Saturday, 13 October 2007

Beat Girl (1960)

Jennifer is a teenage rebel, who hangs out in coffee bars with crazy beatniks and listens to wild music. Some of the crowd she’s mixed up with do even worse things, like dancing and listening to rock’n’roll records. Yes, this is one of those wonderful juvenile delinquent movies. In fact it’s Beat Girl, a British example from 1960, a movie that ran into major censorship problems at the time. Most reviewers don’t have a good word to say for this film, but it’s actually rather intriguing, and it certainly boasts an interesting cast – including Christopher Lee and a very young Oliver Reed. While it superficially takes the side of Jennifer’s parents, and the movie was undoubtedly intended that way, to modern viewer Jennifer’s father and step-mother come cross as rather sinister extremely stupid and terrifyingly inept, as well as petty and vindictive. The movie does also make an effort to explain the alienation of these young juvenile delinquents (not surprisingly the threat of nuclear annihilation being a major part of the explanation). The acting ranges from excruciatingly bad to rather good, with Christopher Lee as an oily strip-club owner and Adam Faith as one of Jennifer’s crowd of disillusioned teenagers being especially good, and Noëlle Adam as the step-mother being particularly bad. The script is clunky but it’s also full of wonderful 1960 hip slang. The creepiest part of the whole movie is her dad’s model city that he hopes to build one day (he’s an architect) – he’s going to reduce urban stress by ensuring that people never have to have any contact with anyone else in his futuristic city of high-rise towers. No wonder those crazy kids are rebelling! It’s all the fault of modernist architects. Eventually young Jennifer discovers that her step-mother has a shameful past – she used to be a stripper. This naturally causes Jennifer to want to be a stripper as well (no, that part didn’t make sense to me either) and leads inevitably to murder. It’s best not to think about the plot too much the scenes in the coffee bar are fun, the sound-track is interesting, and fans of the juvenile delinquent genre will find plenty to enjoy. An odd but weirdly entertaining movie in its own way.

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