Thursday, 11 June 2015

Beat Girl (1960)

When architect Paul Linden (David Farrar) takes the much younger French woman, Nichole (Noëlle Adam) for his second wife they're set for domestic disharmony thanks to Paul's wild, teenage beatnik daughter Jennifer - the Beat Girl of the title - played by the wonderful Gillian Hills. Jennifer really doesn't want a stepmother and, when she finds out a secret from Nichole's past, she sees an opportunity upset the applecart even further.


Yes, whilst hanging out in the coffee bars of Soho with the likes of Shirley Anne Field and Adam Faith, the sullen pouty Jennifer spies the exotic Nichole chatting to a woman she knows is a stripper in the club across the road run by Christopher Lee. Sensing her new stepmother is a woman with a somewhat exhibitionist past, and knowing her 'square' old daddy will react with much embarrassment when he finds out, Jennifer gleefully and petulantly exposes the secret leading to an uncomfortable relationship between the three main characters. 

Beat Girl is your run of the mill generation gap film that salivates at the notion of teenage delinquency and crazy music from the scourge of British society at the time, Teddy Boys. In a particularly heavy handed metaphor, architect Paul's attention is constantly fixed on City 2000, a new town he has designed which seems to deliberately cut off is residents from the outside world, offering little in the way of interaction - much like his own inability to interact and understand today's younger generation as represented by his wayward daughter.

But Beat Girl is actually quite an awkward film in that it occasionally seems uncertain of its audience. It wants to pull in the kids and speak to them sympathetically and hires hitmaker of the Adam Faith to star as an aspiring musician, performing songs with The John Barry Seven written by "no no no no no" none other than "yes!" Trevor Peacock of The Vicar of Dibley fame. Yet it also offers quite a bit for the older audience, specifically the lonely middle aged raincoat wearing older man, going off the strip scenes set in Lee's club! It's desire to get an X rating is strange given its obvious appeal to teenage kids.  

Like many films that attempted to take the pulse of the nation at the time, Beat Girl has probably become more enjoyable with age now that that scene is no longer current, because I certainly can't imagine the cut glass accents from the mouths of the would be rowdy tearaways being all that convincing at the time to the real McCoy in the cinema seats. The dialogue is hilarious too, I don't know if anyone ever really spoke like that in real life "Straight from the fridge Daddy-O" and "I'm over and out"  but its really dated and terribly funny.

The cast is notable one; Hills looks every inch the star in the making and, whilst some acclaim came to her in the decade, she is perhaps best known now for showing her pubic hair in Antonioni's Blow Up. Adam Faith, perhaps the only convincing beat kid in the film lends both kudos to the proceedings as well as the only non posh accent on display, but his acting is not up to the standards it would later be in '70s films like Stardust or McVicar and in his most famous TV role as the loveable Soho rogue Budgie. There's also Peter McEnery, Shirley Anne Field (who provides my favourite moment and song in the film, It's Legal, which I'll share at the end of this post) a young Oliver Reed, Margot Bryant who would shortly become famous in households up and down the land for her role as Minnie Caldwell in Coronation Street and, at the strip club, a monkey suited Nigel Green and Christopher Lee.

I couldn't go without mentioning Lee of course, who as I reported in my earlier post sadly passed away today aged 93. This is probably not a film he held in much esteem or gave much  consideration too in the grand scheme of things but he produces a suitably urbane hissable villain with ice in his veins which is essentially the kind of character who would go on to memorably play in one form or another in greater roles. RIP.

Another cult fave from Talking Pictures TV.

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