Friday, April 19, 2002


There's almost no way that this notorious pre-Code rarity could match its reputation. After seeing this, I felt like I did after seeing THE OLD DARK HOUSE, another film with a strong reputation that was difficult to find for quite a while: I was a little disappointed, but found it fascinating viewing anyway. It's based on a scandalous novel by William Faulkner, toned down considerably for the screen. Miriam Hopkins is a hot Southern belle with a reputation for being a cocktease (as some graffiti makes clear); there's a great scene early on where we see her from inside her bedroom as she's slipping in through the door, denying entrance to a lust-besotted boyfriend. We hear dialogue but see no faces, just her hand fondling the doorknob! William Garagn is a nice-guy public defender who is in love with her and who would probably be good for her, but Hopkins has no desire to settle down. One night, she gets in a car accident with a drunken lad and has to spend the night at a ramshackle "hillbilly" place with a bunch of drunk and horny men. This scene reminded me of a cross between THE OLD DARK HOUSE and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE!

Toward dawn, a gangster named Trigger (Jack La Rue) tracks her down out in the barn, shoots and kills her naive young protector, and rapes her in a non-explicit but nevertheless effective scene. She winds up running off with him, living in a brothel and pehaps working there as well, although that's left ambigious. Soon, Gargan, defending Irving Pichel on murder charges stemming from the shooting, tracks Trigger down, sees Temple, and leaves disgusted. Temple finally takes matters into her own hands, leading to a redemptive (and rather far-fetched) finale in a courtroom. Some critics have claimed that Temple seems to enjoy her rape, but it seems clear that she is traumatized by it and joins up with Trigger out of shame, perhaps thinking that she "asked" for it based on her past history with men. All of this is up to individual interpretation. But Hopkins is very good in the part, giving maybe her best performance. The cast features Florence Eldridge (the wife of Fredric March), Louise Beavers, and, in a very small part, Grady Sutton, who would later perfect the "tubby sissy" part in comedies of the 30's.

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