Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Blu-ray Review: Beat Girl (BFI)


Newly weds Paul and Nichole Linden (David Farrar, Noelle Adam) arrive at their Kensington home to encounter a resentful teen still troubled by her parents breakup.
Jennifer (Gillian Hills) is hostile towards her stepmother from the word go, while her relationship with father Paul is a classic case of parental neglect as his City 2000 project holds centre stage: a revolutionary housing plan which fails to understand the people who will dwell there.
Jennifer is part of a rebellious group who congregate in clubs, coffee bars and, at one memorable rave, Chislehurst Caves,and adopt an anti-authority stance which their elders can never understand.
Her friends - who include the coolest of Beatniks Dave (Adam Faith), gorgeous singer Dodo (Shirley-Ann Field) and Peter McEnery's Tony who constantly brings up his military father, "weighed down by medals."

A Soho cafe called 'The Off Beat' is their haven and also marks the spot where Nichole's troubles multiply when she bumps into an old friend named Greta (Delphi Lawrence), known as 'The Duchess' at 'Les Girls' strip club.
Jennifer discovers her stepmother and Greta go back to a life in Paris where "it's not easy to stay respectable on an empty stomach", and decides to build on this knowledge to wreck a marriage.
Events take a sinister turn when Jennifer, under age, meets 'Les Girls' owner Kenny King (Christopher Lee) who immediately senses another conquest may be on the horizon.
Of course, Lee had appeared as Count Dracula two years earlier, and here, his character in Terrence Fisher's film possesses him in a chilling scene.
Witness King grooming his prey, offering her an exciting alternative to her current situation, into a life as one of the 'undead' who enjoy brief riches before losing their position as the next victim rolls up.
Here, there's no glamour, save for a quick honeymoon period, just as the vampire brides promise of immortality is a hollow one.
Rebellion and her juvenile delinquent persona evaporate in the face of true evil.

Jennifer and her crew were survivors: war babies who emerged from the rubble after The Blitz.It was a perilous situation brought home when Dave recalls his first home was a London underground station.
In "Beat Girl", attitudes and memories of these experiences fuelled a swinging generation, and director Edmond T Grenville's direction guides the impressive cast through a moment in time where squares did not fit into their circle.
Hills, Faith, Field, Lee and co all make their mark a memorable one, and watch out for Oliver Reed - Plaid Shirt in the credits - who moves, grooves and smoulders with the best of them as The John Barry Seven kick up a storm, amalgamating Swing and Jazz to great effect.


This BFI Blu-ray presentation was newly remastered in 2K, with a glossy monochrome look beautifully rendered.
The disc includes 3 versions of the film, with the main cut running for 1 Hr 27M 42s.
The alternative version was released to certain countries overseas and runs for 1Hr 32M 9s.
An additional scene with Paul And Nichole on a London-bound train; Jennifer showing a book on jazz to Nichole and a softer version of a striptease make up the extra minutes.
The extended version runs for 1Hr 32M 38s and is basically the same as the alternative cut. According to the booklet accompanying this release, it's a hybrid version, assembled from different elements.

The extras begin with an interview with Gillian Hills, running for 25m 26s.
Gillian - who looks stunning - talks about "Beat Girl" being a Godsend for her, and displays excellent recall as she talks about her director and a cast that contained some extraordinary talent.
It must have been quite an experience to appear in this film at such a tender age, and Gillian's fine performance has lost none of its vitality down the years.
This interview is a valuable account of a film where everything came together, a time Gillian recounts with real warmth.

Next up is "Cross-Roads"; a 1955 supernatural short which runs for 19m 17s.
Christopher Lee headlines as Benson, who is on his way to the London offices of Bernard J Maskell (Ferdy Mayne); an unscrupulous impresario soon to meet his match.
This is a wonderfully engrossing 'quickie', directed by John Fitchen, and boasting one scene in particular that will strike a chord with Hammer buffs, as the camera settles on Lee's eyes which display every ounce of the rage and savagery of a Dracula that was still 3 years away.

"Beauty In Brief" (3m 50s)
A 1955 striptease short, where full-on nudity is avoided as a young woman anticipates her wedding with attire that her intended would surely approve of.

"Goodnight With Sabrina" (3m50s)
Sabrina (Norma Sykes) entertains us from her own apartment, swapping evening gown for bath and bed, before bidding us goodnight.
As Arthur Askey would have said, "I Thank You".
The BFI have also included a 20 page booklet which includes Gillian remembering "Beat Girl"; Vic Pratt's essay on the film; Johnny Trunk's essay on John Barry's score, and Jo Botting's look at Edmond T Greville's work.
It all makes for required reading.
As an historical document of times gone by and a hugely enteraining film to boot, "Beat Girl" thoroughly deserves its chance to take another bow. A jewel in the BFI 'Flipside' crown, no less.

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