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a home + living guide for the post-college, pre-parenthood, quasi-adult generation

09.21.2000

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flick pick | Beat Girl 1962
Directed by:
Edmond T. Gréville
Written by: Dail Amber
Starring: Gillian Hills, Noëlle Adam, David Farrar
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under: cult, drama
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something:  camp-o-riffic
The verdict: / 5 
*on the exploit-o-rating meter

Plot synopsis Beat Girl, banned in England for many years, stars Gillian Hills as an ice-robot art school princess whose only joy in life seems to be sneaking out of the house after the "squares" have gone to sleep, to head off to the local beatnik hangout where she smokes, sulks and disdains alcohol with her friends. That is until her father brings home a new young French wife, Nicole, whom Jennifer soon finds delight in torturing by snooping into her checkered past and humiliating her father with the data.

When Nicole visits the hangout one night in an attempt to befriend Jennifer, one of the strippers from the nudie bar across the street recognizes Nicole. Flustered, Nicole snubs her. The exchange intrigues Jennifer, who starts sneaking over to the nudie bar, Les Girls, to get the dirt on her new stepmom. Apparently, Nicole was once some sort of cross between a dancer, stripper and prostitute. Of course, the smarmy, reptilian club owner (Christopher Lee), spies Beat Girl through a two way mirror and tries to pressure her to become a stripper, to Nicole’s alarm. I won’t spoil the ending, but suffice to say there’s a murder, a sneering smoking person, and a formerly haughty Beat Girl, sufficiently humbled and blubbering like a four-year-old.

Review The best part of the movie is when the beat kids troop downstairs to the alcohol-less basement bar of the Off Beat, where John Barry and his Orchestra play the infectious theme of "Beat Girl," a jazz-infused piece of surf rock. Beat Girl, the spitting image of Bridgette Bardot, pauses on the stairs, smirking as the perkier teens race down behind her. The camera zooms in on her snooty face, then out again, as the words "Beat Girl" flash over her, the title itself seeming to revel in teen exploitation fun.

Beat Girl is a far more stylish film than its contemporaries in the exploitation realm, though. There are actual layers within the plot concerning post-war alienation that extend beyond the flat characters and clumsy, heavy moralizing of films like Reefer Madness and Teenage Devil Dolls. In one scene, Beat Girl dances seductively for one of the petulant teen boys in her crowd, but it’s obvious from the way the camera follows her eye several times to Nicole’s room upstairs that she’s doing it purely to piss off Nicole, not to satisfy any hormone-raging lust. As she dances, a girl calls out, "Strip like a Frenchie!" beginning a bizarre strip in which Beat Girl strips down to her pointy bra and skivvies in front of a cheering audience of 25 of her friends. Viva la Beat Girl!
reviewed by Virginia Pelley
 
Virginia Pelley lives in San Francisco and writes for ChickClick.com 

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