Cast & Crew
Beatniks Eddy Crane, Bob "Mooney" Moon, Chuck and Red are on a mission to terrorize their suburban community. After robbing a convenience store, they flee in their getaway car, driven by Eddy's girl friend Iris, to Nadine's Diner, owned by Iris' mother. There the obstinate youths honk at talent agent Harry Bayliss, whose car has stalled, and finally crash into the vehicle hoping to infuriate the quiet businessman. Soon after, the youths are counting their stolen cash at a booth and discussing their other robberies, when the submissive Iris begs Eddy to sing to her. Accompanied by a jukebox, Eddy improvises a love ballad, mesmerizing the youths and attracting Harry's attention, who invites Eddy to sing professionally. Mooney mockingly questions whether Eddie will forget the gang if he becomes a "big star," but Eddy, although petulantly undecided at first, agrees to go to Harry's office the next day. When the entire gang arrives at the office, including Iris, secretary Helen Tracy tries to discourage Eddy from bringing them into the meeting, but Eddy insists. After hearing Eddy sing, the two television executives invited to the audition book the newcomer for an appearance on the next night's show. That afternoon, Helen finds a hotel room for the gang and shops with Eddy for a stage outfit. While lunching together, Eddy confides that he feels that he does not deserve the attention and professes that he is "flippin'" over her. To his surprise, Helen encourages Eddy's talent and returns his affection. Eddy performs comfortably in front of the cameras the next day to a cheering crowd, but Iris eyes Helen jealously and after Eddy gets off stage, Mooney causes a disturbance when he pours a beer on a stagehand. Soon the station's switchboard operator reports that hundreds of fans are calling about Eddy, while Universal Records executive Mr. Letterman calls Harry and offers to record Eddy the following evening. Although Harry proclaims him an overnight success, Eddy is overwhelmed by the attention and his good fortune. When they return to the hotel, the rest of the gang tear apart the room and insist on celebrating with a night of hard drinking, but Eddy wants to rest his voice. Mooney then chides Eddy until the singer hits him out of frustration. Soon the hotel manager, having received numerous complaints, comes to the room, where Eddy offers to put the damages on the room's tab, which is being billed to Harry. Noticing Eddy's quiet demeanor, Iris asks him what has changed, but when Mooney threatens to tell Harry about his criminal past, Eddy finally relents and agrees to get some "kicks" with the gang. Arriving at a diner, the gang take-over a booth and unplug the television to drive a customer out. When bartender Gus refuses to serve them, Mooney steals a bottle of liquor, prompting Gus to hold them at gunpoint and call the police. Mooney pretends to be crying for mercy to convince Gus to put down the receiver and then hits him over the head with a bottle, but when Gus comes to, he shoots Red. While the others help Red to the car, Mooney kills Gus and then claims that he was forced to kill him because Gus vowed to turn them to the police. Eddy, realizing the extent of Mooney's insanity, calls Helen to tell her to cancel the contract, hoping to save her and Harry from any harm. Although Helen begs him not to give up and tells him she loves him, Eddy, unable to believe Helen loves him for himself, questions whether she is financially motivated to help him, prompting Helen to hang up. Eddy then tries to go to her apartment to ask for forgiveness, but Mooney and Chuck threaten to turn him in if he does not stay with the gang. Later at the hotel, two managers come to the room, having learned that Harry will no longer cover the room charges. Needing time and money to arrange for the ailing Red to be taken out of town for medical help, Eddy calls Harry and agrees to make the recording. At Universal Records the next afternoon, Eddy, fearing Helen will leave him if she knows the truth, refuses to answer her questions about his troubled past. After Harry warns that the gang could be his demise and Eddy explains that he cannot break away, Harry goes to the hotel room to reason with the rest of the gang. There the paranoid Mooney believes Harry has called the police and stabs him, while pointing at a newspaper article about Gus's death and proclaiming himself a celebrity for murdering the bartender. When Iris slaps him to bring him to his senses, Mooney pulls out a gun and flees the building. Later, Eddy and Helen visit the recuperating Harry in his hospital room, where a police detective reports that they have caught the gang, except for Mooney and Eddy. Although Eddy is in the hospital room with them, Helen and Harry refrain from identifying the fugitive to the police. Later at the recording studio, Eddy, touched by Helen and Harry's kindness, tells Helen he is ready to turn himself in, then asks her to make the call and kisses her. As Eddy finishes the recording, Helen tearfully tells the police the story. Soon after, Mooney lures Eddy into the alleyway behind the studio, claims that he stabbed Harry because the agent was going to turn them in and brags that he will steal more money and flee to Mexico. When Eddy retorts that Mooney is not going anywhere, the pathological hoodlum pulls out a knife. During the ensuing fight, Eddy punches Mooney, grabs the knife and then embraces Helen before he and Mooney are taken away by the police.
Erwin M. Brown
According to a June 24, 1959 Daily Variety article, the film was originally titled Sideburns and Sympathy. After the International Alliance of Theatrical Staging Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts (IATSE) campaigned against the film because producer Kenneth Herts used a rival union's production crew, Herts changed the name of the film to The Beatniks and released it through the Los Angeles-based state rights distributor Barjul International Pictures, Inc. The Beatniks was Herts's only film production, following its release; he returned to television broadcasting.
Although the film's credits include a copyright statement for Glenville Productions, Inc., the film was registered for copyright by Barjul International Pictures, Inc. on May 25, 1959. The opening cast credits differ slightly in order from the closing credits. Actor Frank Worth's name appears before Bob Pacquin's in the opening credits. Although director Paul Frees's credit reads: "Written and directed by Paul Frees," copyright records credit Joyce Terry and Herts with the original story.
The Beatniks marked the first and only feature film written and directed by actor Paul Frees (1920-1986). Frees, who began his career in radio, was known principally as a prolific voice-over actor from the 1940s through the 1980s. The film also marked the first screen appearance of songwriter Eddie Brandt, who later became the owner of a well-known video store, Eddie Brandt's Saturday Matinee. Although the onscreen credits list Brandt and Frees with as the composers of the songs heard on the film, none of the titles have been determined.
According to a December 4, 1959 Hollywood Reporter article, Barjul filed suit against Loew's Inc., claiming that Loew's had sent "intimidating letters" to cease distribution of the film, which was in competition with their release, The Beat Generation. Actor Peter Breck was well known at the time of the film's release as the star of the television series Black Saddle. According to press material found in the production file for the film in the AMPAS Library, Breck researched his role as a hoodlum beatnik in the Los Angeles County Jail.