Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Shirley Mills, Bob Bollinger, Dorothy Carrol, Diana Durrell, Warner Richmond
Director: Harry Revier
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"Well, how's it feel to be courtin' the prettiest youngin' i
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 05/11/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"According to the `edjumacational' feature Child Bride (1938), there were approximately four main activities to involve yourself in if'n you were a middle aged male resident of Thunderhead Mountain, and they were (in no particular order) making moonshine, drinking moonshine, fighting, and courting underage girls, none of which holds any particular appeal to me, but hey, to each his own. Directed by Harry Revier (Son of Tarzan, The Lost City), the film stars, in her silver screen debut, Shirley Mills, who would later appear in the classic John Ford/Henry Fonda feature The Grapes of Wrath (1940) in the role of Ruthie Joad. Also appearing is Bob Bollinger, in his only feature (no surprise there), Warner Richmond (Huckleberry Finn, The Lost Jungle), and Don Barrett aka Angelo Rossitto (Freaks, The Corpse Vanishes), whom most may remember as the diminutive half of the entity known as Masterblaster from the film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985).
Shirley Mills plays Jennie Colton, a young, sweet, baby faced, barefoot girl who looks all of about twelve and wears tattered dresses about two sizes too small. Jennie lives with her parents Ira and Flora on Thunderhead Mountain, where her father, in a partnership with a nasty individual named Jake Bolby, runs a hooch mill. Jennie attends classes with her best friend Freddie (Bollinger), both of whom are sweet on each other, in a one room school house with pigeons in the rafters. As I said, Jennie's a good-natured girl (and smart, too), but she's also kind of a nag, not to mention a snitch, especially when it comes to Freddie and his school work (Freddie thinks it's a bunch of hooey). Jennie's teacher, a native of the area who went away to get an education and has since returned, bristles at the common local practice of older men marrying underage girls, and when she's not teaching she's trying to rally the women in the community against such unions (in vain, I might add), which only serves to anger up the men folk. In an effort to put an end to her meddling ways, the men, with Jake as the ringleader, hold a tar and feather party, with the teacher as the guest of honor, but Ira manages to put a stop to things before they get too far. I should also mention Jake was recently forced out of his joint moonshine venture by Ira due to Jake's penchant for abusing the employees, particularly a dwarf named Angelo (Rossitto) and a simpleton named Happy. Jake, who's had his eye (both of them, to be specific) on Jennie for awhile, plots his revenge, and circumstances eventually lead up to him strong arming the Coltons into giving consent for Jennie to be his bride so he can get his pedophilic groove on...
I learned a number of things from this film including (but not limited to) the following;
1. When courting an underage girl, a rag doll is an appropriate gift.
2. Blackmail is an extremely effective way to get yourself a wife, particularly one who is under the age of consent.
3. It's difficult to study in a school where pigeons occupy the rafters due to the constant threat of being pelted with bird droppings.
4. The only decent clothes (i.e. clothes without ridiculously huge, gaping holes or tears) mountain folk seem to possess is that which they wear to weddings and funerals.
5. If a group of men donning potato sacks on their heads come calling in the middle of the night, it's best not to answer the door.
6. Not all nude bathing sequences in movies are erotic.
7. Never cross a dwarf as they can really hold a grudge.
This is one of those films from way back when that, under the guise of an educational feature, claimed its intent supposedly to illuminate a practice the general population would find deplorable (child marriages in this case), but the reality was exploitation pure and simple. You see, due to the censorship laws at the time (this was way before the ratings system was ever enacted), there were a whole lot of things you couldn't show or depict in films, particularly nekidness of any kind. One way around this was to claim your feature was an educational film. As far as Child Bride, it's probably one of the more lurid and creepier early exploitations films I've seen, but then again I really haven't seen that many. The most uncomfortable sequence for me was a lengthy and unnecessary bit involving Shirley Mills disrobing and bathing in a pond. At first it seemed like we wouldn't see much, as due to some carefully positioned leaves on a shrub, our view of her nekkid form is slightly obscured...but then we see a whole lot more as she's swimming around nekkid as can be...with the main antagonist Jake leering on from high atop a ridge. I'm unsure how old Ms. Mills was at the time this movie was made, but she definitely looked the age she portrayed, that of about twelve. Now I'm no prude, and looking at the nekkid form of another human doesn't particularly bother me (especially if that form belongs to someone like Mira Sorvino...homina homina), but gazing upon nekkidness of anyone under a certain age makes me feel uneasy. Another scene that put me off a bit was when Jake came around courting Jennie, presenting her with a rag doll as a present, and talking about how he's going to make her his wife. Talk about things that make you go eww...the funniest part in the film for me comes during a funeral of all things. It seems the recently departed died under mysterious circumstances, but most in attendance seem to have an idea who most likely helped the man along his way to the great unknown. As the minister preaches on, he makes some reference to how the mourners shouldn't fret over the soul of the recently departed, but more so for that of the person responsible, to which a number of people direct their gaze towards the person they believe responsible, all of them looking at the same individual. The acting is pretty much what you'd expect from this `throbbing drama of shackled youth', that being shoddy, overly melodramatic and just this side of amateurish, while the story seems to ramble along happily (or haplessly) from one creepy sequence to another. All in all I found this to be a curious (i.e. sleazy) bit of celluloid that was both repugnant and humorous within the brazenness of its material, and one that will appeal to the more die-hard exploitation fan, but not so much to more general audiences. I gave this film a three star rating particularly because it actually made me feel something (uncomfortable is a feeling) along with providing a few laughs while wallowing around within its own sleaze.
The picture quality on this Alpha Video DVD release is rough at times, displaying a decent amount of obvious wear and tear, but I've seen worse (particularly from Alpha). The audio comes through well enough, given the age of the feature. As far as extras there's really not a lot, except for a handful of previews for a bunch of low budget, independent films.
Classic main street film
a movie fan | Orangevale, CA USA | 11/23/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The main street films of the 30s and 40s were made outside the studio system, and meant to exploit all the elements banned by the Hayes Code, which had robbed many Hollywood productions of adult elements. Basically, the independent main streeters gave the public what some of them really wanted: sex, nudity, violence, drug abuse, and generally outrageous/illegal behavior. Most of them showed in run-down theaters in urban areas, where censorship was less intense, hence the term main street. Although a trove of these films was found in LA about 20-25 years ago, only 4 seem to have become readily available. Three are the classic drug hysteria films (Reefer Madness, Cocaine Fiends, and, the best of them, Marijuana: Weed With Roots In Hell). The 4th is Child Bride, which is vastly more sophisticated in terms of acting, set design, direction, and script (remember, this is relative to main street films). The film has some startling moments, and a weird verisimilitude because the star, Shirley Mills, looks the age of her character (about 13, although she was much older when she made the movie). The print seems identical to the UCLA archive print that was available on VHS. It has identical glitches. However, it is genuinely uncut and, overall, in good condition, especially compared to some of the horrendous prints of the 3 drug films that have been circulated on tape and DVD. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the film is how many of its elements appear in a classy art-house film like Songcatcher. Maybe the line between art and exploitation is a lot thinner than one imagines it to be.
Given the price and quality of the print, and its historical significance, this DVD is really quite a bargain."
I still haven't picked my jaw up off the floor.
Robert P. Beveridge | Cleveland, OH | 08/19/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Child Bride (Harry Revier, 1938)
I've been looking for Child Bride ever since reading about it multiple times back when I was reading a lot about the Hays Commission (for those of you unaware, the Hays Commission were the forerunners of the modern-day MPAA). Now that I've finally tracked a copy down and seen it, all I can do is wonder how on earth this movie not only got made, but got released at a time when the Hays Commission had more power than at any time until the ratings system was introduced in 1968. If you tried to make this movie today, as a shot-by-shot remake, you'd be arrested. And I mean that literally.
Shirley Mills (The Grapes of Wrath) stars in her first screen role as Jennie Colton, a nubile girl from the Ozarks who's gettin' on toward marryin' age-- which, in those parts, seems to be around eleven or twelve. (Mills was actually sixteen at the time the film was released.) She's still living in blissful innocence, frolicking with her best friend (who's starting to see her as something more than a friend), slopping the hogs, going to school at the village's one-room schoolhouse. Until, that is, one of her father's shady business partners hatches a convoluted scheme to turn young Jennie into his wife. (Another point to be made here is that if you were to try and remake this film today, said plot's intricacy, and the inevitable complications that would arise in a modern script, would turn this into a movie three times the length of Child Bride, which runs slightly over an hour.) Jennie, when the plan is revealed in its full atrocity, is none too pleased with the idea of marrying a guy who's old enough to be her father (her grandfather, really, but when you've got fifty-year-olds marrying twelve-year-olds, you know), but what can she really do about it? Meanwhile, the village schoolmarm, who's engaged to a hot young prosecutor who's angling for a spot as district attorney, brings pressure to bear on him to outlaw child marriage in the Ozarks. Will the bill go through in time for Jennie to live happily ever after-- or at least as happily ever after as it's possible to live in a village where the main export seems to be illegally-made moonshine?
Yeah, as you can tell from the synopsis I gave above (and that's just the tip of the iceberg-- impressive for an hour-long movie), stereotypes run thick and fast here. These days, they're good for about one derisive laugh, but then again, that was probably true in 1938 as well. If you put that aside, though, it's not a bad little plot, and the script has that sort of appeal one finds when slumming with, say, the odd Adam Sandler movie. Where Child Bride veers off into that territory between "oddly uncomfortable" and "outright illegal" is in an extended scene featuring Shirley Mills wearing nothing but a creek. Suffice to say that Revier-- who would not make another film for fifteen years after this, despite having a prolific career in the silents-- leaves nothing at all to the imagination. It's an absolute shock, and it may be even more so today than it would have been seventy years ago. And again I say-- the Hays Commission got after Clara Bow for flashing too much leg, but gave this a pass? It's nice to see that the American ratings system has always been as arbitrary, and as outright stupid, as it is today.
I'm not as entirely sure on the law as I'd like to be, and since even possessing this movie may set you up for an arrest on some very nasty charges, for obvious reasons I can't recommend it. Still, if "a friend" of yours happens to come into possession of a copy "for research purposes", it merits viewing as a curiosity of an earlier, and much weirder, time in the history of Hollywood. We Americans obviously weren't nearly as straitlaced back then, as much as we tried to put up the front. (It is also interesting that, aside from one guy who skews the data, the film rates highest at IMDB among women over the age of forty-five.) ** ½