Beat Girl [1960]

Before swinging London and the rock & roll explosion took over English youths, Britain's first teen rebel didn't have much of a cause but plenty of attitude. Pouty art-school student Jennifer (teen sex kitten Gillian Hills, looking very much a British Bardot) is the Beat Girl of the title, an alienated teenager who hangs out in coffee shops and underground clubs with beatniks and teddy boys. When her self-absorbed father returns home with a sexy French bride, the picture warps into lurid melodrama as Jennifer tracks a suspicion about her stepmom to a sleazy strip club managed by an even sleazier Christopher Lee, whose salacious desires she realizes too late. Director Edmond T. Greville, a craftsman of the old school, brings an unexpected, edgy grit to the low-budget picture, injecting the callow clich├ęs of lost youth with a nervous energy and a genuine sense of desperation. John Barry's growling score gives the film a rumbling undercurrent, and the cheap, claustrophobic sets (often hiding in darkness) only enhance the sleazy atmosphere. The mix of teenage desperation, rock & roll music, and lurid sensationalism (complete with teasing nudity in the strip club) creates a strange hybrid: a teen exploitation film with a film noir soul. Costar Adam Faith sings a couple of songs and Oliver Reed appears in a few scenes as a drugged-up, funked-out teddy boy. --Sean Axmaker

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