THE BEAT GENERATION

THE BEAT PAD was a big, rambling house at Malibu that belonged to Stan Belmont. The Pad was wild, it was far-out. A beautiful girl with tight pants and no bra chanted weird poetry, while a real gone musician beat out rhythms on a bass without strings. Couples tangled everywhere in a shameless debauch. The whole place reeked of weed. It was way up there--

Here's the big novel of the restless ones who hop from thrill to thrill, the groovy cats who call themselves Beatniks--try anything for kicks but are never satisfied--

THE BEAT GENERATION is their story

--Teaser page for THE BEAT GENERATION (1959) by Albert Zugsmith based on a screenplay by Richard Matheson and Lewis Meltzer

Is it just us or is the exploitation of the Beat Generation in popular culture infinitely more entertaining than genuine beat writing and poetry? Jack Kerouak, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs are all literary geniuses, of course, but the movement they and other important writers of the period sparked had certain self-important excesses that were ripe for parody. And let’s be honest – wouldn’t you rather watch a film clip of Phillipa Fallon delivering the amazing Mel Welles poem “High School Drag” than read the (mostly) incoherent ramblings of the real Beats?

CONELRAD is fascinated with the Beat phenomenon because it is inextricably linked with the Cold War. The very term “Beatnik” coined by San Francisco columnist Herb Caen in an April 2, 1958 San Francisco Chronicle column conveys the overlap (Beat + SputNIK = Beatnik). The exploitation—or Beatsploitation—of the generation or fad or whatever you want to label it is in many cases so creative that it achieves its own art form.

Over the years there have been far too many examples of Beatsploitation to catalog here, though another favorite of ours is the July 1959 edition of Playboy featuring the ““Beat Playmate,” Yvette Vickers. Alfred Hitchcock as a goateed, beret-wearing Beatnik is hard to resist mentioning, too.

Albert Zugsmith and his screenwriter enablers produced two landmark Beatsploitation film works: HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL (1958) and THE BEAT GENERATION (1959). Both films spawned paperback tie-ins and both are based on the screenplays for the respective films. The review of the novelization of HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL can be read here.

As a tie-in The Beat Generation does an adequate job of capturing the storyline of the movie: Los Angeles cops are after a serial rapist dubbed the Aspirin Kid because aspirin is left at the scene of his crimes. Stan Belmont (aka Stan Hess), a psychopathic beatnik is the culprit and he hangs out at the local coffee shop with a strange assortment of bohemians. He wants to make the wife of one of the cops on his trail his next victim. It is a fairly pedestrian suspense plot. Subtract the beat window dressing and this novel would hardly be worth mentioning today. It would be just one of the hundreds of mid-century sleaze noirs.

But because it has lines like this: “You’ve got to go, everybody’s got to go, go, go! We can’t stand still and wait for the next mushroom cloud, dig me?” or “This world, which is so real, with all its sunsets and Milky Ways—is nothing…!” it rises to a whole new level.

The book also presents—though slightly altered—one of the stranger scenes in the film. In the movie, Vampira (Maila Nurmi) recites a beat poem from a crumpled piece of paper while a rat hangs on her shoulder. In the novelization, the girl, sans vermin, recites the following poem up until the phrase “since you forced us into this world.” The movie offers more of the verses and we present them here:

Upon a certain birthday, dear parents, we do not thank you
Dear fumbling mother and father, both, upon this miserable occasion
We give you offerings of respectful... Loathing
So dear parents, we laugh in your faceless... Faces
Since you forced us into this world, with your own evil force
Which you painted drab... White
A force called... Marriage!
We too will embrace force, but of our own cool kind
NOW is our time
Through the Beat way of life
A force of kicks, unending kicks
The kicks that destroy... without killing!

Dave Culloran, one of the detectives observing the strange surroundings at the coffee shop, is asked by his partner Jake Baron what he makes of the Beat Generation. Culloran then delivers a squaresville assessment worthy of Jack Webb: “Phony intellectuals, most of them. Jumping on a gravy train of rebellion. Maybe I’m getting too old. They bore me.”

We could go on with this book review, but we’ve got to catch the next gravy train of rebellion.

Snap, Snap.


THE BEAT GENERATION
By Albert Zugsmith
Based on a screenplay by Richard Matheson and Lewis Meltzer
Copyright 1959; Published by Bantam Books / New York
151 Pages

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