Saturday, April 30, 2011

Beat Girl (1961).

"Dynamic drama of youth mad about 'beat', living for kicks!"

Here is the full film, streaming!  I am so obsessed with this B-grade tale of teenage angst and rebellion.  Rife with sexuality, corruption, neglect, and even... murder!  This film was a strictly low-budget British production from 1960 that made its rounds in the theaters in the early 60s.  Its actually hard to find any information at all about it, and it seems to have two names and two release dates depending on your source.  Its sometimes billed as "Beat Girl" (1961) (such as for this youtube video) but the only IMDB page for the movie is under the title "Wild for Kicks" (1960).  I believe the different in titles and dates are for the differing UK and US titles and release dates.

The teen star of the film, Gillian Hills (later having small roles in "Blow Up" and "Clockwork Orange"), is a young Brigitte Bardot... pouty and wild, painted up with heavy black eyeliner, but with a face as sweet as a dolly.  She's always throwing her step mother these sinister looks, and I think this actress has totally nailed the expression of contempt-- she must know it because she's doing it constantly.  She wants to cut loose and frequent the coffee bars and dank music caverns with friends, but the knowledge of her wealthy architect father neglecting her and mysterious new tarted-up Parisian step mother poking around is bringing her down.  In fact, her father is completely preoccupied with this notion of "City 2000" a design for a futuristic city promising isolation to each person living in it.  This reminds me so much of "My Father the Genius" a real documentary by a woman who's father is a self-proclaimed genius, but also was a real life innovator in architecture in the 70s,  who has been completely obsessed vision for a future city completely obscured everything else in his life.

One thing I really like about the movie is the little musical vignettes.  Trivia says that this was actually the first UK with a soundtrack album!  If only I could get my hands on that soundtrack... The music was performed by The John Barry Seven & Orchestra. It was the first British soundtrack album to be released on an LP. The film also features Christopher Lee as a strip-joint operator, Oliver Reed , and Nigel Green. It features the film debuts of Adam Faith (an early 60s British teen idol) and Peter McEnery.

"Strip, strip, hurray!  A de-luxe exploitation special!"

Here's the synopses:

Paul, a divorced architect, marries Nichole, a woman from Paris. His teen daughter Jenny has fallen in with the English beatnik scene and likes to hang out in cave-like clubs to listen to jazz and rudimentary rock'n'roll. Jenny takes an immediate dislike to her mother-in-law, who is not that much older than she, and goes out of her way to make life miserable for Nichole. When Jenny discovers that Nichole is a friend of one of the strippers from the dance hall across the street, she investigates and uses Nichole's sordid past to embarrass her father. Meanwhile Jenny attracts the lecherous eye of Kenny, the owner of the dance hall.
-From IMDB 

Before swinging London and the rock & roll explosion took over English youths, Britain's first teen rebel didn't have much of a cause but plenty of attitude. Pouty art-school student Jennifer (teen sex kitten Gillian Hills, looking very much a British Bardot) is the Beat Girl of the title, an alienated teenager who hangs out in coffee shops and underground clubs with beatniks and teddy boys. When her self-absorbed father returns home with a sexy French bride, the picture warps into lurid melodrama as Jennifer tracks a suspicion about her stepmom to a sleazy strip club managed by an even sleazier Christopher Lee, whose salacious desires she realizes too late. Director Edmond T. Greville, a craftsman of the old school, brings an unexpected, edgy grit to the low-budget picture, injecting the callow clichés of lost youth with a nervous energy and a genuine sense of desperation.    
John Barry's growling score gives the film a rumbling undercurrent, and the cheap, claustrophobic sets (often hiding in darkness) only enhance the sleazy atmosphere. The mix of teenage desperation, rock & roll music, and lurid sensationalism (complete with teasing nudity in the strip club) creates a strange hybrid: a teen exploitation film with a film noir soul. Costar Adam Faith sings a couple of songs and Oliver Reed appears in a few scenes as a drugged-up, funked-out teddy boy.   

"A tense dynamic drama of slap-happy beatniks and their insatiable thirst for rhythm, sex & sensation."


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