Upon seeing the title, THE BEAT GENERATION (Charles Haas 1959), and that it was produced by Albert Zugsmith (HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL! (1958), COLLEGE CONFIDENTIAL (1960), SEX KITTENS GO TO COLLEGE (1960)), one might expect a teen/beatnik exploitation movie. But he also produced: WRITTEN ON THE WIND (1956), THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (1957), THE TARNISHED ANGELS (1957), and a little something called TOUCH OF EVIL (1958). And what one gets with THE BEAT GENERATION is a Film Noir disguised as a teen/beatnik exploitation movie.
Married women in L.A. are being raped in their homes by a young smooth-talking coffee shop devotee, Stan Hess (Ray Danton). He shows up at a home, identifies himself as Arthur Garrett, says her husband helped him by loaning him $10 and he wants to write a check in repayment. Once in, he feigns a headache, pulls out some aspirin and asks for a glass of water. When she's getting that, he puts on leather gloves, takes her from behind, and assaults her. The detectives on the cases are Dave Culloran (Steve Cochran) and Jake Baron (Jackie Coogan). Culloran is suspect of the women, blaming the victim...until his wife, Frances (Fay Spain), becomes a victim. Now he is conflicted between women as tramps and his wife, who is near-virginal (but, we learn in a nearly off-hand comment by Baron that Culloran had been married before...to a tramp).
Hess asks his pal Art Jester (James Mitchum), to follow his modus operandi to confuse the cops. His target is Georgia Altera (Mamie Van Doren). The assault does not come to fruition because her ex-husband, Harry (Ray Anthony, married to Ms. Van Doren at the time), happens to pop in before Jester can surprise her. Georgia is uncooperative with Culloran because she hates Harry, is intrigued by (translation: hot for) Jester, and -- after all -- was not a victim. This confirms Culloran's thesis that women are tramps. But, as Baron points out, is that any different than "Garrett"'s attitude toward women? Hmmmm.
As if this isn't enough, Frances is pregnant. Who's the father? Culloran says he doesn't care because terminating the pregnancy " is against the law. It's against the law in every state." Frances says she doesn't care because she can't love this child. Until she talks to Mrs. Baron's across-the-street neighbor, a Roman Catholic priest (William Schallert). Now she will have the baby. But her husband is never around because he's obsessed with catching the Aspirin Kid. Culloran's conflicts -- the status of women generally, the status of his wife vis-a-vis women as a class and as a victim and as a mother, his status as a cop vs, protecting his wife's status (which is what?), his status relative to the lunatic rapist -- keep his wife off-balance and keep this movie alive and moving.
What a wonderful amalgam of adult melodrama, noir and beatnik exploitation. The exploitation aspect is relatively minimal, fortunately, until, unfortunately, the last 15-20 minutes. Prior to that, the few coffeehouse scenes are parody played straight. Near the end, the parody turns into slapstick and, given contemporary eyes, Camp, which distracts from the major narrative thread's continuing Noir theme. One of the more interesting subtexts is that the only woman who isn't a victim of sexual assault is the woman who is not married (Georgia Altera), she is saved from the assault by her ex-husband (the others' husbands weren't around when the assaults happened, but the ex- is), and she is the only one who is openly sexual. There's some discussion points.
For fun, some of the other cast members are: Sid Melton, Vampira, Maxie Rosenbloom, Louis Armstrong, Charles Chaplin, Jr., and (you may not recognize the name, but you would the face and body) Norman Grabowski.
For CineMaven's eyes only: The ending is an underwater fight between Danton and Cochran. Both are clothed, but it may be of interest because they're wet. There is, however, a much earlier scene of the Culloran and Baron families enjoying a day at the beach. Both Cochran and Coogan are in swim trunks. Coogan is also wearing a shirt. Just so you know.
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