The Rebel Set: 1959 Beatnik Film Noir

Gene Fowler, Jr. directed this peculiar Beatnik crime noir in 1959. It starts right off with a Beat jazz club and then just gradually slides into trying to be a crime thriller. It’s about an out of work actor, an unpublished novelist and a movie-star’s son who are teamed up by the club owner to pull off an armored car robbery. The Beat scenes start off in Los Angeles and then the action moves by train toward New York, with a four-hour layover in Chicago where the crime is to occur. I love all the jazzy xylophone music, the black-clad dancing girl, the paintings on the walls, the bohemian sleeping quarters and the silly little beards. I think we really need to bring back the whole idea of the Beat jazz club. I’d go for sure.

The movie has some great touches. Like the hard luck actor reciting Shakespeare’s ‘Taming of the Shrew’ along with an LP. There’s my favorite line, delivered by the club owner: ‘When in Rome, Sydney, do the Romans.’ The poet giving a performance with musical backing says, ‘The passengers on this sad train are the five senses.’