THE BEAT GENERATION (1959)(aka This Rebel Age)  

Director Charles F Haas
Producer Albert Zugsmith
Written by Richard Matheson & Lewis Meltzer

Detective Sgt Dave Culloran Steve Cochran
Georgia Altera Mamie Van Doren
Stan Hess Ray Danton
Francee Culloran Fay Spain
Joyce Greenfield Maggie Hayes
Jake Baron Jackie Coogan
Himself Louis Armstong
The Singer Cathy Crosby
Art Jester James Mitchum
Harry Altera Ray Anthony
Singing Beatnik Dick Contino
Wrestling Beatnik Max "Slapsie Maxie" Rosenbloom
Marie Baron Irish McCalla
Dancer Regina Carrol
Lover Boy Charles Chaplin Jr
Art Jester James Mitchum
Poetess Vampira

Alfred Zugsmith, the producer of this film, was a solid B Movie legend.  He was responsible for a raft of fascinating Fifties and Sixties exploitation films, including Captive Women (1952), Female on the Beach (1955), The Female Animal (1958), Sex Kittens Go To College (1960), Confessions of an Opium Eater (1962) and Fanny Hill (1964).  Surprisingly, Zugsmith's name is also associated with a couple of highly respected films - the gripping and inventive sci-fi classic, The Incredible Shrinking Man, and Orson Welles' misunderstood noir masterpiece, Touch Of Evil.
Irish was originally offered the lead role in this film but declined it when she learnt of the graphic rape scene involved. The company planned to make a foreign version for the European market and this would have included a scene of Irish having her blouse torn off (one account says brassiere).  Irish was always a stickler for this kind of thing (see She Demons) and she resisted Albert Zugsmith's solicitations. ("I felt there was the Sheena image to preserve, and I didn't want my two boys to be ashamed of their mother.")  When Zugsmith informed her that the rape scene would be done in good taste, Irish was incredulous. "I'll never forget that line." she reflected.  "Mr. Zugsmith, how can you rape somebody in good taste?" was her response.
Irish told Zugsmith she wanted to play the mother role but he was doubtful.  "You don't look like a mother." he complained.  "I do to my kids and to all the neighbourhood kids." Irish replied.  She offered to dye her hair a darker colour and he gave her the part.  ("It was just a bit part, but it was better than no part at all.")  I personally feel that Irish is very inappropriate in the role of the demure housewife, Marie Baron.  She conveys the sense of the character adequately but her physical appearance is completely unbelievable.  One scene shows her vacuuming the floor of her suburban home and she looks practically Amazonian because of her tall, buxom, statuesque frame.

Irish only has two short scenes in this film.  The first towards the the beginning of the film takes place at the beach, but the film wisely avoids any lingering shots of brunette Irish in her one-piece swimsuit (see publicity still with Fay Spain, on swing - left).  Francee Culloran (Fay Spain) confides in her friend Marie (Irish) that she and her detective husband, Dave, are planning to have a baby soon while.  The other occurs in the middle of the film after Francee has discovered that she is pregnant but is considering an abortion because she has no way of telling whether the father is Dave or the rapist who assaulted her two months earlier.  A distressed Francee visits Marie at her home, seeking advice about her dilemma (below right).  Marie is a good Catholic, but is also the wife of Dave's partner Jake, who is played by Jackie Coogan (famous on 1960s TV as Uncle Fester in the The Addams Family) (in centre of photo below).  Marie tries to pacify her friend and decides the best advice she can give her is for Francee to talk to her kindly, soft-spoken neighbour, Father Donelly.  The good father gives Francee a kindly lecture on the evils of abortion that contemporary neo-conservatives would be proud of - it's clearly a case of murder, there's no black and white here, regardless of the circumstances.
The stereotypical, outlandish depiction of these bereted, goateed, bongo-playing beatniks given here is puerile and comical.  Their ludicrous dialogue contains every cliché imaginable: far-out, cool, square, daddyo, dig, split and make the scene.  We are even treated to singing beatniks, scubadiving beatniks, and even a wrestling beatnik, played by the improbably named "Slapsie Maxie" Rosenbloom.  These beatniks listen to jazz, man, but it is the very square traditional jazz of Satchmo because the viewing audience weren't yet ready for the more authentic hot bebop of Bird or Diz.  These hip cats get much squarer than this, however.  One scene in their groovy, way-out coffee house shows them respectfully enjoying a torch song crooned by Cathy Crosby (niece of Bing and daughter of bandleader Bob) bedecked in a strapless white satin evening gown and long white gloves (pure 50s mainstream!).  My favourite scene in the film takes place in the beatnik's bohemian cafe when the two straight cops are following up on a tip-off. A gaunt-faced woman in sweater and tights, nursing a white rat on her shoulder (truly outrageous, right), announces to the crowd, "This is only for the cool cats.  The sterile creeps can crawl out now."  This beatnik poetess is played by Vampira (far left in photo below), best known as the Vampire Girl in Ed Wood's schlock tour de force, Plan 9 From Outer Space.  Below is the complete text of the poem she reads from a crumpled piece of paper (beat poetry a la Hollywood):
"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!
This film even has a link to the Tarzan films (click on the link to see my pages about all the Tarzan film).  In an early scene Stan Hess, the psychologically disturbed beatnik turned rapist, is visited at the beatnik's hangout by his father, who is keen to inform his son that he and his dippy, floozy girlfriend are about to get married in Vegas.  ("I don't need a mother, man!  I've been born." replies Stan disdainfully).  The senior Mr Hess is played by a grey-haired Paul Cavanagh, who did such a sterling job as the womanising villain Martin Arlington in Johnny Weismuller's second film, Tarzan and His Mate (1934), without doubt the best of the whole catalogue of Tarzan films.

This film has pretensions of being a hard-hitting social drama that explores "serious" issues, but it is merely a tacky exploitation flick with hokey dialogue.  The most interesting thing about it is the parallel personalities of the two principal male characters, Stan Hess (Ray Danton) and Detective Dave Culloran (Steve Cochran).  Hess is a callous, woman-hater who delights in raping married women, while Culloran is an insensitive cop who thinks all women are tramps because his first wife was one.  When he questions the rape victims he treats them harshly and obviously doesn't believe their stories.  His moral self-righteousness leads him to questionable and dangerous police work that threatens the safety of the victims he carelessly uses as bait to catch the rapist.  Both are misogynists - one abuses women verbally, the other through acts of violence. 
 I think it would have been a big mistake to cast Irish McCalla as Georgia Altera.  Irish's dramatic skills would have been way below the gritty challenges required of the role, and Irish's old-fashioned Catholic sensibilities would have inhibited her attempts to portray brassy flirtatiousness effectively.  Mamie Van Doren proved over several films (High School Confidential, Girls Town and Sex Kittens Go To College) that she was comfortable and effective playing sassy, in-your-face, promiscuous women.  The range of her thespian skills was sufficiently narrow for her to star in around twenty exploitation flicks during the Fifties.  One writer said that "langour and insensibility" were her trademarks". (Kimball)  This is the very realm that made Irish McCalla uncomfortable.  She repeatedly clashed with directors and producers who attempted to exploit her body gratuitously (see She Demons) and managed to maintain a sense of decorum even as a glamourous fashion model (see Page 6: Nudity in the Modelling section). Mamie Van Doren, however, revelled in flamboyant titillation. It is ironic that in this film Irish chose a role that more closely fitted her personality but one that was totally inappropriate to her physical appearance.  This would not be the last time this occurred (see Five Gates To Hell).

PLOT - Note: Spoiler warning
The police have nicknamed a serial rapist The Aspirin Kid because aspirin has been left behind after each attack.  A disturbed, woman-hating beatnik named Stan Hess gains entry to the houses of married women by posing as a polite young man and assaults them while they're distracted getting a glass of water for a headache he has feigned.  Dave Culloran, a hard-bitten cop with a low opinion of women has been assigned to the case and when Hess learns this he resolves to make Culloran's wife his next victim.  Dave and his partner, Jake Baron, are lured to a beatnik coffee house so that Hess can attack and rape Dave's wife, Francee.  Francee later discovers she is pregnant and is reluctant to deliver the child because she is unsure whether Dave or the rapist is the father.  She receives little support from Dave who is obsessively involved in tracking down The Aspirin Kid.  Dave suspects that a sexy, curvaceous blonde named Georgia may be the next victim and he persuades her to act as bait for him.  Georgia and Culloran are captured by Hess at the beatnik's beachside pad but escape.  Culloran and Hess fight it out underwater when Hess dons scuba gear to get away.  The rapist screams "women are filth" when he is captured and Dave realises the similarities between them.  He returns to Francee and his new daughter to embark on a new life together.

A request for assistance - I have been unable to find a copy of the trailer for this film.  If you can help, please email me.
Click on the image below to see irish McCalla's brief scenes in this film:

Click on the image below to see a complete set of lobby cards for this film:

Femme Fatales magazine, Jan 99
Scarlet Street magazine No. 23, 1996
• Essay The Rise of the Bosom by George Robert Kendall in The Movie, Orbis Publishing 1981

• All images except the vidcap of Irish and Fay Spain were pilfered from eBay auction items
• Video capture of Irish and Fay Spain is from a DVD-R of The Beat Generation from my private collection

• Visit 77-year-old (in June 2008) Mammary Van Doren's official site if you appreciate the grotesque and absurd
This film is available on DVD from The Video Beat

SHEENA © is the property of Sony Pictures Corporation
This independent, non-profit, fan-based analysis of the Sheena material is copyright © 2005-2008 Paul Wickham
This page was updated June 2008