Release Date(s)1964 (August 28, 2018)
Studio(s)Iselin-Tenney Productions/20th Century Fox (Severin Films)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B
One of the pioneers in the cult horror and exploitation genres, Del Tenney was one of a few directors known for being ahead of his time for his use of graphic violence in his films, which may seem tame today, but not in 1964. Based out of Stamford, Connecticut, Tenney produced and directed a variety of low budget B grade (and even Z grade) genre films like I Eat Your Skin, The Curse of the Living Corpse, and one of his most infamous outings, The Horror of Party Beach.
Shot in two weeks on a shoestring budget of $50,000, The Horror of Party Beach (also known as Invasion of the Zombies) is the story of several sea creatures that come to life due to a spillage of radioactive waste in the ocean, which has transformed skeletons and plants at the bottom into bloodthirsty monsters (that somewhat resemble the Creature from the Black Lagoon). These beasts go on a killing spree, drinking the blood of teenagers who enjoy dancing at the beach and having a good time while listening to the Del-Aires.
The Horror of Party Beach was previously released on DVD by Dark Sky Films in a double feature with The Curse of the Living Corpse (which was how the two films were originally presented during their initial theatrical release), but also made it to DVD in its MST3K version by Shout Factory! Severin Films debuts the film on Blu-ray in a glorious package. Given a new 2K scan from the original camera negative, the film, which is 100% uncut, looks better than it ever has. It’s much brighter with balanced grayscale, richer blacks, and clearer whites. Film grain is present throughout and no DNR has been applied. Textures look excellent during both outdoor scenes and close-ups on actors’ faces. Some scenes still appear soft and a few speckles appear here and there, but print damage is minimal. The audio is presented in English 2.0 mono DTS-HD, and it’s fairly potent for its age. Both dialogue and roars from the monster sound superb, and the various musical numbers are much stronger. There are also optional subtitles included in English SDH as well.
Severin Films has also provided a decent amount of extras, most of which are courtesy of Ballyhoo Motion Pictures. Return to Party Beach: Making the First Horror Musical is a 16-minute featurette with film historian Tom Weaver and Margot Harman (Mrs. Tenney) about the life of Del Tenney, how The Horror of Party Beach came into existence, and other behind the scenes information about the film. It’s the Living End: An Encounter with The Del-Aires interviews band members Bobby Osborne and Ronnie Linares (now in their seventies) and they discuss who inspired them to play music and how they wound up in the film (and yes, they do play the “Zombie Stomp”). Shock & Roll: Filmmaker Tim Sullivan on Rock & Roll Horror Movies is an 8-minute interview where the filmmaker talks about rock & roll invading horror movies, mentioning that the A.I.P. movie I Was a Teenage Werewolf was technically the first film where this occurred. There’s also an interview with Del Tenney from the Dark Sky DVD release, where he talks about his life, his upbringing, and making movies. Rounding out the extras is the film’s theatrical trailer.
The Horror of Party Beach is a cult classic, delivering some good shocks, suspense, some creepy sound effects, and a rocking music soundtrack from both The Del-Aires and Wilford L. Holcombe (which the marketing department took full advantage of, billing the movie as “The First Horror-Monster Musical”). It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s a gem for those who love older, black and white horror movies. The new Blu-ray presentation from Severin Films is nothing short of a treasure and fans of the movie shouldn’t have any qualms about picking it up. Highly recommended!
- David Steigman