It's a Bikini World

It's a Bikini World is an American musical comedy film released in 1967 starring Tommy Kirk, Deborah Walley and Bobby Pickett. The film features cameos by the music groups The Gentrys, The Animals, Pat & Lolly Vegas, The Castaways and R&B girl group The Toys. Featuring a pro-feminist plotline, it is the only film in the beach party genre to be directed by a woman (Stephanie Rothman).

It's a Bikini World
Theatrical release poster
Directed byStephanie Rothman
Produced byCharles S. Swartz
Written by
  • Stephanie Rothman
  • Charles S. Swartz
Music by
CinematographyAlan Stensvold
Edited byLeo H. Shreve
Distributed byTrans American
Release date
  • April 14, 1967 (1967-04-14)
Running time
86 minutes
CountryUnited States

This film, along with Catalina Caper (which also starred Tommy Kirk), is among the last beach party films. The mainstay of the once-popular genre was the series of films by American International Pictures (AIP), starting with the surprise hit Beach Party in 1963 and ending with The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (a box-office flop) in 1966.

Although AIP picked up distribution, it was not an AIP film. It was actually produced and originally distributed by Trans American Films under the title The Girl in Daddy's Bikini. A new 35mm print with this title was screened at the American Cinematheque in Hollywood on August 1, 2009.


Young surfer Mike Samson (Tommy Kirk), the local beach jock, is quite the ladies' man until he meets Delilah Dawes (Deborah Walley). At first, he tries to add her to his harem, but she rejects him because she finds him chauvinistic and shallow, so he disguises himself as a nerdy twin brother, "Herbert".

In the meantime, publisher Harvey Pulp (Jack Bernardi) plans to start a new magazine called "Teen Scream". He joins forces with "Daddy" (Sid Haig), car, surfboard, and skateboard customizer — and owner of local music club The Dungeon — to publicize the venture. Pulp and Daddy organize a series of contests, and Delilah competes against "Mike" with the encouragement of "Herbert" in various events, and loses each time. However, Mike finds that he is falling in love with her. Eventually, Delilah finds out about the deception. Soon the two compete in a final race, using various vehicles.



It's a Bikini World was partly financed by Roger Corman, who hired his protégé, Stephanie Rothman, to direct, and her husband Charles S. Swartz to produce; they co-wrote the script.[1] Rothman later stated her rationale for the script:

Girls in beach pictures were usually very passive. The idea that she would assume her athletic prowess could be as good as his was very alien. We wanted a story in which the two characters each had a very strong sense of self-esteem: the boy not wanting to admit that the girl could be as worthy as he, the girl not willing to let him believe that he was better than her.[2]

The movie was originally entitled The Girl in Daddy's Bikini. In October 1965 Kirk signed to do the film, which then was to be released by Paramount.[3][4]


It was shot in the winter of 1965, but not released until spring of 1967.[5] That the film was shot off-season (when the beaches were less crowded, which was typical for beach party films) is noticeable from the foliage and the Hollywood Boulevard Christmas decorations appearing onscreen.

Trans American made an effort to copy AIP's style. Both Kirk and Walley had appeared in previous AIP films, Kirk in Pajama Party and Walley in both Beach Blanket Bingo and Ski Party, and they had just starred together in The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini. Bobby Pickett's character, Woody, with his goofy hats and dim wit, is a riff on the character Deadhead/Bonehead that Jody McCrea portrayed in several of the AIP beach party films; Sid Haig's character, Daddy, with his Kustom Kulture design merchandise empire, is a take-off on Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, whose designs were tied to the AIP films as well. For example, Roth's trademark hat — aka Hillbilly Crash Helmet — was worn by McCrea in a couple of AIP films, and Roth's Surfite custom car appears in AIP's Beach Blanket Bingo.

The role of Woody was originally offered to Aron Kincaid, who turned it down.[6]

Pickett recalled Walley as being "flirtatious" and Rothman as "very sweet".[7]

Shooting took around two weeks at a number of locations, including Malibu Beach and a theatre in the Palisades. The location used for Daddy's "Dungeon" in the film is the notorious Hollywood Boulevard club The Haunted House, notable for its bizarre stage in the shape of a mouth of a giant fanged monster. The club also appears as the setting for Ted V. Mikels' go-go exploitation film, Girl in Gold Boots, released a year later in 1968.

Surfboards used in the film were provided by Hobie.


The Animals perform their hit "We Gotta Get out of This Place," and teen garage punks the Castaways perform their hit "Liar, Liar." The Toys perform "Attack," the Gentrys perform "Spread It On Thick", and Pat & Lolly Vegas perform "Walk On (Right Out of My Life)."

The soundtrack is by Mike Curb and features an early Moog synthesizer cut. The kinetic surf instrumental used over the opening and closing credits, and as a signature throughout the film, is by Bob Summers.[8]


The film was released in the spring of 1967, finding limited release in the big cities and mostly playing Southern drive-ins.[6]

Tommy Kirk later said he was embarrassed by the movie. "It was ... basically the end of my career, one of the worst pieces of shit that I've ever been in in my life. I can't believe that I could be so stupid. Poor Deborah Walley, poor me."[9]

Stephanie Rothman later said she "became very depressed after making" the film. "I had very ambivalent feelings about continuing to be a director if that was all I was going to be able to do. So I literally went into a kind of retirement for several years until more than anything in the world, I wanted to make films."[2]

See also


  1. 'Exploiting Feminism: An Interview with Stephanie Rothman (Part One)' Confessions of an Aca Fan: The Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins, Oct 16,2007
  2. Terry Curtis Fox, 'Fully Female', Film Comment 12. 6 (Nov/Dec 1976): 46-50,68
  3. Betty Martin, 'Wolper to Film War Novel', Los Angeles Times 20 Oct 1965: d15.
  4. Vagg, Stephen (9 September 2019). "The Cinema of Tommy Kirk". Diabolique Magazine.
  5. It's a Bikini World, John M. Miller, Turner Classic Movies
  6. Tom Lisanti, Hollywood Surf and Beach Movies: The First Wave, 1959-1969, McFarland 2005, p337-342
  7. Hopkins, Fred. "Bobby "Boris" Pickett". Psychotronic Video. No. 32. p. 81.
  8. Domenic Priore and Chris D., The American Cinematheque Newsletter. Riot on the Sunset Strip Vol. II: Slight Return (To 1966), July 31 - August 6, 2009.
  9. Minton, Kevin, "Sex, Lies, and Disney Tape: Walt's Fallen Star", Filmfax Issue 38, April 1993 p 70
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