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United Kingdom 1964
Directed by
Val Guest
110 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

The Beauty Jungle

British B-grade producer-director Val Guest specialized in racily "with-it" films looking at the changing times of the post-war period. Thus,The Beauty Jungle purports to be an exposé of the thriving beauty pageant industry. Like his film about the then up-and-coming teen culture Expresso Bongo (1959),It is this historical specificity makes The Beauty Jungle both an intriguing social document that will reward those interested in late '50s/early 60s British popular culture although as an "entertainment" for the general viewer it will probably be seem overly dated.

The story follows typist Shirley Freeman (Janette Scott) with 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 ultimate accolade, 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. The fact that the winning prize for Shirley’s initial contest is five quid (about $125 today) may have worked in 1964 but now hardly seems like the harbinger of glory to come or sufficient to excite the cupidity which leads to her 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 seaside naughty postcard culture and prurient mores of early '60s Britain but as a cautionary tale it is more of a nostalgia piece than a film with relevance to our 15-minutes-celebrity-saturated times.




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