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Film / Catalina Caper

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Catalina Caper (also known as Never Steal Anything Wet) is a campy 1967 musical comedy mystery film from Crown International Pictures, directed by Lee Sholem and starring Tommy Kirk. One of the last entries (if not the last) in the '60s beach party film genre exemplified by Beach Blanket Bingo, this film blends the beach format with a standard crime-caper comedy.

Tommy Kirk's other beach films include It's a Bikini World (1967), and two American International Pictures features, Pajama Party (1965) and The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966).

This film was shot on location on and around Santa Catalina Island, California.

While about half the movie is just music numbers featuring teens dancing to music (at one point being serenaded by Little Richardnote ), there is an actual plot that noses in from time to time. An ancient scroll is stolen from a museum in Los Angeles. The next day, teenager Don Pringle (Kirk) arrives on Catalina Island with his friend Charlie Moss (Brian Cutler), who is determined to teach the Arizona boy what the swingin' beach party scene is all about, and also hook him up with his sister, Tina (Venita Wolf). However, on the boat ride over, Don is taken by the exotic beauty of vaguely foreign Katrina Corelli (Ulla Str√∂mstedt) though she's on the island to accompany her fiance, the vaguely threatening Angelo (Lyle Waggoner). Meanwhile, Tad Duvall (Peter Duryea), has arrived on the island along with his parents (Del Moore and Sue Casey); due to past history, he suspects they're up to something criminal. In reality, the parents have hired a burglar, Larry (Jim Begg), to steal the scroll from the museum so they can craft a forgery and sell it to their rich foreign mark Dino Lakopolis (Lee Deane). All the while, they're being trailed by hapless insurance investigator Fingers O'Toole (Robert Donner), who just wants to recover the scroll for the museum and hopefully arrest the larcenous Duvals in the process. After one of Lakopolis's men attempts to steal the scroll from the Duvals, it winds up in the water — leading to not one, but two underwater scuba-diving knife fights in the film as the teens get wise to the scheme.

Will the scroll be recovered? Will Don get lucky with Katrina? Will Fingers have another pratfall that fails to garner any laughs?

The movie is largely obscure now, though it was featured in the second season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 in 1990. For details on that episode, go to the episode recap page.

This film provides examples of:

  • And Starring: Introducing Venita Wolf as "Tina" and Brian Cutler as "Charlie".
  • Animated Credits Opening: By Murakami/Wolf Productions, who would later go onto greater fame with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987).
  • Betty and Veronica:
    • Tina and "Creepy Girl" Katrina for Don. Played with, as the film's use of the trope blends the traditional characteristics: Tina is more the "blonde girl next door" but is more emotionally volatile and prone to jealousy (but not to the point of being completely unlikable), while Katrina is dark-haired and alluring but ultimately very sweet. In the end, Don gets Katrina, but since Tina isn't a bad girl herself, she gets a Pair the Spares deal with Tad.
    • There's also a Gender Flipped version, with Don and Angelo for Katrina, which plays the trope very much straight.
  • Butt-Monkey: Fingers O'Toole is pretty much defined by his constant pratfalls. If there is even the slightest chance that he will trip, fall into the sea, or create a scenario where someone slaps him, it will happen. After all of the abuse he suffers in the film, he can't even succeed at his goal — arresting Arthur Duvall for his numerous acts of theft — because his son Tad secretly returned the scroll to the museum and thus left no evidence that it was stolen.
  • The Caper: Though much of the film ignores the theft of the scroll entirely, as it's successfully pulled at the beginning and the rest is how the parents intend to unload it.
  • Chronic Villainy: Discussed by Tad, who says that the scroll must be returned to the museum mainly because his amoral father would be unable to resist finding another wealthy benefactor to sell it to.
  • Dance Party Ending: The film ends, naturally, with every single character in the film rocking out to a song that was used earlier in the movie. Even Fingers, who amazingly doesn't get a pratfall.
  • Defective Detective: Fingers suffers from terrible luck while trying to nab the Duvalls and Larry.
  • Department of Redundancy Department:
    • When telling Don about the things to do on Catalina, Charlie mentions girls every other line.
    • Also ventures close to Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today? territory, especially given that Tommy Kirk's homosexuality was known in Hollywood, though not to the general public at the time.
  • Game of Nerds: Larry, the Duvalls' dorky, bespectacled associate, is really into baseball.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Dino Lakopolous, the Greek tycoon and stolen art collector who the Duvalls intend to sell the scroll to. Though noted as a proud thief, the main villain is essentially his henchman.
  • Hawaiian-Shirted Tourist: Larry is never seen without a loud Hawaiian shirt. He even wears it during his heist of the scroll.
  • Impossible Hourglass Figure: The animated mermaid in the beginning, whose hips are four times wider than her head, and whose waist is the width of a thumb.
  • Informed Attractiveness:
    • Katrina looks about the same as the other women in the cast, but she somehow manages to attract every single guy on the beach.
    • Charlie, who can't seem to go anywhere without at least three girls hanging off of him.
  • Karma Houdini: Larry and the Duvalls face no punishment for swiping the scroll, because Tad returned it to the museum without them knowing, leaving no evidence for Fingers to use against them. In fairness (and as stated below), the ending dance party does suggests that the whole experience has scared Arthur into leaving his life of crime behind, or at least settling down and working an honest job.
  • Long Song, Short Scene: Little Richard's "Scuba Party" is an extremely rare song to find outside of this movie. One of the only known ways to find it is on a compilation that was only released in some parts of Europe.
  • Loveable Rogue: Theoretically, Arthur and Larry.
  • MacGuffin: The scroll basically exists just to add some semblance of a plot.
  • Male Gaze: The shot of Katrina walking into the surf, with the waist-high camera pointed directly at her departing bikini briefs the whole time.
  • Monochrome Casting: Little Richard is the only black person in the entire movie. And he only appears in one short scene to sing "Scuba Party" while stoned out of his mind.
  • Mysterious Woman: The studio was clearly trying to go for this with Katrina, but all they managed to achieve was to make her seem mildly creepy, which is why MST3K dubbed her "Creepy Girl".
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Arthur Duvall's voice and manner are clearly patterned after Jack Benny.
  • Only Sane Man: Tad is the only member of his family who isn't a criminal.
  • Pair the Spares: Don is immediately taken with Katrina, but Charlie sets him up with his sister Tina. Don almost immediately breaks off for Katrina when he finds her again on the beach. To get him jealous, Tina eventually grabs on to the unattached Tad, but she ends up liking him better anyway.
  • Police Are Useless / The Guards Must Be Crazy: The security guard at the museum utterly fails at keeping Larry from breaking in after hours and stealing the scroll. The end of the movie shows that he hasn't improved this flaw, as he actually sees Tad right as he's put the scroll, a high-profile stolen art piece, back where it belongs and doesn't even notice until after he's left.
  • Romantic False Lead: Angelo is engaged to Katrina at the start of the movie, but she breaks it off when she learns he's working for the villains.
  • Scare 'Em Straight: In-Universe. The kids conspire a Zany Scheme to not only recover the scroll, but scare the Duvalls away from their life of crime. The ending dance party reveals that it worked, at least to a degree.
  • Sexy Man, Instant Harem: On those rare occasions when Charlie enters a scene without several girls in tow, a gaggle of beauties will come a'running.
  • Slippery Swimsuit: Katrina loses her bikini top in the ocean and begs Don to throw her his jacket to preserve her modesty.
  • The Stoner: Little Richard. Not his character, the singer himself. Not that anyone could blame him for wanting to enjoy himself while working on a film like this.
  • Stupid Crooks: Larry is a terrible thief, as he's introduced making off with the scroll by sheer dumb luck while making a ton of noise and even knocking over priceless artifacts in the process.
    • The Duvalls aren't much better either, completely failing to hang on to their valuable artifact.
    • Finally, Lakopolous's minion ends up losing the scroll almost instantly by trying to make off with it when the Duvalls were selling it to him in the first place. Though in fairness, he was panicking because Larry mistook a passing speedboat for the Harbor Patrol, who would've no doubt spied something shady going down.
  • Swiss-Cheese Security: The art museum housing all sorts of priceless artifacts apparently has just one idiot security guard. Two rookies break in and easily steal a valuable piece of art (and later return it) without drawing any attention.
  • Thematic Theme Tune: "Never Steal Anything Wet," upgraded to Title Theme Tune in some re-releases.