Clean on Top, Dirty on Bottom
There are several events in US history that damaged the nation. We will not recover from the Civil War for generations if current politics remain, as they surely will. Prohibition and abortion. Wars. Book burnings.
Among these is the Hayes act. Just as we were discovering the narrative power of film, and what it can do for self and national identities, some minority pushed through a censor process. Just as with today, these were Senators who had artificial voting power from slavery compromises, and represented less than a third of the nation. But there we had it.
While this was made in Britain, it was for the US market. It is neutered in at least two ways. Christie and Sayers had developed the mystery form where the viewer and filmmaker could play games about what we each knew and what was hidden. The game has since evolved magically, but the 30s was something of a dark age. In this case, we have the solution sprung on us in the last few minutes. There is no collaboration with the audience. No clues.
Just as condemning, this is a story about a courtesan, a woman whose sexual powers were such that she had serial affairs with many men. All of them jilted her in some way and she died destitute and penniless, despite imploring rich old lovers for help. Now they start being killed.
This is a story driven by sex and guilt — among the most powerful dramatic drivers we have. All drained away by colourless old men. Knowing that what they were making was worthless, the filmmakers used the bare minimum of production values.
So, watch this as a tragedy, a murder of film by bad guys.
Posted in 2022
Ted’s Evaluation — 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.