The Beat Generation (1959)

The Beat Generation (1959) is an outré exploitation rapist versus cop beatnik beat thriller which manages to deal with the worst social topics imaginable and do so in a madly unorthodox and spoof manner, while working hard to retain narrative dignity.

Featuring an array of daft and hip beats, beat songs, beat drinks, a beat with a rat, a beat who goes scuba diving and is a kind of harpoon beat, a wrestling beat which is hard to beat, Louis Armstrong, one of the greatest musicians of all time who is playing with some tuneless white dropout cats and a noisy mime, some straight ladies who are not beats, and some other squares who are raped.

Then there is a serious discussion of abortion wedged in between the acting of Fay Spain and Steve Cochran, Cochran playing the cop who is thrown into the world of the beats while tracing a rapist beat.

Most of the beats seem pretty nice albeit useless for anything other has playing bongos and making poetic non-sequiturs. Then there is Robert Mitchum's son, who bears a significant resemblance to his father, and he is hanging on the fringe of the beats, not really being a beat, although being quite a good gymnast and a kind of trainee rapist who is sent to practise his assault on Mamie Van Doren.

Crazed an outré The Beat Generation (1959) is a constant mixture of surprise beat aspects which boldly prefigure the 1960s attitudes that were going to crumble reality, and in this sense these little mamas and daddios are baby beats, nascent American beats.

Truly an existential noir the beat gen philosophy of the here and now, and even some pill popping nihilism going on in the first minute of the action. Schopenhauer, the arch pessimist of all philosophers is presented, cited, agreed with and makes his first and last film noir appearance.

Dig it, cats and kittens! Check this wild scene from The Beat Generation, a flick that dropped in '59, man. It's a real trip, with Steve Cochran and Mamie Van Doren leading the charge, surrounded by a groovy ensemble featuring Ray Danton, Fay Spain, Maggie Hayes, Jackie Coogan, Louis Armstrong, James Mitchum, Vampira, and Ray Anthony. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer laid down the vibes, and Charles F. Haas was the cat in the director's chair, man.

So, dig this. Ray Danton's playing Stan Hess, a beatnik with a major hang-up about women. This cool cat's got a real dark side – he's on a spree, posing as the "Aspirin Kid" to do some nasty business. He's hitting up married dames, playing a twisted game. And, get this, he leaves behind an aspirin tin like some creepy calling card.

Behold, a film ensnared in the webs of stereotypes and clichés, a labyrinthine escapade into the annals of exploitation. It unfolds a narrative tethered to the exploits of a serial marauder, the notorious Aspirin Kid, masterfully embodied by the enigmatic Ray Danton. His nefarious escapades, shrouded in the countercultural allure of beatnik haunts and the sun-kissed beaches of LA, cast an eerie pall over the unsuspecting suburban housewives who fall prey to his insidious machinations.

In the chiaroscuro of beatnik bars, the celluloid canvas paints a tableau replete with humorous repartee, illuminated by dialogues that oscillate between levity and the dark recesses of misogyny. Steve Cochran, a thespian embodiment of law enforcement, graces the screen as a cop immersed in the relentless pursuit of the Kid, spurred into action by the victimization of his own spouse. 

A denizen of shadowy realms, the film, despite its preposterous veneer, emanates a refreshing originality that weaves through the laughter-inducing tapestry.

The goateed beatniks, their countenances lost in contemplation, stand sentinel in beatific reverie, serenaded by the dissonant symphony of recorded car crashes, jazz, and what can only be described as the apotheosis of Beat poetry's nadir. Mamie Van Doren, a luminous presence amid this cinematic odyssey, beckons from the periphery, and an ensemble of countenances, destined for the sun-soaked shores of Beach Party films, graces the production.

Yet, amidst the impending threat of what contemporary sensibilities have christened as camp, the film weaves a narrative tapestry intricate enough to propel its momentum. A tenuous dance between laughter and narrative cadence ensues, rendering it an artefact, precariously suspended between the absurd and the semblance of a coherent chronicle.

There's this wild scene in the flicks, dig? Like, they're spinning these cinematic yarns about teenage rebels, you know? So, they cook up this sitch where you got this cool cat teen who's got a shot at redemption, groove it? He's up against this real heavy bad dude, Artie West, laying down the nasty vibes in Blackboard Jungle.

It's a trip, man, 'cause Artie's on a whole 'nother wavelength compared to Sidney Poitier's scene. The real drama, you feel me, is all about snatching up the supposedly righteous kid into the mainstream while tossing out the less savory sidekick.

Now, in the reel world of Rebel without a Cause, we're talking about young Jim, that cat James Dean's playing, right? So, Jim's salvation unfolds all accidental-like, and poor Plato, played by Sal Mineo, gets served as the sacrificial lamb to the fuzz. These flick scenes are like cosmic signposts hinting at the early stirrings of teenage rebellion, man. It's all about the undercover clashes simmering deep within youth culture, you dig?

Jumping into another groove, there's this I Was a Teenage Werewolf gig, where they turn some square, antisocial teen into a full-blown monster, freaking out his fellow teenagers. It's like a flick expressing the real deal fear teens got for their own kind, you know? Doherty drops a nod to it, but that theme's got potential for a whole trip throughout the bigger picture, man. It's like an undiscovered beat waiting for the poets to lay down some deep words.

Steve Cochran in The Beat Generation (1959)

Now, as the 1950s are cruising to a close, Hollywood, TV, and the record cats are flipping the script, man. They're ditching the gritty rock and roll vibes for clean-cut teen idols and flicks. But, here's the kicker – this whole dance with gender dynamics, it's just hanging on the outskirts of the chatter. The fading vibes of rebellious rockers are getting drowned out by the rise of squeaky-clean movies.

Unravelling the cosmic threads of emerging vibes and the smooth transition to new scenes, that's where it's at, a golden chance to groove on the complex vibes pulsating through youth culture—a realm jam-packed with influences from gender, ethnicity, class, and race, man.

Enter the vortex of an uncharted noir realm, where an obsessive cop plunges into the elusive pursuit of the enigmatic "Aspirin Kid," a beatnik serial assailant. MGM, not typically a noir purveyor, catapults into uncharted territories, birthing a cinematic anomaly that teeters on the precipice of insanity. 

Picture this, Daddy-O: a kaleidoscopic ensemble featuring Vampira, the vivacious Mamie Van Doren, real-life maestro Ray Anthony, Charles Chaplin Jr., James Mitchum (a spitting image of the old man), Jackie Coogan, and cameos by Cathy Crosby and Louis Armstrong. 

It's a cinematic soiree that crescendos at a beat "hootenanny," culminating in a surreal wrestling match and an underwater pursuit dodging harpoons. Groovy, man – this flick is an acid trip of cinematic eccentricity.

The celluloid canvas unfurls a standard Hollywood caricature of beatniks, a trope perennially marinated in ridicule and parody. Can you dig it? Beatniks rarely bask in the glow of positive representation on the American cinematic stage. Even the ostensibly whimsical "Funny Face" hovers condescendingly over this subculture. 

Steve Cochran, bearing an uncanny resemblance to Clooney, channels a quasi-psychotic aura, paralleling the villain, Ray Danton, who cranks the sleaze dial to an overwhelming 11. The late-noir era, unshackled by conventional norms, unabashedly grapples with taboo subjects like rape and abortion. While devoid of explicit imagery, the echoes of victims' screams resound with harrowing intensity.

Amidst the campy and trashy veneer, an unexpected moral core emerges, albeit one that backfires – an anti-choice message weaving its insidious tendrils into the narrative. The pre-Roe v. Wade landscape muddles the waters, and Mamie Van Doren's character becomes an unwitting messenger of ambivalence.

In this topsy-turvy universe, the film grapples with contradictions, as it attempts to decry misogyny while weaving a discordant thread that mandates the retention of rape-spawned progeny. It's a cinematic enigma, oscillating between absurdity and a convoluted moral stance.

Embarking upon an expedition into the intricate realm of pop psychology, this cinematic oddity from the annals of 1959 cinema undertakes the audacious task of traversing the treacherous divide between commonplace misogyny, bereft of violent manifestations, and the harrowing abyss inhabited by a serial rapist, steeped in the dark hues of extreme brutality. 

The unconventional premise, pitting two men with divergent psychological dispositions concerning women against each other, unfurls as a tapestry of idiosyncrasy.

Yet, beneath the veneer of purported psychological exploration, the film falters, descending into the murky depths of exploitation. Behold the resplendent Mamie Van Doren, an embodiment of bleach-blond allure and the quintessence of flirtatious charm. Enter the beatniks, intoning the immortal refrain of "let's have a hootenanny." Observe the ensuing spectacle as these self-absorbed eccentrics embark on a nihilistic odyssey of temporal wastefulness, the fine art of leisure manifesting in chaotic, yet strangely watchable pandemonium. 

Picture the year 1959, a cinematic haven for devotees of B-movie aesthetics, graced by the presence of Louis Armstrong and the inexplicable inclusion of Cathy Crosby, injecting an additional dose of camp into the cinematic narrative.

Sleazecake (Steve Cochran, Ray Danton), cheesecake (Mamie Van Doren, Fay Spain, Irish McCalla) and fruitcake (Jackie Coogan and Sid Melton in drag).

Jim Mitchum in The Beat Generation (1959)

Within this B-movie reverie, Fay Spain emerges as the acting luminary, gracefully shouldering the performance burden, thereby revealing the true essence of her thespian prowess. Steve Cochran, erstwhile beacon of male beauty in the cinematic landscape of the 1940s and 50s, grapples with the inexorable march of time, delivering a disinterested, hangdog performance that falls short of his zenith. Ray Danton, another luminary of the era, brings a convincing portrayal to the role of the psychopathic antagonist, albeit confined within the aesthetic constraints of the B-movie milieu.

Jim Mitchum and Mamie Van Doren in The Beat Generation (1959)

Meg: I wish I didn't have to make the scene with that plane tonight. I wish I never had to go back East. I wish I wish...

Stan Hess: Hey hey play it cool chick, like play it like cool. You got to go, everybody's got to move. I mean we can't stand still and wait for the next mushroom cloud now you dig.

Meg: Crazy, but as soon as I cut out you'll forget me.

Stan Hess: Oh Meg you're the most, but there's no tomorrow not while the sky grooves radiation gumdrops, man you got to live for kicks, right here and know that's all there is.

Meg: You know in all the months I've know you you never even held my hand.

Stan Hess: The love and marriage bit I put that down. That's for the Rat Race and the squares, Schopenhauer says and I agree with him, lovers are traitors who seek to perpetuate the whole want and druggery of life... That cat Schopenhauer also says that this world which is so real with all it's sunsets and milky ways is nothing.

Meg: It's the only world we got.

Stan Hess: Crazy.

Amidst this whirlwind of fast-paced psychological convolution, Fay Spain emerges as the genuine article, elevating the film beyond mere temporal escapism, serving as an invaluable time capsule that encapsulates the very essence of its era.

Now, here's the twist – Steve Cochran rolls in as Detective Culloran, a cop on the case. Hess, alias Arthur Garret, crosses paths with Culloran, learns about his married life, and sets his sights on Culloran's wife. Total chaos, man! The plot weaves through beatnik joints, twisted motives, and a heavy dose of obsession.

The Beat Generation (1959) is one of film noir's perfect cinematic aberrations, a malevolent specter, an embodiment of terror as it casts its ominous pallor upon the domiciles of unsuspecting housewives in the sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles. 

This nefarious marauder, a serial rapist of unparalleled malevolence, insidiously infiltrates the sanctuaries of domesticity, thereby instigating a grotesque tableau of violation. It is within this nightmarish tapestry that the narrative unfurls—a tapestry woven with threads of aberration and exploitation.

In the unfolding chronicle, we are reluctantly thrust into the disconcerting realm of a peculiar cinematic amalgamation that strives to encapsulate the essence of disparate narratives within the confines of a singular opus. Initially veering into the familiar precincts of the conventional police procedural, we encounter the stalwart 'tec, Steve Cochran—embarking on a Sisyphean quest to apprehend the infamous 'Aspirin Kid,' a sobriquet bestowed by the press upon the enigmatic malefactor, brought to life by the debonair Ray Danton. 

A visage of charisma draped in anachronistic allure, Danton's portrayal is an intriguing paradox of age and sartorial elegance. The narrative, bereft of any semblance of a 'whodunnit' mystique, merely unravels as an exposé of Danton's predilection for 'kicks,' precipitating an audacious assault on Cochran's cinematic spouse, essayed by the ineffable Fay Spain.

"Behold, fair maiden, I shall linger here until I encounter a soul beneath the age of thirty, comprehend?"

From this precipitous narrative, a second opus emerges—a socio-commentary, audacious and daring in its exploration of 'social issues.' Spain, ensnared in the harrowing aftermath of the assault, confronts the specter of a progeny conceived through violence. 

Abortion, ensnared in the labyrinthine shackles of legality, becomes a focal point of poignant contention. Regrettably, Cochran's preoccupation with the legal minutiae eclipses the requisite emotional support for his spouse, rendering the narrative canvas painted in the sombre hues of moral dilemmas.

Yet, the cinematic odyssey embarks upon an unforeseen trajectory—a character study of Cochran, a dedicated guardian of the law, shackled by the vestiges of a failed matrimony. Unravelling the layers of his psyche, the narrative contends with his selective oblivion to culpability, deeming his erstwhile spouse a 'tramp' without acknowledging his own complicity in marital dissolution. 

Vacuum Cleaners in Film Noir — The Beat Generation (1959)

A disquieting parallel surfaces, mirroring Danton's own despicable perspective towards womankind, laying the foundation for an intellectual exploration far ahead of its temporal context.

This intellectual nuance is purportedly the by-product of the creative alchemy of Richard Matheson, co-screenwriter and luminary of literary and cinematic realms. His indelible contributions, stretching across the realms of 'I Am Legend' and 'The Incredible Shrinking Man,' provide a lens through which this narrative traverses unforeseen dimensions of societal introspection. 

The dichotomy between Cochran and Danton becomes a crucible for psychological exploration, emblematic of Matheson's narrative dexterity.

Alas, as the narrative strives for cinematic excellence, it collides inexorably with the commercial imperatives of Albert Zugsmith, the purveyor of this celluloid oddity. The specter of Zugsmith's proclivity for capitalizing on cultural phenomena looms large—the 'beat craze' of the late 1950s becomes the cynosure. 

Danton, in a bewildering metamorphosis, assumes the mantle of a 'hep cat' who despises 'squares,' wielding quotes from Schopenhauer like an intellectual cudgel amidst the nebulous environs of 'The Golden Sealion.'

The climactic crescendo unfolds in surreal splendor — an entwining of Cochran and Van Doren in a backroom, Danton's rhythmic interlude with bongos during the 'beat hootenanny' next door, and the surreal antics of beatniks engaged in a slapstick wrestling match. Zugsmith's idiosyncratic assembly of an eclectic supporting cast, including Louis Armstrong, Vampira, Charles Chaplin Jr., and an array of peculiar personas, amplifies the surrealism.

In summation, performances within this cinematic mosaic assume variable nuances, with Cochran, Van Doren, and Spain bearing the onus of substantial roles. The on-set dalliances between Cochran and Van Doren become an inadvertent spectacle within this cinematic kaleidoscope. 

Yet, the disparate elements within this oddity fail to coalesce into a cogent whole, leaving the audience ensnared in the perplexing labyrinth of counter-culture scenes bereft of substantive substance.

This celluloid artefact, emblematic of Zugsmith's pecuniary inclinations within the socio-cultural tapestry of the late 1950s, stands as a testament to the enigmatic panorama of a bygone era—an era viewed through the prism of a low-brow auteur navigating the labyrinth of his own creative eccentricities.

The concluding climax is stranger still with the introduction of an underwater fight, for reasons too far gone to be worth considering.

The beat goes on, and the flick takes some unexpected turns. Jester, played by James Mitchum, enters the scene, and things get real complicated. Cochran's detective goes off the deep end, chasing Hess/Garret with a vengeance, all while his own personal life gets tangled up in the mess.

It's a trip, a real mind-bender, with scuba-diving showdowns and a climactic beach party that's outta sight. The beats collide, and Culloran's obsession spirals into some heavy territory. Will justice prevail, or is it curtains for our troubled detective?

Mamie Van Doren in The Beat Generation (1959)

Groove on this twisty tale of crime, obsession, and the beatnik scene. "The Beat Generation" lays down the drama, man – a noir trip into the shadows with a beatnik twist.

Determining the exact endpoint of the classic golden age era of Hollywood and identifying the last film noir made during this period can be somewhat subjective. However, many consider "Touch of Evil," directed by Orson Welles, to be one of the last great film noirs of the classic era. Released in 1958, "Touch of Evil" features elements typical of film noir, such as its shadowy cinematography, morally ambiguous characters, and a complex narrative. 

While the golden age of Hollywood is often said to have concluded in the late 1950s, the timeline and definitions can vary among film historians and enthusiasts.

Alongside Touch of Evil, several other films from the late 1950s are often considered contenders for being among the last classic-era film noirs. Here are a few notable examples:

Odds Against Tomorrow (1959): Directed by Robert Wise, this crime thriller features a racially charged heist plot and is often cited as one of the later entries in the film noir genre. It's brutal, raw and one of the best however.

The Big Combo (1955): Directed by Joseph H. Lewis, this film is known for its stark visuals and complex characters. While it predates "Touch of Evil," it's often discussed in the context of late-period film noir.

Vertigo (1958): Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, "Vertigo" is a psychological thriller that incorporates elements of film noir, particularly in its visual style and themes of obsession.

Some Came Running (1958): Directed by Vincente Minnelli, this drama features elements of film noir in its exploration of small-town life, complex relationships, and moral ambiguity.

Party Girl (1958): Directed by Nicholas Ray, this crime drama is set in the world of organized crime and is noted for its visual style and Ray's directorial touches.

While pinpointing the absolute "last" film noir is challenging due to the genre's fluid boundaries and the subjective nature of categorization, these films are often discussed within the context of the twilight years of classic-era film noir.

Cop Cochran has a habit of interrogating his wife and then blames her for getting raped, such is the patriarchal habits of The Beat Generation (1959), a collector's item of outrageous noir cinema.

The Beat Generation (1959) 

93 mins | Drama | July 1959

Cast:Steve Cochran, Mamie Van Doren, Ray Danton 

Director: Charles Haas

Writers: Richard Matheson, Lewis Meltzer

Cinematographer: Walter H. Castle

Editor:Ben Lewis

Production Designers:William A. Horning, Addison Hehr

Production Companies: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's Inc.), Albert Zugsmith Productions, Inc.

The Beat Generation (1959) at Wikipedia 

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