Albert Zugsmith is one of the more interesting figures in Hollywood history. While he produced some very impressive films—Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Written on the Wind—he is probably best remembered for a series of teen exploitation films—High School Confidential and Sex Kittens Go to College—during the late fifties and early sixties. At the height of the beatnik movement in 1959, he released The Beat Generation. Despite the title, this isn’t really a film about beatniks, nor is it a traditional Zugsmith teen exploitation flick. Instead, The Beat Generation deals with a psychopath who rapes several women while a desperate police detective works to bring him to justice.

Stan Belmont (Ray Danton) is the son of a wealthy man who comes to the beat club where Stan is hanging out, to announce that he is getting married to a much younger woman Stan once dated. Not impressed, Stan’s comments make it clear he’s not a big fan of women, or the institution of marriage. Claiming to know the husband of the middle-aged Joyce Greenfield (Maggie Hayes), he gains entry into the home on the pretense of wanting to repay an old debt. He feigns a headache, asking for a glass of water, which gives him the chance to quickly don a pair of leather gloves and brutally rapes her. Though the rape is off-screen, the scene generates a significant amount of tension; Joyce’s screams are genuinely unsettling.

While leaving the house, Steve is nearly hit by a car driven by LAPD detective David Culloran (Steve Cochran). In the car, Culloran mentions that he is married and Stan notices that there is a letter on the seat of the car which shows Culloran’s address, setting up a later attack of Culloran’s wife Francee (Fay Spain). In the meantime, Dave is called to investigate the Greenfield case.

Later, Culloran and his partner, Baron (Jackie Coogan) follow a lead to Muscle Beach, where they arrest a suspect, Arthur Jester (James Mitchum, Robert’s oldest look-alike son), but he turns out to have a solid alibi. Culloran and Baron receive a call from Hess, offering to give himself up at the local beatnik club that evening at 8:00pm. Predictably, while the detectives wait at the club, Hess is raping Culloran’s wife. The young couple had been trying to have a child and when Francee learns she is pregnant a couple of months later, she has no idea whether the baby is her husband’s or the rapist’s. It’s at this point that The Beat Generation takes some unexpected directions for 1959, offering up an interesting debate about abortion, given the uncertainty surrounding the identity of the baby’s father. It’s also at this point that Dave’s approach to his job takes on a scary, obsessive quality.

While The Beat Generation used the angle of the beatnik coffee house to cash in on the then lucrative teen exploitation craze, the film is actually about a chilling sociopath. While there’s some decidedly ridiculous material, including an undersea battle crowning the film (yeah, don’t ask), it’s actually a surprisingly frank film, considering the era in which it was released. I would recommend The Beat Generation to anyone who enjoys their noir with a twist.

A CinemaScope presentation, though shot with superior Panavision lenses, The Beat Generation has noticeable scratches throughout and some other blemishes. Nonetheless, the black-and-white production look darn good on Blu-ray, with strong detail.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono is strictly standard stuff, but provides solid dialogue.

There are no subtitles included.

There are no extras available.