Catalina Caper (also known as Never Steal Anything Wet) is a campy 1967 musical comedy mystery film from Crown International Pictures 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 Strömstedt) though she's on the island to accompany her fiance, the vaguely threatening Angelo (Lyle Waggoner). Meanwhile, Tad Duval (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' men attempts to steal the scroll from the Duvals, it winds up in the water—leading to not one, but two under water 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?
This film provides examples of:
- And Starring: Introducing Venita Wolf as "Tina" ("Who's afraid of Venita Wolf, anyway?") and Brian Cutler as "Charlie" ("Charlie, they cut off my thumbs!").
- Animated Credits Opening: By Murakami/Wolf Productions, who would later go onto greater fame with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987).
- Impossible Hourglass Figure: The mermaid in the credits sequence. ("Nice measurements... 36-2-85!")
- 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 is pretty much defined by his constant pratfalls. If there is even the slightest chance that he will trip, fall into the water, or create a scenario where someone slaps him, it will happen. After all of the abuse he suffers in the film, he finally can't even succeed at his original goal—arresting Arthur Duval for his numerous crimes—because his son Tad had secretly returned the scroll and thus left no evidence of Duval's crimes.
- The Caper: Though much of the film ignores the scroll arc entirely as the caper is successfully pulled at the start of the film and the rest of it is how the parents intend to unload the scroll.
- Chronic Villainy: Discussed; Tad says the scroll must be returned to its owners mainly because his amoral parents would be unable to resist the urge to commit some crime with it.
- Dance Party Ending: The film ends, naturally, with every single character in the film that wasn't a villain 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.
- Department of Redundancy Department:
- When telling about things to do on Catalina, Charlie mentions girls every other time.
- 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.
- Hawaiian-Shirted Tourist: Larry is never seen without a loud Hawaiian shirt. He even wears it during a heist.
- Impossible Hourglass Figure: The animated mermaid in the beginning, whose hips are 4 times wider than her head, and whose waist is the width of a thumb.
- Informed Attractiveness:
- Katrina's pretty but somehow she 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.
- Long Song, Short Scene: Little Richard's "Scuba Party" is an extremely rare song to find outside of being performed in this movie. One of the only known ways to find it is on a compilation of his... that was only released in some parts of Europe.
- Loveable Rogue: Theoretically, Arthur Duval and Larry.
- MacGuffin: The scroll really just exists to add some semblance of a plot.
- Male Gaze: That 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.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Arthur Duval's voice and manner are clearly patterned after Jack Benny.
- Only Sane Man: Tad is the only member of his family who is not involved in shadiness.
- 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 ends up liking him better anyway.
- Police Are Useless / The Guards Must Be Crazy: The security at the museum utterly fails at keeping out intruders after hours. On top of that, he actually sees Tad right as he's put a high-profile stolen art piece back and doesn't even notice until after Tad has left.
- Romantic False Lead: Angelo is engaged to Katrina at the start of the movie.
- Scare 'Em Straight: In-Universe example; the kids conspire a Zany Scheme to not only recover the scroll, but scare the Duvals away from their life of crime.
- 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.
- The Stoner: Little Richard. Not his character, the actor. Not that anyone could blame him for wanting to enjoy himself while working on a film like this.
- Stupid Crooks: Larry in particular is a terrible thief at the start of the film—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 parents aren't much better either, completely failing to even hang on to their valuable artifact. Finally, Lakopolis' minion ends up losing the scroll almost instantly by trying to make off with it when the parents were selling it to him in the first place.
- Swiss Cheese Security: The art museum housing priceless artifacts has just one idiot security guard. Two utter 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.