(1960)2.5Bruce EderEdmond T. Greville's Beat Girl (1960) was part of a cycle of British juvenile delinquency films that more or less paralleled their American counterparts chronologically, starting in the mid-'50s and ending approximately a decade later. Titled Wild for Kicks in America, the movie told the tale of Jennifer (Gillian Hills), a teenager whose unhappiness with her father (David Farrar) and his remarriage to an attractive young Frenchwoman (Noëlle Adam) leads her to take up with the "beatniks" in London's Soho, a loose-living lot who -- as depicted here -- spend their time dancing to loud music, drinking too much, and pursuing various sexual escapades. Apart from the rock & roll music that is woven into the action, provided by Adam Faith and the John Barry Seven, and some good location shots around London's Soho circa 1959-1960, there never was much to recommend this unconvincing drama, whose plot, dialogue, and acting all seem totally artificial. Even the so-called "beatniks" were more juvenile delinquents than non-conformists, and had little (if any) resemblance to the real beats (mostly would-be artists and poets) who lived in Soho. Gillian Hills, who would make a much bigger splash in Blow-Up a little more than a half-decade later, gives a horrendous performance as the troubled teen whose frustration with her family life (which includes a luxurious home with servants) leads her to disaster. And one can just imagine, judging from the way he looks throughout the movie, David Farrar wondering how he went from doing great movies like Black Narcissus and The Small Back Room to this in less than a dozen years. Adam Faith actually puts a lot into the role of a guitar-playing delinquent, and he is the most watchable player in the film, not that this is saying much. The other interesting element, besides the music and the sleazy Soho locales (including coffee bars and strip joints) is the presence of Oliver Reed as a manic (pill-popping?) hanger-on -- he's scary in his twitchy close-ups. Additionally, one can also draw a line from his work here to his subsequent lead performance in Guy Hamilton's The Party's Over (1965), the movie that effectively ended the British juvenile delinquency cycle with a script that did more than imply a necrophiliac denouement to a murder case in Soho. Beat Girl offers nothing as daring, diverting, or perverse as that; Reed's manic, ominous presence as a supporting character is more interesting than anyone we see in the foreground.
A rebellious teenager runs away from home and joins the SoHo beatniks when her widowed father remarries a much younger woman. But beatnik life isn't all it seems and she ends up hanging out as a stripper in a sleazy club, hoping to learn about her mom. There the creepy club owner attempts to seduce her, and his lover gets jealous and stabs him. Now the two must do something fast. The film is also known as Wild for Kicks, and features music from rocker Adam Faith, the John Barry Seven, and other beatnik acts.