Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Film Review: BEAT GIRL (1959, Edmond T. Gréville)

Stars: 2.5 of 5.
Running Time: 99 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: David Farrar (BLACK NARCISSUS, THE 300 SPARTANS), Noëlle Adam (WOMAN IN CHAINS, CRAZY IN THE NOODLE), Christopher Lee (Hammer's DRACULA series, THE WICKER MAN, THE THREE MUSKETEERS), Gillian Hills (BLOW-UP, THE KILLER WORE GLOVES), Oliver Reed (THE DEVILS, TOMMY), Peter McEnery (VICTIM, RASPUTIN). Music by John Barry (GOLDFINGER, BODY HEAT, HOWARD THE DUCK).
Tag-lines: "My Mother was a stripper...I want to be a stripper too!"
Best one-liner: "Next week - boom! - the world goes up in smoke. And what's the score? Zero!"
AKA: WILD FOR KICKS

To say that BEAT GIRL is a good movie would be a lie. BEAT GIRL is not a good movie. And it's the sort of 'not good' movie that connoisseurs of the 'Something Weird' catalog will be all too familiar with: tedious pseudo-exploitation. But by and large, these films are bringing something to the table amidst the intolerable line-readings and murky film-to-VHS-to-DVD transfers. Allow me to explain:

Ostensibly successful architect Paul Linden (David Farrar) returns from France having snared a young wife Nichole (Noëlle Adam), much to the chagrin of his daughter Jennifer (Gillian Hills).

Paul's dream apparently is to possess this chippy wife and build some monstrous concrete complex called 'CITY 2000,' where everything is quiet, and you can feel like you're alone even in the midst of the teeming masses, if you can dig that.

His darling daughter Jennifer thinks that noise is strictly for squares and she hangs with a rough n' tumble crowd of beatnik boppers. She won't give Nichole the time of day till she learns that she used to be...a stripper! Drawn to and repulsed by the curious world of insalubrious adult sexuality (represented aptly by oily club owner Christopher Lee!), one thing leads to another, and- as they were wont to say in the 50's- sex, sin, and shame rear their ugly heads.

CHRISTOPHER LEE WILL PUT THE MOVES ON YOU...


...AND NOW 66.66% OF THIS FAMILY ARE STRIPPERS.

Now let's talk about the acting here for a minute. Aside from Christopher Lee (and a surprise guest star I'll discuss in a moment), it is absolutely contemptible. We're talkin' lifeless, D.O.A. line readings- and lots of 'em. Characterization? What is that? We are talkin' dullsville, Daddy-o.

Most of it emanates from our two blonde-coiffed leads- a couple of bargain-basement, gutter Bardots who are so scuzzy, they'd make Loni Anderson look like Grace Kelly. What's up with this unrighteous jive, BEAT GIRL?

"I served with Loni Anderson, I knew Loni Anderson, Loni Anderson was a friend of mine, and Burt's and Dom's. Baby, you are no Loni Anderson."

But the men are by no means getting off the hook here– take a gander at this Elvis-impersonatin' tuff guy:

I propose that even from this solitary freeze frame, you can imagine what discordant anti-musical sufferings accompany this boy and his guitar within the context of the film.

I was nearly ready to agitate some gravel when a schweet bar scene comes on. Now this was made back in a time where if a bar was called 'The Grotto,' it was a fucking grotto- a goddamned cave! Now, what's that music?... Dig them killer-diller riffs and groovy licks! Those cats are in orbit! Well, razz my berries- that's the 'John Barry Seven' with some thick, dissonant, radioactive vibes! I'll just guzzle some foam, kick back and rel– WAIT, WHUTTT? Who is that young, plaid-shirt-wearing cad dancing AT our feeble heroine?

It's young Ollie Reed!!! Sure, he's credited as 'Plaid Shirt' and he only gets a line or two, but he is takin' it for all it's worth. And...uh... I'm pretty sure he's inebriated (which ought to go without saying). He begins the scene rip-roarin' drunk and dancin' up a storm. As it progresses we see him go from merry to soused to shitfaced to just plain wasted:

Keep fighting the good fight, Mr. Reed. We'll never forget you... Plaid Shirt.

And speaking of lackluster character names, the unfortunate Anthony Singleton is billed as 'Green Pants'- an especially demeaning moniker given that this is a black and white film. Best of luck in the future, Mr. Singleton- I'd honor you with a freeze frame if I had any idea which character you played.

So, in the end, BEAT GIRL proves itself occasionally capable of holding one's attention. I suppose I could talk about the beat movement, social mores, counterculture trends, and the like, but I must admit the film has me feeling a bit like this drummer: capped, dragged, and beat.


-Sean Gill

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