The high concept of the nearly unwatchable 1965 musical comedy Ski Party can be summed up as: What if Some Like It Hot, but with teenagers at a ski resort? The wise channel-surfer should immediately move on, but the promise of an unlikely cameo might keep one going…and going…and going. Somewhere, in a lower circle of pop culture hell, this snowballing, unendurable ordure is still playing, never to end…

If you thought Elvis Presley made bad movies, wait till you see what they gave his contemporary, Frankie Avalon. While the King made more than his share of hound dogs, he had enough charisma to briefly elevate the worst of them, like Harum Scarum, with his glossy presence (or at least a good song—although in that case, “Animal Instinct,” the best thing on the soundtrack, didn’t make it into the movie). Avalon, on the other hand, may have made a cameo appearance in Martin Scorsese’s Casino, but at the peak of his popularity in the ‘60s he hit one of the all-time-bottomed-out nadirs of modern teen idol moviedom, starring in clunker after clunker and wretched candy-colored party after party. And the one-two punch of Ski Party and Sergeant Deadhead, released one after the other in the middle of a six-movie run in 1965, is a particularly deathly race to the bottom of the chum bucket.

One wonders why anybody would bother with Deadhead, except somebody morbidly curious about Avalon sharing screen time with a chimp astronaut or somebody mistakenly expecting a psychedelic experience. On the other hand, Ski Party does boast, in its best segment, a sparkling appearance from none other than James Brown and his Famous Flames. Let me tell any James Brown fans out there that this shining lip-synced sequence is not worth the pain and suffering of the surrounding 88-odd interminable minutes.

Ski Party is one of a handful of features directed by Alan Rafkin, who had a much more successful career in sitcoms; he directed some of the best, from “The Andy Griffith Show” to “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” to “Murphy Brown.” But after being stranded in this snow-bound musical-comedy, you wonder how anybody ever worked again.

The high concept is turgidly delivered via the unpromising two-headed conduit of Frankie Avalon and Dwayne Hickman, the latter best known for “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” which at least had Tuesday Weld as a distraction. Hell, “Dobie” co-star Bob Denver, pre-“Gilligan,” with his expressive rubbery faux-beatnik face, would have made a more convincing woman than either Hickman or Avalon, and it is a minor tragedy that one can never tell him how pretty he’d be in person. As the IMDb summary euphemistically explains, California college buddies Todd (Avalon) and Craig (Hickman) (pace the fine Todds and Craigs of my acquaintance, the very names ooze high doucherie) are striking out with the girls. They’ve particularly got their eyes set on Linda and Barbara (Deborah Walley and Yvonne Craig, shining veterans of terrible Elvis movies that are much better than this), but neither of them are won over by the boys’ crude come-ons. If only they had whatever it is that big man on campus Freddie (Aron Kincaid) have. Soon, a new opportunity reveals its white-capped pinnacle.
If you’re wondering if Annette Funicello, Avalon’s co-star in Beach Blanket Bingo (released that same, doomed year) is around, she is, in a cameo appearance as a professor, who’s then caught making out with a student at a drive-in. A fine lesson for students and educational professionals in any era.

Everybody who’s anybody on campus boards a school bus for a ski getaway in Idaho, with Lesley Gore getting the enviable gig to serenade them on the way with the early Marvin Hamlisch composition “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows.” But the cold weather and wintry hand-eye motor coordination required of this scenario doesn’t elevate their chances of continuing the discussion of Masters and Johnson—and yes, they reference the Kinsey institute’s studies of human sexual behavior, a helpful thematic reminder of human desire in a film largely bereft of tangible sexual chemistry.

In desperation, Todd and Craig figure that the only way to get to the girls is to join them—in their clothes! So with a minimum of makeup and a bundle of frowsy remnants, the boys transform themselves into the English exchange students Jane and Nora, their ludicrous accents and badly sculpted padding easily fooling their feeble-minded peers. Improbably, but inevitably, Freddie falls for the Norafied Hickman, and hard—so hard the third act sets the tall blond athlete hopping on his motorcycle for a cross-country chase.
An intermittent surplus of wiggling bodies makes the insulting plot and 100% soul-free pop music go down slightly easier, as the script’s vapidity quickly decreases the level of oxygen reaching the brain and sends the viewer into a Technicolor fog of mid-century swimwear (by the pool, natch) and skiwear. By the time, nearly an hour into the movie, James Brown finally shows up with his Famous Flames and a trio of Saint Bernards each with its own barrel of alcoholic elixir, one searches for a spigot marked A Quick And Relatively Painless Death in vain.

Still, Brown, rocking a ski sweater festooned with a red sparkle design that looked great on your grandmother, moves through a performance of “I Feel Good (I Got You)” that may well have cursed all subsequent needle drops of the R&B chestnut, from the 1989 Jim Belushi dog vehicle K-9 (it plays when the police dog picks up a honey and humps it in an Official Law Enforcement Vehicle) to Paddington (it cues as the bear carries a Chihuahua through the train station). But the funk comes too late, because you are already dead.

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