2 April 2002 | Bruno Morphet
Ginsnerg hated it!
Reviled by the original Beats, most notably Allen Ginsberg, and now virtually unobtainable in video form (let alone DVD) from any source, The Subterraneans has been derided as a Hollywood hatchet job bearing very little resemblance to the Kerouac book on which its based. The plot is simple, disillusioned writer, George Peppard, explores the 'subterranean' depths of San Francisco's North Beach district circa 1959 looking for anybody who will share his jaded perspective on life and finds romance amongst the Beatniks in the form of slightly touched Leslie Caron (original book's black female love interest is replaced by a French girl for Hollywood palates). Script is similarly lightweight, with intermittent nods to the language of the Beats and a clumsy attempt to re-create the famous Ginsberg "Howl" reading, but nevertheless the movie as a whole is stangely compelling in a historical sense, not as a faithful representation of Beat culture, but rather as a view on how the Beats were commoditized and became 'Beatniks'. If you have an interest in the popular culture of the time, daddio, then like, seek this flick out, if you're a serious Beat scholar, stay away.