Lacking Mrs. Reid's usual "controversial" subject matter, The Woman Condemned settles instead for a rickety murder melodrama that the B-unit at Warner Bros. thrived on -- only the Warners crew knew what they were doing. And yet it wouldn't have been half as entertaining as what Mrs. Reid and her fellow cineastes churned out. Sometimes talent isn't all it's cracked up to be.
|Guilty for murdering music|
in the first degree.
|"I'm in The Woman |
Condemned while my
kid does Eugene
O'Neil. Go figure."
|"Simon says put your hands on your hip."|
After a night out on the town, Barbara is smitten with the creep she's suddenly married to. (It took my wife at least a week following our marriage.) However, Barbara needs to leave a while, but promises to return to her life of Mrs. Jerry Beall in a few days. This movie has more women pulling disappearing acts than a Las Vegas lounge show.
|"Thank goodness two people can't see|
me peeking through the shades from
five feet away."
Barbara, pistol in hand, is arrested for the murder. While waiting for the police to arrive, a neighbor keeps Barbara at gunpoint, telling his wife, "I'll keep an eye on this woman," hitting that last word like an insult. For some reason, characters in these old B-movies are utterly contemptuous of women attempting anything other than housework or stenography. How dare these dames do a man's job like murder!
|"Did you hear the one about the|
electric chair? It'll kill ya!"
And what Jerry sees here looks an awful like the alleged late Jane Merrick getting brain surgery -- or, this being L.A., possibly a face lift with a shot of botox. Dr. Wagner and his assistant have no idea they're being watched until Sally (Jane's maid) casually drops by the o.r. to say hi. (I hope this kind of thing doesn't go on during surgeries anymore). Sally screams upon noticing Jerry, as would anyone hoping to see a good actor playing his role instead. And, reacting with the same genius possessed by Jane, Dr. Wagner closes the shade after he knows he's been seen.
Now, say you witnessed a mysteriously-missing radio singer going under the scalpel of what appeared to be a psycho doctor -- what would you do? Of course! Call her boyfriend, wait twenty minutes for him to arrive, then decide that it might be a good idea to call the cops. Shades pulled too late, waiting to call the cops -- these people are sloooooow to move. So slow that they're held captive by Dr. Wagner, who toy with the idea of slicing open their skulls while they're awake. (This guy is clearly an out-of-network provider.) Fortunately, Sally recognizes Jim as Jane's boyfriend. In no time, Dr. Wagner becomes best pals with the two guys he was ready to lobotomize a moment earlier. Wagner explains that it was really Jane's twin sister Joan who was shot, and that Jane herself was only undergoing surgery to remove a birthmark. Oh. I see.
|If you didn't know she was getting|
the third-degree, you'd have
thought it was a shampoo
Taking a page from Los Angeles Police manual How to Get a Confession Out of a Suspect by the Most Preposterous Ways Imaginable, Dapper Dan barks in his thick-as-shell steak Argentinian accent, "I told you I'd get you! You thought I had forgiven you, hanh? But I waited five years to pay you off! Five long years in that pen you sent me to!" A cops slaps the cuffs on him; Jane, unharmed, gets to her feet. Barbara reveals herself as the detective investigating the Merrick shooting, allowing them to make with the honeymoon. Jane agrees to marry Jim now that her pesky birthmark is gone. And the audience is left to make sense of the previous 61 minutes.
|Sudden death and murder. OK...|
But, as with similar low-budget movies of its time, there are a few interesting location shots, including an all-too brief nighttime car chase through downtown Los Angeles, complete with storefront Christmas decorations. Jerry and Barbara's studio-bound first date is intercut with an authentic (albeit second-rate) nightclub performance featuring glamour girls whose entire act seems to consist of wearing oversize feathers. Historically, these are the most interesting scenes in The Woman Condemned. Artistically, too.
|The doctor will see you now.|
|Is this the face that launched 25|
years of Three Stooges shorts?
|"Have you heard my husband was|
THE CONDEMNED WOMAN
MRS. BRAD PITT
One of Mrs. Wallace Reid's other movies, Sucker Money, is discussed here.
Claudia Dell's Yellow Cargo is discussed here.