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THE SUBTERRANEANS (1960).

Sure, this pic is based on the 1958 novella by Jack Kerouac, but don't get your hopes up. Because any fan of Kerouac's work will take a dump in their pants as they watch this fiasco, courtesy of the corporate slugs at MGM. Barely recognizable, this watered-down hatchet-job jumped onto Jack's bandwagon without a clue to what he was trying to say. The opening scrawl ("This is the story of a new Bohemia...where the young gather to create and to destroy") is painful enough, but director Ranald MacDougall (THE WORLD, THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL) ups the ante on this beatnik abomination with artificial sets, a wildly inappropriate cast, and the inability to capture even one fucking moment of truth. Plus, you know it's gonna suck the moment you hear the tasteful Andre Previn soundtrack. Uggh... The cast is a joke, starting with Leslie Caron (GIGI) as sultry French babe, Mardou Fox (the fact that she's Black in the original novel didn't fly with the studio execs, I guess). Then, playing Leo (the Kerouac-like lead) we have white-bread George Peppard, still vying for Tinseltown stardom before dumping all dignity in THE A-TEAM. They're young, they're broke, they're pretentious as hell, and within moments, you'll want to kick all their sparkling little teeth down their throats. The setting for this squeaky clean portrait of angst-filled young artists is San Francisco's North Beach, where over-30 Leo lives with his mom and still awaits fame from his first book, while spouting rhetoric like "I want every bit of life my body and brain can hold." Caron is supposed to be a mysterious, crazed neurotic, while Peppard's character is a big blonde drunk whose idea of writing is simply pumping the insipid dialogue from the night before onto the page. And soon these candy-coated cretins shack up and begin bickering ad nauseum. The supporting cast is a surprisingly clean-cut bunch of derelicts. Roddy McDowall is unwatchable as a fast talking flake named Yuri, a pre-LAUGH-IN Arte Johnson is surprisingly amusing as the lone famous one in this group of (dead)Beats, and Janice Rule (THE SWIMMER, 3 WOMEN, and wife of the film's scriptwriter, Robert Thom) is a four-star howl as a man-hating dish who pours on the mascara to hide her pain (groan). Well, at least her modern dance numbers are something to watch. Unfortunately, I was laughing so hard that I forgot that this is the real thing! Hard-hitting! Long-Winded! Insulting! And essentially, just a runny romance swaddled in coffeehouses, B-movie emotions, and a happy ending (which, need I add, was not in the book). God, I hated this piece of tripe.

© 1997 by Steven Puchalski.