Wild for Kicks (1960)
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But in the early 70's, before the invention of the VCR, Channel 9 was a film student's dream in that he or she could watch a movie over and over for one day and really study it.
Beat Girl arrived on Channel 9, a few years after its run in British and, presumably, American theaters. I watched about eight hours of Beat Girl, in the generous, endless loop provided by Channel 9. This movie fascinated the 13-yr.-old me who had never encountered such rebellion and hostility on the part of a school-aged daughter towards her father, who has returned from a trip with a step mother for whom the daughter is unprepared.
At 13, rebellious, unhappy, and edgy, I needed a "bad-girl" paradigm, and this movie supplied me with her. I loved the heroine and despised anyone who would stand in her way. She left such an impression on me that I have been fascinated by "bad girls" ever since.
However, the film is so bad -- or good, depending on your point of view of gritty, early 60s "To Sir, With Love" England -- that you might want to stick around to see what happens to this sullen chick who's accompanied by some stoner boys to some bad jazz music. Or not: this is one low budget film with fairly terrible acting but there is a gritty earnestness to this film.
Look for Oliver Reed, John McHenery, and Adam Faith in secondary roles. As in all of 50/60 flicks. look for a moral -- but look for the moments of rebellion, too. And dig that crazy music.
Yes, the film is dripping in kitsch value, but one can't help but be absorbed the atmosphere, from the milk bar to the cave party, where English Elvis wannabe Adam Faith curls his lip to the drumming of an upturned guitar. Although before my time, I'm sure life in 1960 was never quite this with it, daddy-o.
It's not the greatest film ever made, but the wonderfully sleazy theme by Barry sets the tone nicely, and it rates as one of the best teenage exploitation movies to come out of the UK.
Someone called Laya Raki does an unbelievable striptease that will make your eyes water, (hers obviously did)...
Oliver Reed Starts Dancing!!...
Sorry, I need to go and lie down for a bit...
This film got a rare screening on BBC4 recently so I watched it out of retro-curiosity. For my money Beat Girl turned out to be a surprising good film, partly because I was watching it on its own terms. What I mean by this is that I quickly accepted that this was not going to be a sharp examination of teenage alienation but rather a bit of an exploitative b-movie of rebellion, beatniks, stripping and jive music. In this area it works really well and is actually one of the better "troubled youth" b-movies that I've seen. Sadly this is not because it gets the adult characters right because where it matters, it doesn't. The parents are clunky authority figures and Nicole is little more than a plot device.
No, where Beat Girl works is in creating an enjoyable sense of grimy rebellion and sass that is what these films is supposed to be all about. The locations and music are a large part of this because it does give the film an authentic feel to be in seedy strip-clubs and laidback coffee houses, while the music is roundly cool and of the period. One of the main things that the film is worth seeing for is a wonderful turn from Gillian Hills in her debut film role. She is sexy with genuine fire behind her eyes and a great attitude I'm not really into bad girls but I fell in love right here! Only marginally sexier is dancer Pascaline who does a strip so hot that I had to check two things: the first being that this was made in 1960, the second being my watch, to confirm that, yes, BBC4 were screening it before the watershed! Anyway, back on Hills, she is great and drives the film with her harsh and convincing teenage girl. Alongside her Adam and Farrar are a bit clunky while her various peers seem quite clichéd and dated in a way that Hills' fire prevents. Lee has a real sleazy menace and there are appearances from Reed and Faith to increase the "oh look its" count. Overall Beat Girl is a dated and slightly trashy rebellious teen b-movie. In terms of message and plot it is not great but it is worth a look due to the cool points that the locations, direction, music and very hot Hills give it.
One previous review talks about how her father was completely unable to accept his wife having been a stripper. His initial inability to accept this is only a brief passing stage, and he does accept his wife. After this scene they both work
together to find his daughter, who is allowing herself to be seduced by a sleazy strip-joint owner (Christopher Lee acting extremely well).
My main disappointment with this film is that it isn't as laughable as the cover suggests. There is a small amount of risible dialog, but not enough.
Jennifer has an understanding father whom she despises, a stepmother that she hates - excepting her gang, her rebellion is against all. Jennifer is sexy, charismatic and cynical, and the camera loves her, it's her film, and Gillian Hills is really something! "Beat Girl" is above all a good exploitation film. It shows scenes that were very daring for the time - Jennifer, the night clubs...
For those that like exploitation films and rock, "Beat Girl" is a real treat.
Sixteen-year old beatnik art student rebels when her "square" middle-aged dad brings home a "French poodle" 24-year-old stepmom. She and her beatnik pals discover that her blonde bombshell step-mommy was once a Parisian stipper!
A few hysterical scenes later the girl realizes the error of her ways and returns to her architect dad and step-mother.
A must-see for any camp, bad movie film buffs!
Unlike THE PARTY'S OVER, it's an attempt to provoke censors and audiences with plenty of 'sensation' drama, as in the American quickies. One of the main characters is a former stripper and indeed striptease sequences play a big part in the proceedings; one particular exotic dancer, all the way from Hawaii, perhaps one of the most explicit teases I've ever seen despite the lack of nudity. It must have been incredible for audiences back in 1960.
BEAT GIRL is actually a pretty decent little story. The youthful - and extremely attractive - Gillian Hills plays the girl who discovers her dad's new flame used to be a stripper, while at the same time she immerses herself in Beatnik culture. Most of the film is shot and set around a club in which Nigel Green and Christopher Lee play various sleazy characters. There's plenty of music here too, some of it courtesy of pop sensation Adam Faith, and despite the dating of the cultural material, it's never less than an engrossing - and surprisingly sexy - piece of film-making.
David Farrar is the rich architect who remarries; his new wife is Noelle Adam and she has a shady past and newcomer Gillian Hills is his pouty teenage daughter who resents her. The cast also includes Christopher Lee, Adam Faith, (not at all bad), Peter McEnery and a young Oliver Reed, (billed here as Plaid Shirt). The director was Edmond T Greville who brought a middle-aged man's disapproving eye to bear on the proceedings.
But aside from hanging out in coffee houses and dancing to jazz-style music, there's nothing particularly "beat" about the characters in this movie. Rather than a wild rebel, the lead girl (Gillian Hills) is more of a childish, bratty daddy's girl who is less than thrilled when her globe-trotting architect father brings home a much younger new bride from France. When she finds out her new stepmother was once acquainted with a stripper who works across the street from a coffee shop where she and her friends hang out, the younger girl decides to expose the French woman, but instead she gets HERSELF mixed up with the slimy owner of the strip club (played by Christopher Lee). By modern standards, of course, this is not very racy (even compared to similar movies in late 60's and 70's like "Daddy, Darling" and "So Young, So Lovely, So Vicious" where jealous teenage girls deal with unwanted stepmothers by seducing them into lesbian affairs!). But it was no doubt quite risqué for its time.
It's odd to see Christopher Lee in a role like this since he had just hit it big with "The Curse of Frankenstein" and "Horror of Dracula", but those were still pretty disreputable items back then too. And he's good as always. Gillian Hill was kind of like the British Tuesday Weld in that she managed to play a teenager for about fifteen years. Her most famous role though was as one of a pair of young models who shag David Hemmings rotten in "Blow Up". She's not bad either. And in the supporting cast are a young Oliver Reed and Shirley Ann Field, who later appeared together as brother and sister delinquents in the interesting Hammer sci-fi film "These Are the Damned". This is certainly worth seeing.
Paul Linden (David Farrar) is just back from the Continent with a new wife, Nicolle (Noelle Adam) - his 16 year old daughter Jennifer (the beautiful and voluptuous Gillian Hills) is not happy. She is a "poor little rich girl" who is looking for love and affection, but instead has a bedroom full of clothes and the latest fads from her often absent father. Her new stepmother is determined to give her a proper home life. Jennifer, an art student, hangs with a beatnik crowd at the "Off Beat" - a local hang out for teenagers. Most have a home life they are running away from. Parents that are reliving the War and can't understand "Jazz". The kids want to feel different from their parents, they "live for kicks" and want to be a person in their own right. They all have bad memories of the War and use phrases such as "square", "kook", "he sends me over and out" to build up a barrier between themselves and anyone who is not hip. Towards the end the gentle "beatniks" are superseded by the young and violent "teddy boys".
Nicolle meets Jennifer for lunch and she also bumps into an old friend, Rita, who is a stripper. Jennifer, now taunts Nicolle, every chance she gets with a song "take it off, take it off", and begins to haunt "Les Girls" the strip club where Rita works. She also catches the eye of the sleazy manager Kenny King (Christopher Lee) who has dishonourable designs on her. Jennifer throws a party that gets out of hand - she performs a provocative strip tease but is stopped by the appearance of Nicolle. Nicolle reveals her childhood was similar to what Jennifer has experienced. Jennifer, who is really a frightened little girl is involved in a murder and things come full circle when Dave (Adam Faith) declares (after having his car trashed by some teddy boys) "Only squares know where to go"!!!
Shirley Anne Field, who actually had her best year in 1960, with roles in "Peeping Tom", "The Entertainer" and "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning", had the small role of "Dodo", one of Jennifer's friends (she even sings a song - "It's Legal". Oliver Reed has an extremely small role of "Plaid Shirt", a juiced up beatnik. The very catchy song played over the credits and through the movie is "The Beat Girl Song".
Scenes of young people listening to and dancing to music are set against a family melodrama. Paul Linden, a successful London architect, has recently remarried; his first marriage appears to have ended in divorce some time ago. His rebellious teenage daughter Jennifer, an art student, takes a strong dislike to her new French stepmother Nichole, who at 24 is much younger than her husband. Paul is a modernist in terms of his architectural practice, but in terms of just about everything else he appears to be highly conservative and disapproves of Jennifer hanging out with the local beatnik community. (From the viewpoint of 2015, Paul's designs for his pet project, "City 2000", seem almost ludicrously dystopian, but in the fifties and sixties we were probably supposed to take this sort of concrete brutalism seriously).
Paul would be even more disapproving if he knew about some of Jennifer's other extra-curricular activities. The Soho coffee club where she and her friends meet is across the street from a strip club, something for which Soho was notorious around this period. She befriends Greta, one of the strippers at the club, who knew Nichole when they worked together in Paris. It turns out that Nichole was herself a stripper in her youth, a fact of which Paul is blissfully unaware, and Jennifer resolves to find some way to use this information against her stepmother. Her involvement with Greta brings her to the notice of Kenny, the sleazy manager of the strip club.
Because of its adult themes, the film was highly controversial in its day. It is strongly implied that Nichole and Greta were not merely strippers in Paris but also prostitutes, although the dreaded P-word is never used. We actually see some of the performances in the strip joint, and although there is no nudity some of them are highly suggestive. It is therefore unsurprising that the film-makers had difficulty getting it accepted by the British Board of Film Censors. Delays in getting it certified explain why it was made in 1959 but not released until 1960; in the end it was given an X-certificate, meaning that it could only be seen by adults and thereby excluding many of the teenagers who must have been its intended audience.
The film is notable for the remarkable performance of Gillian Hills as Jennifer. She was only 14 or 15 when the film was made, younger than her character who is supposed to be 16, but even at that age was able to project a disturbing mixture of innocence and sensuality, similar to that of Sue Lyon in "Lolita". Gillian possessed the looks of a young Brigitte Bardot, with a touch of Jane Fonda thrown in, and it has always surprised me that she never went on to have a bigger acting career, although she did become a successful singer in France. (Two actors seen here in smaller roles, Shirley Anne Field and Oliver Reed, did indeed go on to be major stars). The film's other attractive feature is John Barry's score, his first film commission. I had always associated Barry with the quasi-classical music he wrote for films like "Out of Africa" and some of the Bonds, but here he shows that he could also turn his hand to jazz, with a bit of rock thrown in.
Despite the contributions of Hills and Barry, and David Farrar as Paul, "Beat Girl" is not a very good film. It can never decide whether it wants to be a youth musical (the X-certificate probably scuppered that ambition), or an adult film in the sense of a serious drama for grown- ups or an "adult" film in the sense of "as close to soft-core porn as the censors would allow in 1959". It might have worked as a teenage film had the sex content been toned down, or as a serious drama if more attention had been paid to the relationships within the Linden household and if we could believe in the too-decorous Noëlle Adam as a lady with a shady past. In the event, however, it tries to do all three, and ends up falling between three stools. 5/10
A goof. When Jennifer and her friends travel from Soho to her home in Kensington we see their car travelling through open countryside. Both Soho and Kensington are in central London and no conceivable route would have taken them outside the London conurbation.
1) the heavily repeated John Barry 7 theme song is so good, you still want to keep hearing it after the movie, a masterful extended loop.
2) the ingénue lead is more sultry than Bardot at her best, super strong as BB was. BB could instinctually portray mischievous, but this lolita is the embodiment of scheming side glance, icon of teen noir in a single static medium shot with a patina of grainy chiaroscuro.
Yes, Espresso Bongo had the provenance of the highly meritorious stage play it bowdlerized and film production values that gave dimly lit black & white a sheen, but EB characters were sitcom cartoons, no match for BG's tragic archetypes.
Espresso Bongo and nearly all teen films were made years after Beat Girl, and parody a late 1950s Leave it to Beaver stereotype projected on modern settings. Beat Girl is earnest in its perspective of post WWII dregs trending towards a rat warren atomized future of 1984.
3) the dialogue is infra dig, not hackneyed. Pay attention to the concise staccato phrasing. Rewind every time Adam Faith speaks and you too will be cooler than anybody else you will ever meet for parroting his existential bon mots, not least that real rebels don't fight; that's for squares.
4) I have seen any number of rock and roll movies. None have as low a clinker quotient in their song roster as this. When Adam Faith singing near blue grass grade stripped down rockabilly is the least, your soundtrack is mighty strong.
5) I've seen ink on the Teddyboy trend, but nowhere have I seen it portrayed on screen as much as in BG and as matter of fact therefore realistic.
The only question for me is whether I surrender precious media shelf space and hard earned coin to own this treasure. From the fence, I lean toward yes.
A totally clueless divorced father arrives home after being on a three-month business trip. Surprise, surprise...he also brings home a brand-new (and relatively hot) French wife! Now his teenage daughter, Jenny, is a total insolent brat...but at least you can't blame her for not accepting New Mom! Only Mr. Potatohead would think bringing home a new mother would work out seamlessly.
Later, Jenny sneaks out to hang with the young beatniks at the local club--and it's dancing and listening to jazz and rock 'n roll all night long. Apparently, she's a regular there but clueless dad doesn't know, as he's so wrapped up in his work. However, New Mom decides to try to help and tries to befriend Jenny. Jenny's friends like New Mom, but Jenny is surly and refuses to give her a chance. When Jenny learns that New Mom used to be a stripper--then she thinks she has a chance to split up her new family. But, as it turns out, New Mom has MUCH more to hide than stripping! And Jenny has MUCH more insane behavior that you can see--if you get a copy of this film.
The film is silly and good for a laugh. But compared to the average film of the genre, it's actually very good. Part of it is that in MOST crazed teen films of the era, the kids in this one really are bad and really are living on the edge. Try comparing this to the incredibly tame "Wild One" (with Marlon Brando)--you'll see what I mean. It also has very catchy music and lots of crazy stuff to keep your attention. Subtle, it ain't! A lurid and exciting soap opera with an extra helping of sleaze--this isn't the recipe for a good film but it sure is for an entertaining one.
By the way, Christopher Lee plays a small part as the vicious owner of a strip club. He's cold and hateful--exactly what his part demanded. Although he's only in the film a bit here and there, he was terrific.
Look for the bad scene about 47 minutes into the film. Jenny tells her boyfriend to play a song. Although another song is playing and he doesn't prepare in any way, the other song immediately stops AND you his ELECTRIC guitar begins playing a neat tune--although it's NOT plugged in to an amplifier! Also, background accompaniment suddenly appears from no where! Cool, daddy.
The story concerns Jennifer (Gillian Hills), the 'beat girl' of the title, and her struggle to accept a new addition to the household. Her rich and rather liberal father Paul (Black Narcissus' David Farrar) dotes on his young, beautiful daughter, but remains concerned about her late night partying and dead-beat friends. Her behaviour takes a downturn when he brings home his new young and gorgeous French wife Nichole (Noelle Adam), who Jennifer takes an instant disliking to, as most children of divorce do. Nichole makes all the effort to bond with her new step-daughter, but Jennifer would rather be hanging out at the local jazz dive with her friends (including real-life musician and teen idol Adam Faith). After a chance encounter reveals Nichole's past life, Jennifer becomes intent on revealing the big secret to her work-obsessed father.
My main issue with Beat Girl is that it isn't totally clear whose side we're meant to be on. On one hand, the parents are shown as forward-thinking and modern while the youngsters (including a baby- faced Oliver Reed) squabble on a dusty floor over a half-drunk bottle of gin. On the other, the apparently misguided youth act out for good reason, and ultimately pose no actual threat ("Fighting's for squares, man!"). The film improves when it dabbles in the sleazy side of London, particularly as Jennifer's curiosity over strip joint Les Girls leads to shady club owner Kenny (Christopher Lee) trying to recruit the jailbait as one of his main attractions, which also leads to the sight of some surprisingly revealing routines. This is exploitation after all, and there's a wonderful sense of grime in these moments. Ultimately, Beat Girl suffers from long periods of off-putting melodrama and silly dancing, but there is a tremendous raunchiness to the film also.