"On the Road" author Jack Kerouac was disturbed that his friend, author John Clellon Holmes, managed to get his "Beat Generation" novel "Go" into print before his own was published ("Go", in which Kerouac is a main character, was published in 1952, while "On the Road" was not published until 1957). Kerouac was worried that Holmes was plagiarizing him, although Holmes was careful to credit Kerouac with creating the term "Beat" for their generation, and much of the material was common amongst them and other writers of their circle, such as Allen Ginsberg. Ironically, producer Albert Zugsmith outfoxed Kerouac by copyrighting the term "The Beat Generation", which he used as the title of this egregious exploitation film, which was released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1959. A year later, M.G.M. released a film of Kerouac's novel "The Subterraneans", made by with top talent: It proved to be a major disappointment as it grossly misrepresented the scene (as well as Kerouac's novel). Ironically, "The Subterraneans" probably is the premier contemporary movie about the Beats, as so few "Beat" movies were made ("On the Road" has never been filmed), the phenomenon occurring during a time of strict screen censorship in the United States. By the time censorship was lifted in 1967, the Beats had been supplanted by the Hippies. See more »
An obsessed cop tries to track down the "Aspirin Kid," a beatnik serial rapist. MGM was not a noir studio, and I don't really know if you could call this noir but if it is, it's one of the most insane noirs I've ever seen. Like crazy, man. I hardly know where to begin. Dig this groovy cast, Daddy-O... Vampira, Mamie Van Doren (who steals the show) and real-life husband Ray Anthony, Charles Chaplin Jr., James Mitchum (a dead ringer for the old man), Jackie Coogan and performances by Cathy Crosby and Louis Armstrong. I think I can safely say it's the only noir that climaxes at a beat "hootenanny" where a guy randomly tries to wrestle the hero, who later chases the bad guy underwater while dodging harpoons. Yeah, this sh*t is nuts. The portrayal of beatniks is the standard Hollywood ridicule and parody. Has there ever been a positive image of beatniks in an American film? Even FUNNY FACE is pretty condescending. Steve Cochran (looking quite Clooney-esque at this stage in his career) is practically psychotic, setting up an interesting parallel with the villain (Ray Danton, turning the sleaze up to 11) as both are portrayed as misogynistic creeps. Being a late-period noir, there's more freedom to openly address subjects like rape and abortion. Although there is no graphic imagery, the screams of the victims are harrowing enough. The film is campy and trashy and yet also has a moral center... one which backfired for me when it came to the vile anti-choice message. It's hard to make a case against hatred towards women while also telling them they need to keep their rape-spawned babies. It was a pre-Roe v. Wade world, though. The Van Doren character sends mixed messages about the film's stance as well.
This review is rambling because frankly, I don't know what to make of this movie. It's all over the place. In most respects it's pretty bad but also weirdly compelling, and sometimes even hilarious, whether intentionally or not. I can't honestly say I liked it, but I sure as hell couldn't stop watching it.
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