The Story of Temple Drake (1933) Stephen Roberts

temple-drake-titleOne of the spiciest of pre-code movies ever made was The Story of Temple Drake. It was based on William Faulkner’s decadent novel, “Sanctuary,” which was considered a scorcher for its time. Published in 1931, the novel dealt with rape, bondage and murder, and can probably be compared to today’s Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy in its notoriety. By the standard of the studios and the production code it was considered to be one of those books, like The Postman Always Rings Twice some 15 years later, a work that was too hot for the screen and could not be made into a movie. Yet, just two years after its publication, Paramount purchased the rights and it arrived on the screen, though not without some fine major tuning and modifications. The Hays Office refused to allow the studio to name the novel in any way on screen. Subsequently, during the opening credits it reads from a “novel by William Faulkner.” Still, the film remained and remains one of the most controversial and wicked of pre-code films. Faulkner, it is said, based his novel on a true story and wrote it expressly as a commercial venture to sell books with no consideration of artistic intent. Continue reading

No Orchids For Miss Blandlish (1948) John Legh Clowes

“No Orchids for Miss Blandish” is a bizarre little exercise in British cinema in its attempts to duplicate the flavor of a 1940’s American crime film. Filled with extreme violence and unabashed sexuality for its time, this inappropriate film somehow got plenty passed the censors despite howls of protest from self-righteous groups on both sides of the ocean. At the time of its initial release, the Daily Express called the film “a wicked disgrace to the British film industry.” The British censors even apologized for “failing to protect the public.”  In the United States, the film was not released until 1951, and then in a truncated version running only 92 minutes. The pulp fiction novel the film is based on was authored by British novelist James Hadley Chase writing as if he lived next door to Raymond Chandler or James M. Cain all his life. The film stars a mostly British cast portraying Americans in a New York State setting. The only exception to the English casting is that of Hollywood character actor, Jack La Rue who portrays underworld thug Slim Grisson. La Rue portrays Grisson as a violent second tier Rick Blaine straight out of “Casablanca.” He owns a night club, dresses sharp, smokes and has an inclination for continually rolling dice, his mannerisms screaming out Bogie. Even the way director John Legh Clowes frames La Rue in many scenes is evocative of Bogart (La Rue was supposedly in line to get the role of Duke Mantee in the film version of “The Petrified Forest” until Leslie Howard insisted Bogart recreate his original stage role in the film).  Linden Travers as Miss Blandish comes across as a  woman with an obvious taste for bad boys yet she and La Rue display little screen chemistry despite the passionate kissing scenes they are given. All in all she is not given much to do. Continue reading