The second feature on the program is a twitch-and-twist musical film entitled “Muscle Beach Party,” which stars Annette Funicello, Frankie Avalon and a tangle of vigorous young people with beautiful bodies and empty heads. If you can last through “A Distant Trumpet” and then this, you’re a double-dyed stoic. BOSLEY CROWTHER, May 28, 1964, The New York Times review.
Donahue and Suzanne Pleshette in Western
By BOSLEY CROWTHER
Published: May 28, 1964
IT takes a heap of loafing to make a Western film so dull you even lose interest in watching the horses and the stunt men doing their stuff. But that’s about what it comes down to in Raoul Walsh’s most recent in the genre, a deadly bore called “A Distant Trumpet,” which opened at the Palace and other houses yesterday.
By the time you’ve spent a half-hour watching lumpish young Troy Donahue drag himself with an utter lack of fervor through the standard situations of this film, you won’t care whether Suzanne Pleshette gets him before femme fatale Diane McBain does or whether the Chiricahua Indians beat both of them. As a matter of fact, you’ll probably hope they do.
Seldom has there been a Western picture on which so much money was spent — so much shooting done in Arizona, so many extras and horses used — but from which so little excitement, energy or colorfulness exudes. It’s as though Mr. Walsh and everybody were bitten by tsetse flies and went through the business of shooting the picture in a state of drowsiness.
The only bright thing in the picture comes when “Shavetail” Lieutenant Donahue, attached to isolated Fort Dependence in Arizona in 1883, finally gets through to Chief War Eagle to ask him to surrender peacefully, and the chief’s conversation in his native language is translated with English subtitles at the bottom of the frame. But the humor of this is missed by those who made the film. They play it as straight as the expression — the only one — on Mr. Donohue’s face.
Also involved in this tedium are James Gregory wearing a Chester Alan Arthur beard and Kent Smith wearing a shoulder-length haircut Trying to conceal your identities, men?
The second feature on the program is a twitch-and-twist musical film entitled “Muscle Beach Party,” which stars Frankie Avalon and a tangle of vigorous young people with beautiful bodies and empty heads. If you can last through “A Distant Trumpet” and then this, you’re a double-dyed stoic.
A DISTANT TRUMPET, screenplay by John Twist, based on the novel by P. Horgan; directed by Raoul Walsh; produced by William H. Wright for Warner-Brothers Pictures. At the Palace Theater, Broadway and 47th Street, and neighborhood theaters. Running time: 117 minutes.
Lieutenant Hazard . . . . . Troy Donahue
Kitty . . . . . Suzanne Pleshette
Laura . . . . . Diane McBain
General Quait . . . . . James Gregory
Lieutenant Mainwaring . . . . . William Reynolds
Seely Jones . . . . . Claude Akins
Secretary of War . . . . . Kent Smith
Captain Gray . . . . . Judson Pratt
Major Prescott . . . . . Bartlett Robinson
Cranshaw . . . . . Bobby Bare
Sergeant Kroger . . . . . Larry Ward
MUSCLE BEACH PARTY, screenplay and story by Robert Dillon, directed by William Asher and produced by James H. Nicholson and Mr. Dillon. Released by American International Pictures. Running time: 92 minutes.
Frankie . . . . . Frankie Avalon
Dee Dee . . . . . Annette Funicello
Julie . . . . . Luciana Paluzzi
Johnny . . . . . Jonn Ashley
Jack Fanny . . . . . Don Rickles
Theodore . . . . . Peter Turgeon
Deadhead . . . . . Jody McCrea
Dr. Strangedour . . . . . Peter Lorre