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The Beauty Jungle
United Kingdom 1964
Directed by Val Guest
Running time 110 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars


British B-grade director Val Guest’s The Beauty Jungle purports to be an exposé of the then-thriving beauty pageant industry. It is this historical specificity that is exactly what make it so dated and, probably except for lovers of early 60s British pop culture, of limited appeal. The story follows typist Shirley Freeman (Janette Scott) as, under the encouraging guidance of newspaperman Don Mackenzie (Ian Hendry), she signs up for a seaside beauty contest and gets bitten by the desire to wear the 'Miss Globe'  crown, whatever the cost.

Whilst beauty pageants are pretty much a thing of the past these days, certainly in the old school form presented here, even so the parameters of this story are so marginal as to make the subject matter seem trivial today. Firstly, the fact that winning prize for Shirley’s initial contest is five quid may have worked in 1964 but today hardly seems like the harbinger of glory to come or sufficient to excite the cupidity which leads to the inevitable fall. Secondly, now that pre-teen girls are regularly exposed to highly sexualized imagery in the public domain, the idea that a grown woman posing in a bathing suit is salacious stuff hardly cuts it. The whole shebang is symptomatic of the naughty postcard culture and prurient mores of early 60s Britain but as a cautionary tale it is more of a nostalgia piece than anything with relevance to our celebrity-saturated times.

 

 

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