Those who have suspected all along that beatniks are dull, have proof in Metro's The Subterraneans.
Those who have suspected all along that beatniks are dull, have proof in Metro’s The Subterraneans.
Jack Kerouac’s novel is the basis for the screenplay, which pokes around the offbeaten path of San Francisco’s North Beach and dredges up some bargain basement philosophy, B(eat)-girls and bed ruminations. It’s hero (George Peppard), an ex-Olympic gold medal winner and Columbia honor grad now a nervous novelist, beats it when his mom chants the square cliche, ‘you need a nice girl.’
Cruising around the Bay Area in search of meaning, he finds his home-away-from-home with the local coffee-house colony, and promptly develops a crush on its most mixed-up member (Leslie Caron), an analyst’s darling whose Freudian slip shows every time she submits frigidly to the sexual advances of her pals.
Caron’s fragile gamin charm is all but smothered under the character’s unattractive, sickly veil. An apparent shortage of sensitivity makes handsome Peppard rather unsuitable for his role.
Among the assorted beatniks, flashiest work is performed by Roddy McDowall as a kind of benevolent zen-mother who sleeps standing up, Janice Rule as a beat beaut with a complexion complex, and Arte Johnson as a paid-up member whose sizeable left bank-roll stems from literary sales to Hollywood.
There is a lot of music in the picture, all of the modern jazz variety. Created by Andre Previn and interpreted by experts at the idiom such as Gerry Mulligan, Red Mitchell, Shelly Manne and Carmen McRae, it is the outstanding aspect of this film.