I - II

NOTE:  Films by and about the Beach Boys are continuing to surface.  From early promotional appearances in campy "b" movies, to detailed and reverential retrospectives, to awful miniseries, the Beach Boys are well represented on video.  Most recently, fine documentaries have outshined "fictionalized" accounts of the careers and legacy of the Beach Boys.  These reviews are solely my opinion.

The Girls on the Beach (1965)
Paramount Pictures; Written by Sam Locke (as David Malcolm); Directed by William Witney, 80 min.
(out of five)

Cast (in credits order)

Noreen Corcoran....Selma
Martin West....Duke
Linda Marshall....Cynthia
Steven Rodgers....Brian
Ahna Capri....Arlene (as Anna Capri)
Aron Kincaid....Wayne
Nancy Spry....Betty
Sheila Bromley....Mrs. Winters
Lana Wood....Bonnie
Mary Mitchel....Emily
Gail Gilmore....Georgia (as Gail Gerber)
Peter Brooks....Stu Rankin
Lori Saunders....Patricia Johnson (as Linda Saunders)
Lesley Gore....Herself
The Beach Boys....Themselves
The Crickets....Themselves

PLOT:  The girls of Alpha Beta need to raise $10,000 in two weeks to save the sorority house. (Their heart-of-gold landlady gave their nest-egg away to needy charities without telling anyone!) Among their schemes to raise the funds are a beauty contest, (with a featured bellydance!) a newspaper puzzle, and a baking contest (with predictably disastrous results). But when three guys hit the beach with love on their minds, bragging that they know the Beatles, the girls plan a fundraiser concert with the Fab Four as the main attraction.

REVIEW: A completely campy "B" movie, The Girls On The Beach is so frighteningly retro and naive that I can't help but like it.  Promising that "It takes off where the others leave off" this movie is actually so tame that you expect Gidget to pop up any moment.  Strangely, everyone gets hot and bothered over the possiblity of having the Beatles arrive, yet are completely blase' about having Leslie Gore and the Beach Boys hanging around!  There's Leslie, singing her cupid heart out in the sorority (to polite applause), and the Beach Boys slumming at the local hangout.  Denny doesn't even bother to hit on any of the bikinied 'honeys' hanging around!  Verrrrry surreal.  The Beach Boys songs are canned and their performances are, uh... well, they're well lit.  Leslie Gore, with her natural spunky charm, comes off better, and the whole movie is perfect for a good groan, and chuckle.

The Monkey's Uncle (1965)
Walt Disney Pictures; Written by Alfred Lewis Levitt (originally as Tom August) & Helen Levitt (originally as Helen August); Directed by Robert Stevenson, 87 min.

Cast (in credits order)

Tommy Kirk....Merlin Jones
Annette Funicello....Jennifer
Leon Ames....Judge Holmsby
Harry Antrim....Regent
The Beach Boys....Themselves
Gage Clarke....College President
Frank Faylen....Mr. Dearborne
Connie Gilchrist....Mrs. Gossett
Mark Goddard....Haywood
Norman Grabowski....Norman
Alan Hewitt....Professor Shattuck
Harry Holcombe....Regent
Alexander Lockwood....Regent
Cheryl Miller....Lisa
Arthur O'Connell....Darius Green III
Leon Tyler....Leon

PLOT:   In this sequel to the 1964 film The Misadventures of Merlin Jones College whiz-kid Merlin Jones (Tommy Kirk) concocts a method for teaching an advanced sleep-learning method to a chimpanzee, and then (on a completely unrelated note) creates a human-powered flying machine of his own design, ultimately causing more wacky misadventures on the school campus.

REVIEW: Ahh, that old, familiar Disney movie-making magic.  They really knew how to churn 'em out.  Slick, by-the-book scripts, stock characters, improbable plots and Annette Funicello -- all in dazzling technicolor.  And hey!  Let's throw in the Beach Boys to bring in the teen-set!  They sure don't make them like this anymore.  Too bad, because in my opinion, when you find something that works, stick with it.  I find movies of this type completely disarming, even if they are predictable, and even forgetable.  Having grown up on a steady diet of Gilligan's Island, The Monkees and the Brady Bunch primed me for a lifetime of enjoyment from simple pleasures like this movie.  The Beach Boys show up in the opening credites to join Annette in singing the anthropomorphic (increase your word power!) and catchy title song.  The Monkey's Uncle is charming in it's own way, utterly devoid of anything offensive (how many recent movies can you say that about?) and for most fans, ultimately inconsequential.

Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)
Michael Laughlin Productions/Universal Pictures; Written by Will Corry, Rudy Wurlitzer (as Rudolph Wurlitzer) and Floyd Mutrux (uncredited); Directed by Monte Hellman, 102 min.

Cast (in credits order)

James Taylor....The Driver
Warren Oates....G.T.O
Laurie Bird....The Girl
Dennis Wilson....The Mechanic
David Drake....Needles station attendant
Richard Ruth....Needles station mechanic
Rudy Wurlitzer....Hot rod driver
Jaclyn Hellman....Driver's girl
Bill Keller....Texas hitchhiker
Harry Dean Stanton....Oklahoma hitchhiker (as H.D. Stanton)

PLOT: The Driver and The Mechanic are two car freaks driving a 1955 Chevy throughout the southwestern U.S. looking for other cars to race. They are totally dedicated to The Car and converse with each other only when necessary. At a gas station, The Driver and The Mechanic, along with a girl who has ingratiated herself into their world, meet G.T.O., a middle-aged man who fabricates stories about his exploits. It is decided to have a race to Washington, D.C., where the winner will get the loser's car. Along the way, the race and the highway metaphorically depict the lives of these contestants as they struggle to their destination.

REVIEW: Dennis Wilson joined James Taylor to play in this art-house film about two men and a race: "The Mechanic" [Dennis] and "The Driver" [James] -- (no one in this movie has a proper name) live their lives through a primer-grey '55 Chevy which they decide to race to Washington DC.  Along the way, they pick up "The Girl" [Laurie Bird] and meet an old grease-monkey named "G.T.O" [Warren Oates] who likes to relate colorful tall-tales about his past (mmm...this actually sounds like a typical Grateful Dead tour). 
     Whether you will like this film or not is dependent on whether or not you enjoy this particular film genre.  Two-Lane Blacktop is an high-minded allegory about life.  The race and the highway are symbolic, subject to personal interpretation and meaning.  Watching can be reminiscent of reading "The Old Man and the Sea" for your high-school literature class.  "TLB" strikes some critics as slow, pretentious, and unfocused, and others as a worthy, serious-minded movie about chasing after fulfillment in life.  I find that I can enjoy it on a certain level, but I need to be in the right frame of mind, and it won't ever make MY list of top ten favorite films.
     Dennis and James purposely don't have many lines... these men are loners, able to relate more to the car and it's workings than to people.  Dennis certainly has charisma, and it shows in his bearing and expression, but unfortunately, the script doesn't call for him to use many expressions.  Images of the road and the pensive faces of the car's occupants take up a good chunk of the running time.  In fact, Dennis's natural charm and good-humor are completely buried in this heavy dramatic exercise, which for fans of the Beach Boys hoping to see one of their dearest icons, is probably the film's greatest fault. 

Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)
Criterion Collection 
CC1729D [2-DVD]; Released December 1, 2007

Special Features

  • - New, restored high-definition digital transfer supervised and approved by director Monte Hellman
  • - Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack
  • - Two audio commentaries; one by Hellman and filmmaker Allison Anders, and one by screenwriter Rudy Wurlitzer and author David Meyer
  • - New interviews with Hellman, star James Taylor, musician Kris Kristofferson, producer Michael Laughlin, and production manager Walter Coblenz
  • - Rare, never-before-seen screen-test outtakes
  • - Performance and Image: a look at the restoration of a '55 Chevy from the movie and the film's locations today
  • - Color Me Gone: photos and publicity from Two-Lane Blacktop
  • - Original theatrical trailer
  • - PLUS: Rudy Wurlitzer's screenplay, reprinted specially for this release; new essays by Kent Jones, appreciations by Richard Linklater and Tom Waits; and a reprint of the 1970 Rolling Stone article "On Route 66, Filming Two-Lane Blacktop."


Summer Dreams [Television Movie] (1990)
Produced by Joel Fields and Ardythe Goergens; Written by Charles Rosen, based on the book "Heroes and Villains" by Steven Gains; Directed by Michael Switzer
Direct Source Label [DVD]; 96 min., Released June 6, 2006

Cast (in credits order)

Bruce Greenwood ....  Dennis Wilson
Greg Kean ....  Brian Wilson
Arlen Dean Snyder ....  Murry
Casey Sander ....  Mike Love
Bo Foxworth ....  Carl Wilson
Linda Dona ....  Karen Lamm
Laura Leigh Hughes  
Wendy Kaplan ....  Marilyn Wilson
Dorothy Dells ....  Audree Wilson
Andrew Myler ....  Al Jardine
Robert Lee  ....  Bruce Johnston
Richard Morof ....  Eugene Landy
Michael Reid MacKay ....  Charles Manson

REVIEW: If Looking Back With Love is your idea of a good Beach Boys album, then have I got the movie for you.  Summer Dreams has so many bad elements it's hard to know where to begin.  For one thing, where else can you find a movie that has achieved a degree of infamy for it's facial hair?  The fake beards here look like they were swiped from the Planet of the Apes.  Then there's the fact-impared script; derived from Steven Gaines' book Heroes and Villains, this should tip any curious viewer right off the bat that this is not going to be Masterpiece Theatre.  The film takes the point of view that Dennis was the most interesting Beach Boy, and is told from his point of view.  We see the young, 35-year-old 'teenage' Wilsons cavorting about on the beach, at home with Father (the perfectly-cast Arlen Dean Snyder as Murray) and starting their own band.  We see Sensitive Brian, the Chubby, Quiet Carl, the Hunky Wildboy Dennis (played with aplomb by Bruce Greenwood), the Balding Mike and that Other Guy all shuffling around making great music.  Then... Brian gets psychedelic!  Mike gets a beard!  Then they all get beards!  Dennis sings a song that he never wrote!  Then it's 1985 and everyone joins in for the 4th of July at the Nation's Capitol.  Inspiring!  Ugh.  A couple of the actors manage to capture some of the essence of the characters they portray, but on the whole, this is is Grade-C government process cheeze-whiz, and a poor introduction to a complex band.

Nashville Sounds: The Making of Stars & Stripes (1996)
Delilah Films/The Disney Channel; Directed by Alan Boyd and Steven R. Monroe

Cast (in alphabetical order)

Junior Brown ....  Himself
Rodney Crowell ....  Himself
James House ....  Himself
Toby Keith ....  Himself
Lorrie Morgan ....  Herself
Willie Nelson ....  Himself
Collin Raye ....  Himself
Timothy B. Schmit ....  Himself
Jim Scholten ....  Himself
Kathy Troccoli ....  Herself
Brian Wilson ....  Himself
Tammy Wynette ....  Herself

REVIEW: There are two versions of this DVD floating around, and you want to make sure you get the most recent one (pictured here) as it contains a few extra minutes of footage, and has more features (it's also a few dollars more expensive).  No matter how you might feel about the Stars & Stripes album,  this promotional film/documentary is worthwhile viewing for any fan.  For one thing, it has Brian Wilson reunited with the Beach Boys, which is a rare occurance, and second, it shows the band having a wonderful time recreating some of their classic harmonies and interacting together.  Containing both in the studio film and live concert footage, the Beach Boys are front and center in this event, (unlike the album) and it shows each member to their best advantage.  It's especially touching to see Carl Wilson, ever the consumate professional, working his harmonies to perfection, or Mike and Brian bantering and joking about each others ages, and disagreeing amiably about differently-remembered shared experiences.  A relaxed and worthwhile film. 

The Beach Boys: The Lost Concert
Brother Records/SabuCat Productions 5647 [DVD]; Produced by Jeff Joseph, 30 min.  Released June 1, 1999

Cast (in alphabetical order)

Al Jardine....Himself (guitar/vocals)
Mike Love....Himself (lead vocals)
Brian Wilson....Himself (bass guitar/lead vocls)
Carl Wilson....Himself (lead guitar/vocals)
Dennis Wilson ....Himself (drums)

REVIEW: Although the packaging might make you pause in purchasing this video, there's really no reason not to.  Essentially this is a 30-minute concert that the Beach Boys gave as part of a "Super Star" Concert series that was filmed and shown in theaters in the mid-sixties.  Also included in the concert were Leslie Gore and the Beatles, but for this release, only the Beach Boys are featured.  The boys are relaxed and having a good time playing up in front of an appreciative audience of screaming girls, and they go through a typical set for this era, containing some originals, and a few covers, much like you'll find on the 1964 concert album.  As such, it offers few suprises, although if you never saw the BB's in concert in their early years, it provides a nice time-capsule view of their performance, (which is very raw and probably interesting only to fans).  Highlights: Mike Love dancing the same steps over an over in his socks, and Brian smiling at his soon-to-be-wife Marilyn, who's in the audience. 

Endless Harmony - The Beach Boys Story: A Documentary
VH1 Television/Delilah Films 72434-92353-9-7 [DVD]; Produced by Stephanie Bennett; Directed by Alan Boyd, 141 min.  Released March 14, 2000

Cast (in credits order)

Brian Wilson ....  Himself (archive footage)
Dennis Wilson ....  Himself (archive footage)
Carl Wilson ....  Himself (archive footage)
Mike Love ....  Himself (archive footage)
Al Jardine ....  Himself (archive footage)
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Jackson Browne ....  Himself
Glen Campbell ....  Himself
Elvis Costello ....  Himself
Sean Lennon ....  Himself

REVIEW: Released on video almost a year after it had been broadcast, Endless Harmony is yet another fine example of modern video biographies that intersperse new interview segments and archival film in a fairly unbiased, even-handed look at the Beach Boys.  In fact, this video is arguably the best of the bunch, since it takes the widest view of the Beach Boys career, from their very beginnings as brothers and schoolmates, to the present, and manage to do it without feeling like it's cramming too much into its two-hour running time.  I got a real sense of how the Beach Boys stand out as individuals from watching this; Brian's simple joy in the music, Mike's revisionist spins on history, Al's even-handedness, Carl's deep spirituality, and Bruce's congeniality.  Bonuses include never-before available footage of home movies, especially rare outakes from their 70's down time when Ricky Fataar and Blondie Chaplin were part of the band, and, of course, the music.  The soundtrack for this video was culled from rare, unreleased and remixed tracks from the Beach Boys vaults, and the sound is stunning.  (Especially in the DVD version which has 5:1 dolby sound).  If you're just getting into the Beach Boys, or want to interest a friend in their lives, I can easily recommend this video as the place to begin.

The Beach Boys: An American Family
American Broadcasting Company; Written by Kirk Ellis, Directed by Jeff Bleckner, Telecast February 27 & 28, 2000


Frederick Weller  - Brian Wilson
Nick Stabile  - Dennis Wilson
Ryan Northcott  - Carl Wilson
Matt Letscher  - Mike Love
Ned Vaughn  - Al Jardine
Kevin Dunn  - Murry Wilson
Alley Mills  - Audree Wilson
Erik Passoja  - Charles Manson
Emmanuelle Vaugier  - Suzanne Love
Dublin James  - Dave Marks
Jesse Caron  - Bruce Johnston
Amy Van Horne  - Marilyn Rovell
Jad Mager  - Nik Venet
Eric Matheny  - Chuck Britz
Harris Laskaway  - Voyle Gilmore
Clayton Wilcox  - Tommy Schaeffer
Anthony Rapp  - Van Dyke Parks
David Polcyn  - Phil Spector
Annie Abbott  - Mary Rovell

REVIEW: The second fictionalized re-telling of the Beach Boys story (after the reprehensible Summer Dreams fiasco), this highly-produced two-part miniseries is miles above the previous film, although not without its share of glaring, and puzzling faults.  The good?  Excellent casting, with nary a weak link in the bunch, strong production values, with excellent on-site location work, use of the original Beach Boys music incorporated (mostly), and a strong first half gave me high hopes that this film would be less exploitative and more celebratory in its scope. It uses actual dialogue of the Beach Boys and their father Murry which was caught on tape, and the first half captures the vibe of the early 1960s very well.  But by the second night, the narrative falls apart, as the usual cliches raise their ugly heads.  The film goes out of its way to depict Brian's emotional downfall, ostensibly shown here as increasingly bizarre behavior in the studio, and the character's increasingly paranoid, whining displays.  Not the fault of the actor portraying Brian, but more at fault in the writing, which unfortunately leaned on the reminisences of Mike Love and co-producer John Stamos.  Van Dyke Parks is portrayed as a stoned flower-child, and due to his non-participation in the film, new lyrics had to be composed which approximated his writings for Smile.  The film even uses a segment of Brian's actual voice (from 2000) while he's portrayed sitting at the piano composing a piece of music, and the difference is noticable, and jarring.  The "feel-good" moment at the end of the film is supposed to be when Mike Love convinces the executives at Capitol Records to release what will eventually become the Beach Boys comback: the greatest-hits compilation Endless Summer, but by then, the obvious biases in the narrative left me with a bad taste in my mouth.  Never available to the public, this film shows up occasionally on cable TV.

The Beach Boys Special Edition EP (March 25, 2003)
Classic Pictures Entertainment, Produced by Radio Bremen 6070X [DVD]; Directed by Robert Garofalo

German Radio Appearances Recorded 1969

1. Do It Again - 2:04
2. California Girls - 2:23
3. Breakaway - 2:51
4. Surfin' USA - 2:15

Pop-Up DVD - 9:33
Previews - 3:30
DVD Jukebox - 32:15

REVIEW: The main problem with running a site like this is occasionally I have to purchase completely worthless garbage to review in order to keep the site current.  (sigh)  Oh, well.  This "special edition EP" which deceptively pictures an early line-up of the Beach Boys on the cover is simply not worth your money.  It contains four abbrieviated "performances" by the Beach Boys ("Do It Again," "California Girls,"  Breakaway," and "Surfin' USA") that were recorded for German television in 1969.  The  video quality is fair to poor, and entirely in black and white; the production values are intrusive, with several annoying video overlays that sometimes completely obscure the band; and there's something creepy about having Mike Love in full 1969 'Maharishi' mode (long beard and flowing white robe) sing the original lp version of "Surfin' USA" with the band forming an impromptu kick-line during the song.  The canned lip-synching is obvious: Brian Wilson is not participating, even though his voice is heard loudly; Denny even rolls his eyes on camera after realizing he can't match the drum pattern on "Breakaway," and eventually he gives up.  The rest of the band fares little better.  The so-called "extras" are nothing to shout about either: on the "pop-up" menu, you simply get the same four songs with the addition of well-known facts about the band that any neophyte would know, and the rest of the DVD is filled up with shameless promos of other, similar DVD's.  Radio Bremen, who produced this should be sucked out of existence for releasing this deceptive piece of junk.  I guess if you want a little time-capsule of this period, it's nice to see Carl and Dennis again, but otherwise don't waste your hard-earned cash.

Good Timin - Live at Knebworth, England 1980
Brother Records Inc./Eagle Rock Entertianment 30021-9 [DVD], 70 min.  Released March 25, 2003


California Girls
Sloop John B
School Days
God Only Knows
Be True To Your School
Do It Again
Little Deuce Coupe
Cotton Fields
Heroes and Villains
Keepin' the Summer Alive
Lady Lynda
Surfer Girl
Help Me Rhonda
I Get Around
Surfin' USA
You Are So Beautiful
Good Vibrations
Barbara Ann
Fun, Fun, Fun

REVIEW: I can say the same about the DVD release as I did about the CD version; that it's a well-played, fairly sterile overview of the Beach Boys career, with a few high points that make it a must-buy for the rabid fan.  (Of course, most rabid fans don't need any prodding to buy new product, but hey...)  The best part is seeing all of the players present and accounted for: Brian Wilson, looking like a whipped dog for most of the performance (but strangely coming to life for "Keepin' The Summer Alive"); Mike Love, who rarely cracks a smile but manages to keep things rolling along nicely (I just wish he'd give up the lame hand motions during songs); Dennis Wilson, pounding the drums with an almost desperate fierceness, and providing genuine emotion throughout the show; Al Jardine almost fading into the background (even during his solo numbers); Carl Wilson giving it everything he's got, both in his playing and singing; and Bruce Johnston just happy to be there.  What struck me most during the show was the sheer amount of harmony the Beach Boys add to almost every number.  The singing during this show is gorgeous, with a few obvious vocal flubs here and there.  But certainly it's a revelation to hear again how dense and intricate the Beach Boys' harmony could be in a live setting.  No other band comes close.  The picture and sound are very good for a recording that's over twenty years old, and the concert should provide most fans with a once-in-a-lifetime memento of this singular event.

Surfing USA: Featuring The Hits Of The Beach Boys
Passport Video 1547 [DVD]; 110 min. Released December 9, 2003
Surfing USA DVD

Product Description:

The popularity of surfing has endured for decades. Every year countless bronzed beach dwellers take to the waves to try and outdo each other by tackling the most fearsome waves available. This celebration of the sport comes with a musical accompaniment from The Beach Boys, who penned many a surf classic in their dazzling career.

REVIEW: Ugh.  Once more I'm stuck reviewing product that makes my I.Q. tumble just watching it.  Koch International, purveyor of loads of dung just like this, has defiled the Beach Boys name with "Surfing USA."  Less a video about the Beach Boys than a hopeless mish-mash of intent and budget, this 50-minute long video has a couple of small items for people who absolutely have to have everything put out about the Beach Boys, along with a bunch of clips they already own, as well as nearly a half-hour of filler not even related to America's band.  Beginning with the aforementioned 30-minute "documentary" on the art of surfing, viewers hoping for glimpses of the Beach Boys will be drumming their fingers impatiently until the video suddenly shifts to movies that have featured the band, from The Girls on the Beach and The Monkey's Uncle (see above) to the surfing documentary Endless Summer.   So you'll see extended clips of Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon doing the "clam" and other various trailers and clips.  Then, for no apparent reason other than to avoid truth-in-advertizing lawsuits, the video shifts suddenly to performances by the Beach Boys, four of which are taken from the previously released Lost Concert (see above), which is still readily available, as well as two television clips from early, black and white appearances of the band.  Overall a deceptive, no-budget DVD release that can be readily avoided by most fans.  But if you just have to have it...

The Beach Boys: Good Vibrations Tour
Eagle Vision USA/Brother Records EREDV336 [DVD]; 50 min. Released June 15, 2004

Purchase from
Recorded live in 1976 at the Anaheim Stadium

1. Fun, Fun, Fun
2. Be True to Your School
3. I'm Bugged at My Ol 'Man
4. God Only Knows
5. I Get Around
6. You Are So Beautiful
7. That Same Song
8. Good Vibrations
9. Sloop John B
10. Surfin 'USA
11. California Girls
12. Help Me Rhonda
13. It's OK
14. Rock 'n 'Roll Music
15. Wouldn 't It Be Nice
16. Final Credits

REVIEW: Originally broadcast as "It's OK" on NBC television in 1976 to celebrate the release of The Beach Boys' 15 Big Ones, this surreal special was produced and written by Lorne Michaels, James Belushi, and Dan Ackroyd of "Saturday Night Live" fame - and boy, does it show.  Intercut into the by-the-numbers concert by the band filmed in Anaheim are various interview snippets: the well-known interview with Brian in bed; "slice-of-life" portraits of each band member: Al Jardine wrestling with goats while discussing the hardships of living in the 'wild,' Mike Love riding shotgun in a stunt plane, and Dennis Wilson getting overheated while judging a beauty contest (I couldn't help thinking it was like a shark at a feeding frenzy.)  Also included are some completely unrelated moments, like a teenage skateboarder talking about the history of the sport, a stoned-looking surfer discussing his bohemian lifestyle, and yes, (somebody shoot me now!) a bevy of high-kicking cheerleaders strutting their stuff during the performance of "Be True To Your School."  It's from this special that the infamous "Surf Police" sketch originated; where Mike Love is shown at his mincing, gold-spangled best; where Dennis and Carl are interviewed discussing their father with surprising frankness; and Brian, Dennis and Carl sing a reprise of "I'm Bugged At My Old Man," which still elicits the same giggles from all of them, but to the audience watching at home, must have seemed very strange.  But this is still an engaging film: part time-capsule, part concert document, and part comedy sketch, all blended together into something unmistakably of the 1970's .  Eagle Vision, which also released the similar Live In Knebworth DVD above, deserves kudos for releasing these programs for the fans.

The Beach Boys: Back To The Beach
Unicorn Performance Series 96116 [DVD]; 30 min. Released October 25, 2005

1. California Girls
2. Catch A Wave
3. Under The Boardwalk
4. Be True To Your School

5. Surf City (Jan & Dean)
6. Sidewalk Surfin' (Jan & Dean)

REVIEW: I have a hard time believing that copyright laws have degraded to the degree that allows rip-offs like this to be peddled to the public legally.   As shoddy a release as I've ever seen, this 30-minute long DVD is reprehensible.  Essentially a four-song set from the Beach Boys circa 1993 in St. Louis, Missouri, the band, (consisting of Mike, Al, Bruce, Carl and Matt Jardine, plus John Stamos slumming along) is unispired, with lackluster readings of "California Girls" (debauched by the presence of the infamous 'Beach Boys dancers'), then leading into an insipid performance of "Catch A Wave" which is taken at "geezer" tempo (courtesy of John Stamos on drums), then the video cuts to a forgettable performance of Summer In Paradise's "Under The Boardwalk" before completely self-destructing with a cheesy, self-indulgent parody of "Be True To Your School" - with Mike and John Stamos trading limp, pre-rehearsed jokes.  Mike is obviously in charge here, and with his dress-code desecration of the United States Flag and sporting multiple gold bracelets and rings, he looks like nothing less than an All-American Pimp, surrounded by his harem of vacuous "cheerleaders."  The rest of the Beach Boys get slim camera time, which is probably all to the good, since they look like they're simply going through the motions.  In total, the Beach Boys segment lasts a mere seventeen and half minutes, and much of that is smarmy stage banter between Mike and John.  The video quality is only so-so, with the footage apparently swiped from a less-than-pristine VHS tape, with LOTS of tracking and flutter problems.  The final deception of this DVD is the tacked-on addition of two Jan & Dean lip-syncs, which has the damaged duo mouthing along to "Surf City" and "Sidewalk Surfin" by a pool, frequently interrupted by stock footage of surfers, skateboarders, and ultra-coiffed girls in bikinis.  I'm amazed that this product can legally be sold, and warn every Beach Boys fan to avoid, unless you absolutely have to have every scrap of rare concert footage.

The Beach Boys: VideoBiography
Classic Rock Legends [DVD]; Released June 27, 2007
Product Description

This definitive overview of the band and its music provides an unrivaled insight into the world of the Beach Boys. With powerful and rare live performance footage as its backdrop The program also features fascinating archive interviews with Brian Wilson and his late brother Carl. In addition, a team of eminent musicologists and respected rock critics are on hand to unravel the secrets of the Beach Boys phenomenon; these include influential drummer Rod Gretsinger and producer/guitarist Les Davidson.

REVIEW:  This UK product is a book/DVD combo, neither of which is essential by any means, but an OK product for novices who are just getting into the band.  The book, which is excerpted from Andrew Doe's extensive Guide to The Beach Boys, but here covers only through 1974's In Concert (with 1964's Beach Boys Concert cover mistakenly substituted).  The album entries are lengthy, and some have been expanded for this book, but by cutting out solo albums, and even the Beach Boys later discography, the album section is sadly incomplete.  The book is also filled with a smattering of color photos, although strangely includes several pics which are clearly from later in the band's career, even though the discography cuts off in the mid-1970s.  Still, for a Beach Boys book, you could do far worse than tap the talents of the talented Andrew Doe.  The DVD is similarly well-meaning - it's obvious that the producers tried to put together something nice, with the limited resources they had available.  The talking heads they've put together here (including such non-luminaries as "influential drummer Rod Gretsinger and producer/guitarist Les Davidson") are far removed from the Beach Boys themselves, and bereft of actual insight, they're left to spout generalities and clichés which reveal their lack of anything meaningful.  The producers also have audio interviews with Carl and Brian Wilson, from around 1981, and include video clips of live performances from The Ed Sullivan Show, The Lost Concert, The Steve Allen Show, Knebworth, and NBC's "Brian is Back" television special.  All of this is flaccidly narrated by Graham McTavish who is long on rhetoric, but short on facts.  The video clips are all accompanied by annoyingly prominent copyright notices, and the clips, which have been reformatted into "widescreen" have a squashed, compressed look.  Bonus features include a brief, unremarkable photo slide-show.  Made in China, this OK production has minimal interest for Beach Boys fans.

Dennis Wilson Forever: Interviews with the people who knew him best
Sony/BMG International [DVD];
Released August 5, 2008

dennis wilson
Product description:
Three years in the making a first time on DVD, this powerful full-length documentary was produced by the late great Beach Boy's brother-in-law Billy Hinsche. This DVD, released to coincide with the reissue of his Pacific Ocean Blue album and the 25th Anniversary of his death, includes plenty of interviews with the people who knew him best and serves as a real insight into the life of this musical legend. The film includes never-before-seen footage of Dennis and the Beach Boys from 1974. This full-length feature film includes vintage black & white photos and footage of Dennis and the Beach Boys of 1974. The soundtrack incorporates Billy's song "One in a Million" (written for Dennis) into the body of the film.

REVIEW:  Dennis Wilson Forever is Billy Hinche's tribute to the late, great Dennis Wilson, the soulful, troubled, wild-child of the Beach Boys.  During his lifetime, he was seen less as a musician, and more as the band's sex-symbol and iconic laid-back surfer.  Dennis Wilson Forever takes a rose-colored backwards look at his life, influence, and (marginally) his music, primarily through casual interviews with people who were somewhat close to him during his lifetime.  Be warned, this documentary doesn't dig too deeply, or try in any way to be a definitive look at Dennis's life - it has the feel of a wake - a genial, good-natured reminiscence of a wayward son's life.  John Stamos, Carnie Wilson, Justyn Wilson, Al Jardine, and Dean Torrence all get snippets of time, but not much here is really memorable, in the twenty-odd years since Dennis's passing, when this DVD was shot, it seems that only a handful of memories are sharp - or thought worthy of discussion; certainly Al Jardine could've come up with much more detailed remembrances of Dennis's difficult nature than what he mentions here; and and far as Dennis's musical talent, it also gets glossed over - it seems that everyone praises "Forever" as the penultimate song that he wrote, but everything else is pretty much ignored.  There are some nice moments here, stories that you won't find anywhere else, but overall this is a pleasant, undemanding 82 minutes, which, if you're a big fan of Dennis Wilson, will be like spending a few minutes chatting about him with his friends.

The Beach Boys and The Satan
ABC Entertainment ABCVP114DVD [DVD];
Released September 30, 2008

Product Description
THE BEACH BOYS AND THE SATAN puts the Beach Boys rise to success into context with rarely seen footage of the band, while it exposes the Summer of Love's darkest side and investigates the connections between some of the most controversial characters of that period (Anton La Vey, Kenneth Anger, and Brian Wilson) and their connection to the Manson Family.

The documentary, which hits video stores on September 30, includes interviews with Kim Fowley, Don Was and the creative force behind the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson. Originally released in 1997 THE BEACH BOYS AND THE SATAN has been unavailable for nearly ten years.

REVIEW:  German television documentary Die Beach Boys und das Satan has been made available here in the States, but for the life of me, I don't see why.  This unfocused, disjointed documentary shifts gears so often, and contains so much filler and jarring shifts in tone that I had to wonder whether the creators were smoking something illegal during the editing.  First of all, it's deceptively advertised as an examination of The Beach Boys' (and others) involvement with Charles Manson and his murderous family.  I only wish it fulfilled this promise, since an in-depth examination of Dennis Wilson's relationship with Manson has never been done.  But the video doesn't even touch Manson in the first half of the program, but instead slathers on a plethora of rambling, disjointed commentary about a.) Surf music (with appearances and performance clips by the surviving Chantays as well as Dick Dale), b.) Commentary on Pet Sounds (which seems to go on forever), c.) a lengthy interview with Don Was and Brian Wilson circa 1996 when they were promoting the IJWMFTT documentary (and we get some sizable chunks of that DVD thrown in as well) - and to top is all off,  some terrifying modern performances by artists who have NO connection to the Beach Boys, (including a truly horrific cover of "Surfer Girl" by David Thomas which is cringe-worthy on multiple levels, and Kim Fowley's howlingly bad 'narrative docu-songs')  In between these, the viewer is bombarded with multiple clips of the Beach Boys, all of which have been previously released on other, superior DVDs, and even some unwelcome psychoanalysis is tossed into the mix.  Oh, and there's also clips from Janis Joplin and Pulp Fiction thrown is as well.  When the film finally gets around to connecting Dennis Wilson with Charles Manson, it dispenses with the connection in about twenty seconds - no details about the relationship, no examination of their time together.  The film simply shifts from one subject to the other with a miniscule connecting link.  There is some good interview footage with Brian Wilson and Don Was, but the rest of this DVD is an incoherent, ill-advised mess.

1974 - On The Road With The Beach Boys (a film by Billy Hinsche)
MFM Productions, Inc. [DVD-R] 95 min.;
Released December, 2009

Filmed on location during the April and May Beach Boys tour of 1974.

Featuring Mike Love, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Al Jardine and Ricky Fataar.

With appearances by Billy Hinsche, Ed Carter, Carli Munoz, Bobby Figueroa, Jim Guercio and others.

Live soundtrack includes concert segments of "The Trader," "Long Promised Road" and "Marcella."  Also included is John Hunter Phillips' recording of "Under A Beach Boy Moon" from his CD "It's About Time."

REVIEW:  I wish I could recommend this Billy Hinsche film - when I first heard that he had some home movies taken during the 1974 Beach Boys tour (a pivotal year for the fortunes of the band), I was intrigued (and for thirty bucks a pop, I was naturally expecting something worth the money).  Boy, was I disappointed.  This 95-minute film suffers from a bunch of problems, the first being that it's deadly dull.  You might think that seeing behind-the-scenes footage of the band during a tour would be fun, right?  Unfortunately, the prevailing mood seems to be one of weariness; Mike is sullen and cold, even when Dennis is trying to draw him out about Van Dyke Parks, Carl is goofy whenever the camera is pointed at him, resorting to French accents and making "finger eyeglasses"; Dennis, far from being the charismatic wild-man he's painted to be, seems strung out and bored most of the time; and Al is barely present.  The film quality is very poor, with audio that has to be supplemented with sub-titles in order to be legible; and the "concert footage" included is far murkier than even the worst bootlegs I've heard.  Mostly you get talking heads from former band-members and crew: Billy Hinsche, Ed Carter, Carli Munoz and others are paraded before the camera in recent interview segments, but none of them illuminate the Beach Boys beyond saying how "great" they were.  In fact, the past-tense terms used for even Mike and Al make it sound more like a eulogy than a tribute.  Some of the scenes are unintentionally funny, such as when one of the talking heads claims that Dennis surpassed his brother Brian musically, only to cut to a brief shot of Dennis one-finger noodling incoherently on a keyboard.  Or when Mike is compared to Bob Hope as a front man, only to later show him grim and solitary, eating his sesame candy in the parking lot.  In fact, from the hotel rooms, cheap diners, and long sound checks which are captured here, the only thing that Billy has perfectly captured is the tedium of the tour, and unfortunately that's the flavor that's present on the DVD.  There are a few interesting moments: when Al begins riffing on "Heroes and Villains" - or when Dennis finally seems to break out of his stupor when he realizes he's going home, but these are very brief, and, for the most part, the Beach Boys come across as tired, defeated men, doing the only thing that's left for them to do.

The T.A.M.I. Show (1964)
Shout! Factory [DVD]; 112 min.
Released March 23, 2010

Filmed at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, October 29, 1964, performances include:
Jan & Dean- (Here They Come) From All Over The World
Chuck Berry- Johnny B. Goode, Maybellene, Sweet Little Sixteen, Nadine (Is it You?)
Gerry And The Pacemakers- Maybellene, Dont Let The Sun Catch You Crying, Its Gonna Be Alright, How Do You Do It?, I Like It
Smokey Robinson & The Miracles- Thats What Love Is Made Of, You've Really Got a Hold on Me, Mickeys Monkey
Marvin Gaye- Stubborn Kind Of Fellow, Pride And Joy, Can I Get A Witness, Hitch Hike
Lesley Gore- Maybe I Know, You Dont Own Me, You Didnt Look Around, Hey Now, Its My Party, & Judys Turn To Cry
Jan & Dean- The Little Old Lady (From Pasadena) & Sidewalk Surfin
The Beach Boys- Surfin U.S.A., I Get Around, Surfer Girl, & Dance, Dance, Dance
Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas- Little Children, Bad To Me, I'll Keep You Satisfied, & From A Window
The Supremes- When The Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes, Run, Run, Run, Baby Love, & Where Did Our Love Go
The Barbarians- Hey Little Bird
James Brown & The Flames- Out Of Sight, Prisoner Of Love, Please, Please, Please, & Night Train
The Rolling Stones- Around and Around, Off The Hook, Time Is On My Side, It's All Over Now, & I'm All Right
All Performers- Show Close: Lets Get Together

Bonus Features
New commentary by director Steve Binder
Original T.A.M.I Show radio spots
20-page booklet featuring detailed essay and rare photos and memorabilia

REVIEW:  The TAMI Show, dating from 1964, is touted as being one of the very first "Rock 'n' Roll" revues ever staged, and, if you're willing to completely overlook the Apollo shows, you could make an argument for this professionally filmed show as being a seminal moment in rock history.  Hosted by those clown princes of pop, Jan & Dean, the opening credits have many of the various acts busing, driving, and (in the case of Jan & Dean) motorcycling, and even skateboarding to the theater, as well as throngs of teenagers literally dancing in the aisles to fill the venue.  It's a very corny opening to the proceedings, and Jan & Dean continue to give a sly nod and wink throughout the show, with acts that hailed from pop (Leslie Gore), soul (James Brown), R&B (Smokey Robinson), rock (The Rolling Stones), and British Invasion (Gerry and the Pacemakers), all getting a chance to perform medleys of their hits.

For Beach Boys fans, The TAMI Show has been one of the holy grails of video artifacts - shortly after the film ran in theaters, Murray Wilson demanded that The Beach Boys' segment be excised from all prints, effectively killing any future showings or releases; and although outtakes of their performance have shown up on various bootleg releases, this is the first time the Beach Boys' performance has been seen in its entirety (and in this quality) since the film's initial release.  The Beach Boys play and sing with all the polish they had acquired by this time - their harmony vocals are truly amazing, considering this is a live performance in front of a screaming audience.  Unfortunately, due to the cutting of the sequence, there is noticeable damage to the Beach Boys' clip - it's not unwatchable, but there are frames missing, and it's a shame.  Not only that, but it's evident from watching their performance, in direct contrast with the other acts, that the Beach Boys were a fairly tame live act - Dennis Wilson literally rules the stage with his omni-sexual swagger behind the drumset - while the rest of the group strum and sing along politely as if they were playing at a Ladies Sewing Circle.  They exude none of the silky sensuousness of The Stones, The Miracles, or James Brown.

As for the rest of the concert, yeah, it's a thrill to see some of these acts live - but the concert is hit and miss, and it carries a quaintness about it, due to the go-go dancers constantly prancing about the stage, as well as the reigned-in mannerisms which were part of the times (seeing Marvin Gaye performing in a white tuxedo is a wee bit surreal).  I wouldn't call this concert one of the best rock concerts ever, but as a historical artifact, it's absolutely priceless.

Carl Wilson: Here and Now
MFM Productions [DVD-R]; 183 min.
Released May, 2011

                                                        Wilson: Here and
CW-H&N Trailers: Version 1 and Version 2.

Carl Wilson — Here and Now is a highly personal documentary film about the professional and private life of Carl Wilson, the man who had “the voice of an angel,” as well as being the lead guitarist and founding member of The Beach Boys.

  • Contains three hours of viewing on two discs.
  • Family members interviewed are Brian Wilson, Jonah Wilson, Justyn Wilson, Annie Wilson Karges, Marilyn Wilson Rutherford, Carole Wilson Bloom and more.
  • 50 interviews highlight Gerry Beckley (America), Phil “Fang” Volk (Paul Revere & The Raiders), Nick Fortuna (The Buckinghams), Walt Parazaider (Chicago) and many others.
  • Includes never-before-seen family photos, rare home movies and vintage concert footage.
  • Features musical segments by Carl Wilson and the complete versions of Michael Angeloff's “Here and Now Is Forever” and “Life's So Strange” that were Carl's last background vocal performances in the recording studio.
  • Filmed on location from 2007-2011 by distinguished Beach Boys' historian and filmmaker Billy Hinsche, who was also Carl Wilson's brother-in-law.

Much like Billy Hinche's earlier films about Dennis Wilson and The Beach Boys' 1974 tour, Carl Wilson: Here and Now gives fans an insiders look at Carl Wilson by those who knew him.  Billy's unparalleled access to Carl's family, as well as associates, band mates, and friends, as well as short clips by Brian Wilson, make this double DVD set essential for fans of Carl.  Those who wondered about Dennis's children will also find much here to love as three of his children make appearances, talking about "Uncle Carl", and Mike Love's son Christian also speaks of Carl's influence on his own vocals.  Besides these in-person interviews, which are extensive (the liner notes list fifty separate participants), there are numerous home movies, photographs, and in-studio clips which have never been publicly available before.  The editing has been thoughtfully done to discuss Carl's virtues by topic: his personality, his perfectionism, his guitar skills and style, his vocal uniqueness, etc.  What becomes quickly apparent is not what's here (which is extensive) - but what's not here: Mike Love and Al Jardine are conspicuous in their absence; and Brian's segments are typical of him: short bursts of Brian riffing on one of Carl's lead vocals, and then quickly cutting away to a more informative talking head.  And many of these "heads" simply don't have much in the way of enlightenment to offer: with what appears to be drug-related hazes dulling the finer points of memory.  I thought Gerrry Beckley and Nick Fortuna came across the best, while others seemed to have been ambushed and simply give quick, one-sentence responses.  And finally, the entire program is simply too long, with too many peripheral characters and bland remembrances.  But what's here is impressive enough, and most fans will be very happy at this rose-colored remembrance of the most gentle of The Beach Boys.  Available from Billy Hinche's website.

The Beach Boys: Doin' It Again
XENON [DVD/Blu-Ray]; 90 min.
Released August 28, 2012
  • 50th Anniversary - 1st album of new material in 20 years That's Why God Made The Radio to kickoff worldwide tour
  • Live Performances and never-before-seen footage from the 1966 'Good Vibrations' recording sessions
  • Behind-the-scenes footage from the 2012 recording sessions for the new Beach Boys release That s Why God Made The Radio
  • The group's moving tributes to founding members Carl and Dennis Wilson
  • Exclusive 2012 interviews

Originally broadcast on PBS stations, this hour-long documentary about the band gathers together all of the surviving members of the Beach Boys, and recounts their history, from the Beach Boys' beginnings to their most recent reunion and new album That's Why God Made The Radio.  Having the official approval and cooperation of all of the band members makes this one of the more valuable documentaries about them, since the producers had access to original archival music/video/photos, all of which is helped by accounts from Al Jardine, Mike Love, Brian Wilson and David Marks, who reveal some previously unheard memories of their respective childhoods and how they came together.  Spliced together with new concert and studio film, this slick, professionally-produced piece manages to do the job of sweeping under the carpet the years of acrimony and splits within the group and painting a rose-tinted portrait of the band coming together and reclaiming their legacy as the premiere vocal rock group in America.  The inner dynamics of the band are all on display, with Mike Love taking the lead, Brian Wilson chiming in with odd non-sequiturs, and Alan, David, and Bruce giving thoughtful asides.  What's really missing here is a full concert - we see snippets here and there, but for those hoping to recapture what they've seen this year in stadiums across America, this will only give them a taste.  Still, there is much here to entice fans old and new, with a great deal of music, new interviews, and archival footage all tied together very nicely.

The Beach Boys: 50 - Live In Concert
SMC Recordings [DVD/Blu-Ray]; 90 min.
Released November 19, 2012

Track List:
Do It Again
Catch A Wave
Isn't It Time
Little Deuce Coupe
Shut Down
I Get Around
Heroes And Villains
Sloop John B
Wouldn't It Be Nice
All This Is That
That's Why God Made The Radio
Sail On, Sailor
Good Vibrations
California Girls
Help Me Rhonda
Rock And Roll Music
Fun, Fun, Fun

It amazing to me how polarizing the Beach Boys can be towards their fan base. As an onlooker now for many years, the divisions within the band, let's call 'em the Mike 'n' Brian factions are nearly as divided as our political parties.  On Mike's side, you have the populists, the casual fans who want the hits, and nothing but the hits; while on Brian's side, you have rabid apologists who delve deeply into the Beach Boys catalog and lament those tracks that "haven't gotten their due."  One of the many remarkable things about the Beach Boys fiftieth anniversary reunion and tour was the tour setlist, which managed to delve deeply into the catalog, presenting a concert the breadth of which hadn't been seen since the release of the box set in the 90s. But, unfortunately, the folks at SMC Recordings, who produced this DVD of the tour, are of the populist mindset, so, instead of the expansive tour repetoire the band gave us, a "highlights" disc has been presented, with the biggest hits, and a couple of singles from their latest album and nearly half the concert axed. Fans are understandably annoyed, but to blame The Beach Boys is disingenuous at this point - fans who shelled out for the concerts got exactly what they wanted, while those who purchase this DVD/Blu-Ray will also get exactly what they want - a hits collection, and nothing more.  The concert as presented is fine - the Beach Boys run through the setlist with as much energy as they can muster at this point in their lives, and they're given welcome support by Jeffrey Foskett, and members of Brian's and Mike's respective bands.  This is why bootlegs were invented folks, and why sites such as YouTube make so much money.

The Beach Boys: Back Again - Live In Japan 2012
Echoes ECHO063-9 [DVD]; 98 min.
Released September 13, 2013

REVIEW:  A strange release, and one I hesitated to pick up for a long time, due both to the sour taste left in my mouth from the "official" Beach Boys 50th Anniversary Tour DVD (reviewed above) and the belief that this was a bootleg (which I'm still up in the air about), I nevertheless decided to bit the bullet and check it out after seeing a rip of it on YouTube.  I'm glad I did - for one thing, it's professionally filmed and produced, with excellent sound and camera-work.  Secondly, the track listing is what the Beach Boys themselves should have put out - a mighty thirty-five tracks, compared to the paltry twenty-one on the official DVD, and thirdly (and most important to me) was the recorded sound - which suffered mightily from artificial studio sweetening on the official release, but here, is unnoticeable.  It truly sounds "live" - which, strange to say, is exactly what I want to hear on a concert document!  As far as caveats go, there are still several: the Beach Boys stuff many of their hits into long medleys, cutting out large parts of the original songs in order to get as much in as possible; "Marcella" which was featured on the previous DVD, is missing here, (but lots of other songs make appearances which were excised from the previous release); and finally (and strangest of all) the video quality is sub-par.  Although obviously professional filmed with multiple camera angles and close-ups, there's lots of compression and pixelation in the video - as if it was captured off a television broadcast - but it affects only the video - not the audio portion.  So to wrap  up - the video quality is a minus, but otherwise, this release is far and away to be recommended over the previous release - I'm glad I picked it up.

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