• Beat Generation, The



    Released by: Olive Films
    Released on: March 31st, 2015.
    Director: Charles Haas
    Cast: Ray Danton, Steve Cochran, James Mitchum, Fay Spain, Jackie Coogan
    Year: 1959
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    The Movie:

    Produced by Albert Zugsmith and directed by Charles Haas in 1959, The Beat Generation tells the sordid tale of Stan Hess (Ray Danton). This guy has got some strange hobbies in that he spends his spare time sexually assaulting women and framing them in strange ways. Case in point? His latest target: Joyce Greenfield (Margaret Hayes). After he does his thing he sets the scene just so to make it look like she wasn’t a victim of rape but was in fact involved in an extramarital affair. From there he not only manages to hitch a ride with L.A.P.D. officer Dave Culloran (Steve Cochran) who has been called to the scene, but even get his home address while snooping through his car!

    As Dave starts digging deeper into the rash of assaults, his unfaithful wife Francee (Fay Spain) starts to wonder if all that time he’s spent dealing with the seedy side of life and crime isn’t starting to wear away at him. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by his partner Jake (Jackie Coogan), who is also becoming concerned with the way that Dave is interrogating the victims with such an accusing tone. Of course, Hess then breaks into the Culloran home and assaults Francee, leaving behind his calling card (an Aspirin tin) so that Dave will know who was behind it. To make matters worse, Francee tells her increasingly unstable husband that she’s pregnant. To further complicate things, Hess gets Art Jester (Jim Mitchum) to run around town impersonating him, starting with a visit to the promiscuous Georgia Altera (Mamie Van Doren). When Francee leaves Dave, he starts to snap all while Hess and Art keep up their game, culminating in a showdown of sorts that takes place at a beatnik happening!

    Outside of the finale where some extras bearing a passing resemblance to beatniks actually do appear and a neat scene where Maila ‘Vampira’ Nurmi shows up to read a poem while a white rat runs around on her neck and shoulders, this is more of a standard crime thriller than a beatnik movie. Its connection to that brief trend in American subcultures is tenuous at best, but despite the marketing gimmick of the title (obviously meant to cash in on that trend while it was still a trend), this is a pretty entertaining low budget picture.

    The movie is quite a bit darker than you’d probably expect it to be and it deals in some fairly strong subject matter for its time. Most of the characters are pretty unlikable here, even the cop on the case Dave Culloran. Sure, he’s been tainted by the toils of his job but the way that he takes it out on the women he’s supposed to be trying to help is pretty nasty. Steve Cochran plays this part rather well. Also quite good is Fay Spain, sympathetic enough in her role to earn our pity in a few key scenes. Ray Danton makes for an effective if unlikely sociopath and the fact that all of this is played seriously and without much in the way of intentional attempts at humor gives him a decent opportunity to play the role to the hilt. James Mitchum is fun to watch here too, showing more enthusiasm for this role than for the one that he played shortly before in Thunder Road.

    Some interesting faces pop up in the film as well. Not only is Vampira here, out of character, but so too is Louis Armstrong, Charlie Chaplin Jr. and Guy Stockwell. It’s quick paced and very, very dated but it’s an interesting and worthwhile curiosity.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The Beat Generation arrives on Blu-ray from Olive Films in a 2.35.1 widescreen transfer presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. Detail here is quite strong though while some very minor print damage is present throughout, mostly just some small scratches and specks rather than anything too drastic. Grain is present throughout the presentation but it never gets so heavy as to distract from the generally solid detail and texture that the HD transfer offers. Black levels are really nice, quite strong, and contrast looks spot on. All in all this is a sharp and crisp image offering surprisingly good texture and contrast along with strong shadow detail. The movie looks quite good in HD, there's nothing to object to here at all. Fans should be quite pleased with the visuals on this release.

    The English language DTS-HD Mono Audio track on the disc is pretty good. The score sounds quite strong here and helps to really ramp up the tension in the last twenty minutes or so. The hardboiled Dialogue stays crisp and clear, it's never a problem understanding any of the characters. There are no alternate language options or subtitles of any kind offered on this disc.

    Aside from a static menu offering chapter selection, there are no extra features on this disc at all.

    The Final Word:

    The Beat Generation is a decent, scuzzy little thriller that fans of late fifties era exploitation pictures should get a kick out of. Olive Films’ Blu-ray is, as you’d expect at this point, absent of any extra features but it looks and sounds quite good making this a release well worth hunting down.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!