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'Beat' Girl (1959)

Courtesy of Renown Pictures

Main image of 'Beat' Girl (1959)
35mm, black and white, 85 mins
DirectorEdmond T. Gréville
Production CompanyRenown Pictures Corporation
ProducerGeorge Willoughby
Story/Screenplay byDail Ambler
Story (uncredited)Edmond T. Gréville
PhotographyWalter Lassally
MusicJohn Barry

Cast: David Farrar (Paul Linden), Noëlle Adam (Nicholle), Christopher Lee (Kenny), Gillian Hills (Jennifer), Adam Faith (Dave), Shirley Anne Field (Dodo)

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A 16 year-old 'wild child' art student acquires a new stepmother with a secret past, and is finally rescued from Soho vice by her 'square' father.

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'Beat' Girl (d. Edmond T. Gréville, 1959) belongs firmly in the exploitation genre - the film's poster read "This girl could be YOUR daughter!" - alongside other contemporary British films with scenarios involving vice and/or striptease, such as Passport to Shame (d. Alvin Rakoff, 1958), The Rough and the Smooth (d. Robert Siodmak, 1959) and Too Hot to Handle (d. Terence Young, 1960).

The 'up front' aspect of exploitation means that traditional narrative's formal invisibility is often undermined, with tensions within society, as well the filmmakers' approach to the subject, foregrounded. Here the screenplay takes a typically prurient, 'News of the World' approach, allowing the viewer to enjoy the illicit activities of strip clubs and Soho vice but with a perfunctory moral tagged on at the end.

'Beat' Girl combines influences from both France and the US, with a French director and actress (Noëlle Adam), a Brigitte Bardot-clone heroine (Gillian Hills) and a scenario evoking French films such as La Môme Pigalle (Scandal in Montmartre, France, 1955); a car race sequence reveals the influence of pulp American films from Roger Corman's AIP studio, such as Hot Rod Gang (Fury Unleashed, US, 1958). Jennifer's father is played by that iconic figure of 1940s masculine solidity, David Farrar. To Jennifer, the home is "a morgue" and she finds release in frequenting coffee bars, jiving and "living for kicks" - that the latter is based on something stronger than coffee is hinted at in Adam Faith's line, "Drink's for squares, man". To Farrar, this is incomprehensible. But his outward 1950s respectability is an illusion based on a deceit.

Peter McEnery impresses as an army general's son, in contrast to East Ender Faith, a sullen iconic presence and the bleak, nihilistic 'soul' of the film. Set decoration is low budget, consisting of contemporary LP covers. The producers are of the age group of 'squares' rather than 'beats' - out of touch with youth, except as a market to exploit. And to please the lads, as well as striptease, 'baby doll' or flimsy nighties are regularly featured - only the austere Greta (played by Delphi Lawrence, mysteriously not listed in the credits, despite her pivotal role) is exempt. But the contrived final image of the father united with daughter and wife is unconvincing - Jennifer may have turned her back on striptease and vice, but it seems likely that she will be back with her beat friends at the first opportunity.

Roger Philip Mellor

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Video Clips
1. Let's Jive (1:32)
2. At 'Les Girls' (2:23)
3. What does it mean? (2:25)
4. 'Made You' (4:55)
Original poster
Production stills
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Miracle in Soho (1957)
Rita, Sue and Bob Too (1986)
Barry, John (1933-2011)
Faith, Adam (1940-2003)
Farrar, David (1908-1995)
Field, Shirley Anne (1938-)
Gréville, Edmond T (1906-66)
Lassally, Walter (1926-)
Lee, Christopher (1922-)
Reed, Oliver (1938-1999)
B Pictures
Social Problem Films
Teen Terrors On Film