you stick a finger in the dead center of a map of NYS that's where it's located) and it is Annette's birthplace which was a total BFD for us. She'd come back every once in a great while and get a write up in the paper. That was our brush with stardom LOL, like Jon (hi Jon) and Rosemary Clooney.

    1. Hi Loulou - Thanks for always being so prompt in reading my posts and so complimentary in your response. I'm glad you enjoyed reading about BACK TO THE BEACH even though you haven't seen it.
      As much as I fell in love with it on first viewing, there is something so niche and almost absurdist about BACK TO THE BEACH that I can fully understand why some people wouldn't like it. I can even imagine its spoofish take on the characters and genre could be a turnoff to certain types of fans of the original Beach Party movies.

      As I've written in past posts, comedy is such a mystery to me. So many comedy films that are these big boxoffice hits that everybody seems to love often leave me sitting there, impassive as a sphinx.
      Then, an offbeat, exceptionally silly movie like "Back to the Beach" comes along, and I find something about its humor to be exactly what I respond to. It mirrors my experience with 2001's "Josie and the Pussycats" (a film very similar to in tone to BACK TO THE BEACH )- nobody seemed to find it funny but me!

      Oh, and I love learning that you're from Annette's hometown!
      That's big, BIG, BFD! I would have flipped if I ever got to see her. I don't know anything about the city, but I know she mentioned Utica in one of her songs: "I think that you're much cuter than the day we met in Utica and you were in the 2nd grade with me." (Hawaiian Love Talk)
      Thanks, again for always entertainingly and informatively contributing to my posts with your comments, Loulou (and apologies for blanking on your actual name).

  2. Annette Funicello! What a sweetheart she was! (At least her screen persona). She's forever associated in my memory with my mother. My mom was a huge fan of hers having grown up with the Mickey Mouse Club, her Disney films and the Beach movies. Whenever Annette came on screen, my mother never failed to mention that she and Annette were the same age. They even resembled one another slightly (brunette, petite). It was sad that Annette had the health issues that she did. I think I last saw her in a made for TV movie about her life that was so bland that the only part I recall is the end when the real Annette Funicello makes an appearance. Even though she lived to be 70, it feels like she was taken too soon (my mother, as of this writing, is still going strong at 81). I saw a couple of her beach movies and they were silly enough that I didn't really pay attention when "Back to the Beach" came out. I suspected that it would be like many such efforts, taking themselves a bit too seriously (see the "Brady Bunch" movies from the 80's). However, given your review, I'll check it out.

    1. Hi Ron - That's such a cute memory about your mom! In context, I hadn't really thought about how Annette was one of those celebrities that both men and women took to. She was America's girlfriend.
      She had a very appealing naturalness and radiated such a likable image. I confess that even after reading her memoirs, I was no closer to ascertaining whether there really WAS much of a difference between woman and image.
      In the book, she jokes about how she liked to smoke but tried to keep her habit in check when out in public. When confronted by astonished reactions of "I didn't know Annette smoked!" she relays how she'd often wish she could add, "I also have three children, so guess what else I do."
      If anything, I think the real Annette had a hipper sense of humor than her Disney image would suggest.

      You make a good point about how, despite living to 70, it still feels as though Annette was taken too soon. I think her MS diagnosis being made public at a time when she was still so young and vibrant added to that "gone too soon" feeling—that and the sense that she was forever locked in time in the 1960s.

      I dodged the bullet of the TV movie about her life that you speak of, but I did catch what I think was her last TV movie…one for Disney that had something to do with a family winning a lottery. Anyhow, it was pretty dismal. A lot of Disney's live-action films are a big reason why "Family Entertainment" gets such a bad rap.

      “Back to the Beach” is the antithesis of that kind of corn, and I’m glad the writers (all 17 to 21 of them) and producers Funicello & Avalon took a chance to have some fun taking potshots at their images.

      Happy to hear my post about BACK TO THE BEACH at least made you curious about seeing it. But as I always say when someone tells me that they will check out a movie I’ve raved about: Consider the source! I’m the man whose life was changed by XANADU.

      Oh, and I’m very happy to hear your mom is alive and thriving at 81!
      Thanks for commenting, Ron!

  3. Joe Holland (born Tim Holland) was the son of Joanna Holland and stepson of Tonight Show host Johnny Carson.

    1. Yes! Thanks for mentioning that interesting factoid.
      I've never seen him in anything else, but he's terrific and charismatic as the slightly thick-headed beach punk Zed. A promising director and screenwriter as well as an actor, it's a shame Holland died so young (at age 32 of a pulmonary embolism) just seven years after making BACK TO THE BEACH.

  4. Wow! What a fun read. Most all the reasons you (and others) cited for not having seen this upon its release apply to me as well. And even then I concur that it felt as if the studio sort of gave up on it upon arrival. I have still never seen it! But I'm going to make a point to now. In 1987, I was a college sophomore and working weekend 3rd shift, so seeing a movie was generally only in the cases where I truly was dying to go. And at that point, I only knew Frankie from his one scene in "Grease" and Annette from her peanut butter commercials. So there seemed no draw (though I was fanatical about Pee Wee!) Now that I've seen all the original Beach Party movies (and then some...!), I think I would really like it. (But I never see this film aired on any movie channels...) Annette just seemed like a great gal all around. Her illness was so unsettling. Frankie - didn't he have an absolute SLEW of kids?!? He was sweet, too, it seemed. Connie looks AMAZING here!! Oh, and you awakened me to the unknown factoid about "Sgt. Pepper's" director. I always feel like profiling that movie, but never do for some reason. Definitely a well-kept secret!! Surely one of the most bizarre cases of an unusual director being publicized only to have it backfire would be "Can't Stop the Music" with Nancy "Rosie the Quicker Picker-Upper" Walker at the helm...! LOL Probably didn't help the cause much. Thanks for all the extra info, too. I had no clue that F&A were potentially going to try a series together. Take care!

    1. Hi Jon - Ha! Yes, publicizing Nancy Walker as the director of "Can't Stop the Music" wasn't exactly a confidence builder!

      As you note, there really does seem to be a persistent through-line in all the comments I've received about "Back to the Beach "on social media: nearly everyone is fond of Annette & Frankie, but they avoided the film because they feared it was going to be one of those over-reverential nostalgia slogs like they were producing on TV, or they simply didn't respond to the advertising. Older Beach Party fans thought the emphasis on New Wave graphics and Pee Wee Herman was alienating; younger fans thought it looked too desperate and pandering.
      "Back to the Beach" suffered from an overload of everyone assuming they knew what they were in for.

      Right now, the film seems to have reached true "Cult" status…those who like it (like me) are absolutely crazy about it, and (as in your case) the rest of the population hasn't had much of an opportunity to see it because it has been so scarce. I hope its recent Blu-ray release may signal its reemergence on streaming sites.

      No matter how you cut it, I think it's a niche film because its tone is so satirical. It asks you to surrender to the spirit of things, or else it all will seem odd. I think you might like it for several reasons: the music, the colorful fashions, its offbeat humor.

      Annette has indeed always seemed like such a wonderful person. And you're right, it's due to her seeming decency and kindness that her illness felt so cruel. Frankie Avalon I believe, has a whopping eight children (two of his sons appear in BACK TO THE BEACH as bandmembers).
      Do you remember Avalon's cameo bit in Scorsese's CASINO? He really works that “Italian loan shark” look in that one.

      I’m glad you found this post enjoyable and that maybe it’ll inspire you to check out BACK TO THE BEACH. I think it has gotten better with age. The assertively ‘80s aesthetic looks great, the cameos of so many departed stars is nostalgic, and best of all, Annette & Frankie look like they’re enjoying themselves.
      Thanks for commenting Jon!

  5. Reviewed just one of the Beach Party Movies, Beach Party Bingo as it had Linda Evans and Michael Nader in it and therefore essential for this Dynasty lover. I gather that Michael Nader was a regular, does he appear in this as I am supertempted after reading your take on it?? Hope all is good your way.

    1. Hello, Gill! So nice to hear from you. All is well here.
      Though I knew Michael Nader as a regular, often non-speaking part of the Beach Party gang, but until you brought up the Dynasty connection, this is my first time realizing Linda Evans and he had appeared onscreen together before the TV series!
      Alas, Nader is nowhere to be seen in "Back to the Beach" (also MIA are Candy Johnson, the shimmy queen and Donna Loren, the Dr. Pepper pitchwoman).
      Beach Blanket Bingo is one of the best of the Beach Part series, so I'm looking forward to checking out your review.
      Thanks so much for reading this and sharing your comments, Gill. Hope you've been discovering lots of new films to write about.

    2. Just reviewed M. Delon in Purple Noon definitely one I would love your thoughts on... Also announced a blogathon so be lovely to have you if you have the time...

    3. Purple Noon is a film I really must get around to seeing. Your wonderful piece on it reiterates what friends have told me: Delon is the ONLY Ripley.
      And although I think my blogathon days are behind me, I always thank you for extending an invitation. Especially since you come up with such great ideas, "Never say never" a credo that keeps popping ice in my head.
      Thanks, Gill!

    4. Maybe one day we will coincide with the topic and your review... and then I get your lovely company and post.

    5. Your review captures the unique charm of the original films and why they are so beloved after all these years, while drawing attention to the fact that “Back to the Beach” is an underrated gem of the ‘80s. Vastly entertaining from beginning to end, no less a mainstream authority than Roger Ebert called it one of the best films of the year! Well done; I hope your readers seek it out and spread the word!

    6. Hello, Vince - And thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed this post. With the release of the Blu-ray, I'm glad "Back to the Beach" has been getting a bit more attention. It's a great deal of fun, and part of me likes that its appeal is largely cultish, speaking to its appealingly off-the-wall quality that makes it so special to me.
      But I think it was also Roger Ebert (or perhaps, Siskel) who said that they enjoyed "Back to the Beach" more than "Grease"...which is entirely how I feel about it, too.
      It sounds as though you've already discovered the joys of this movie for yourself, which is great, since most everyone I've heard from both online and off have been individuals who are familiar with it, but have never seen it. Like you, I hope a little more of the word gets spread around with this post.
      Thank you very much for commenting. Cheers, Vince!