Teenage spoilt brat Jennifer doesn’t like his father’s new French wife, Nichole. Jennifer is involved in the new ‘Beat’ scene in London and feels completely alienated, bored and like anyone older than her is ‘square’. Through a strange coincidence, Jennifer learns that her new stepmother used to strip in Paris which leads Jennifer to venture inside Christopher Lee’s creepy and forbidden strip club which is situated opposite the Kensington cafe bar she frequents.
Beat Girl works on several different levels. On one level, it’s one of the ‘new youth cult’ films that were made to cater to the new youth culture that was emerging and also to scare the pants off any older viewers who were probably reading with horror the moral panics being whipped up by the tabloid media of the day regarding these shocking new teenage cults. As a testament to this, Beat Girl ran into problems with the censorship board, The British Board of Film Classification. The person who classified the film called it ‘machine-made dirt’ and said that it was ‘the worst script I have read for some years’. When it was submitted it had the much more shocking title of ‘Striptease Girl’ and was hastily renamed to Beat Girl to try to avoid any more controversy. Whilst the film was released eventually with an X certificate, the board objected to the scenes of exotic dancing, the scene in which the teens play chicken and place their heads on railway tracks as a train is approaching (Beat Girl was named Wild For Kicks in the US when it was released) and the general tone of juvenile delinquency. Some prints are actually missing these scenes.
On another level, this is a ‘pop star’ film. These types of movies were popular in the 50s and onwards in which a popular singer would bolster a cast and might sing a few numbers within the course of the movie. Beat Girl features Adam Faith and he does sing a few songs but this isn’t exclusively a vehicle just for him. There is much more going on. And some of that is very dark indeed for a film of this ilk.
Christopher Lee’s sleazy underworld owner of his sleazy underworld strip joint is a fantastic ingredient of the film. His character provides a layer of darkness within the movie that truly makes it feel dangerous and a lot darker. This type of character and this side of London hadn’t been depicted on celluloid many times before this time. We had never seen inside a strip joint (Les Girls actually seems quite a classy joint in the film) in a British film before this. This excursion is most welcome.
Add to this the exotic dance routine we see (it’s still quite risque) and the fantastic soundtrack by the John Barry Seven (yes, that John Barry did the music and it’s fantastic) and you have a cult curio film that still stands up and is a fantastic piece of cult cinema. As Shirley Ann Fields would say it’s ‘over and out!’
4 stars out of 5