Sergeant Dead Head (1965)

aka Sergeant Deadhead the Astronaut
Article 3053 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-16-2009
Posting Date: 12-23-2009
Directed by Norman Taurog
Featuring Frankie Avalon, Deborah Walley, Eve Arden
Country: USA
What it is: Beach party movie transmogrified into a non-Disney shopping cart movie with a military milieu.

Sergeant Deadhead is accidentally shot into space with a monkey. The space trip alters his personality, and when he returns, the military echelon decides to hide his aggressive new personality by locking him up and finding a look-alike to take his place. Hilarity ensues.

Though it isn’t strictly a ‘beach party’ movie, this American International comedy has a lot of the same actors and the same basic feel as those movies. It made me think about the similarities and differences between the ‘beach party’ movies and the Disney ‘shopping cart’ movies. The Disney movies had better special effects; the ‘beach party’ movies had more songs. The ‘beach party’ movies were sexier, but the Disney movies were smarter. Both made use of big-name actors, and occasionally pulled their talent from the same sources (Annette Funicello isn’t in this one, but she’s one obvious example). And both types of movies were bright and colorful.

This one is pretty dumb; the songs are weak, the plot is a mess, and it wastes Buster Keaton in a big way. Still, it did net me a couple of laughs, and there’s some fun to be had with the cast of name actors (which, along with those mentioned above, includes Fred Clark, Cesar Romero, Gale Gordon, John Ashley, and Harvey Lembeck). It’s a good-natured enough time-waster, but there’s better ones out there.


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