Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Slaves In Bondage|
Actors: Lona Andre, Donald Reed, Wheeler Oakman, Florence Dudley, John Merton
Director: Elmer Clifton
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
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cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 06/13/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"How are you going to keep them (young women, that is) down on the farm when the lure of big city life was so tempting? Well, you could always make them watch Slaves in Bondage (1937), a feature that shows, in relative detail, how some flesh peddlers in 1930s America capitalized on young, naïve women from rural areas as they flocked to metropolitan areas, looking to fulfill their big city dreams in what often became an urban nightmare...produced by J.D. Kendis (Guilty Parents, Polygamy, Youth Aflame), and directed by Elmer Clifton (Assassin of Youth, Swamp Woman), the film features Lona Andre (The Sunset Murder Case), Donald Reed (Six Gun Justice, Special Agent K-7), and Wheeler Oakman (The Phantom Empire, Bowery at Midnight, The Ape Man). Also appearing is Florence Dudley (Gambling with Souls), John Merton (Dick Tracy Returns), Richard Cramer (O'Malley of the Mounted), and Matty Roubert (Frontier Vengeance), appearing as a character named Good-Looking Freddie, which must have been a handle he gave to himself as I didn't think he was all that attractive, but anyway...
As the movie begins we see some screaming mimi jumping from a speeding automobile in the middle of the night. Turns out the girl was being abducted by a gang who specializes in taking in young, wayward women and turning them into prostitutes to work in various clip joints owned by Jim Murray (Oakman) and operated by Belle Harris (Dudley). Here's the scam...Belle's main business is a manicure shop...she places wants ads in various newspapers for manicurists, and the women who apply are given the once over. If they meet her standards, they're then snagged to work in the flesh trade, in one of the many establishments owned by Murray. Anyway, operating on a tip from the girl who got away, the police crack down on one such location, but Murray's inside man at the department tips him off to the raid. Murray's men get away, but most of the girls are nabbed. Now we meet sweethearts Phil Miller and Dona Lee...Phil is an out of work reporter, and Dona is a manicurist who works in Belle's shop. The pair wants to get married, but Phil wants to get a job first, and spends his days looking for the scoop that will get him employment with the local newspaper. By the way, Phil and Dona live in the same boarding house as the girl who escaped from the gang at the beginning of the movie. All right, so it turns out Murray has the hots for Dona, so much so he sets Phil up for a fall with the police by planting some phony green on him, and later pretends to be some sort of benefactor willing to help Dona get Phil out of the joint. Eventually Dona gets wise to Murray's plans, but as the idiom goes, she may be `a day late and a dollar short'...
First off I think I should mention the `Bondage' portion of the title is meant figuratively, and not literally, as there are no scenes of women bound to bedposts or anything like that. These early exploitation features are always a hoot as they often claimed to be about educating the public to practices normally frowned upon by general society (polygamy, child marriages, forced sterilization, drug use, etc.), but really, they were just an opportunity for the filmmakers to cash in on the public's desire to wallow about in all things immoral and ogle half nekkid, nubile young women (yeah, that's the bits I like). Throughout this film we see women lounging around in their lingerie, waiting for their next `appointment'. There was even one sequence where two scantily clad women take turns playfully spanking each other on a bed...it didn't really have much of anything to do with the actual story, but I'm sure it was probably worth the price of admission for most who went to see this film back when it was initially released. Another bit involved two trampy types engaging in a full on `catfight' with each other, complete with lots of slapping, hair pulling, and tearing of the clothes. As far as the main story, there was quite a bit going on...you have the romantic interest between Dona and Phil, the latter trying to land a job with the newspaper, Murray's interest in Dona, despite the fact Belle warning him numerous times not to mix business and pleasure, and then finally Murray's gruff henchmen planning on muscling in on Murray and Belle's action as they're tired of the pair always getting the cream while they're stuck with the skim, as they put it. This last bit was slightly intriguing and resulted in one hell of a donnybrook near the end as the group of separatist thugs fought against Belle's thugs in one of Murray's swanky bordellos. My favorite scene from the film happens after Dona, desperate for help after Phil gets arrested, has to turn to Murray. Murray claims he'll not only have his shyster lawyer take care of things, but he'll also put up the bond money so Phil can get out. The next time Dona visits Phil in jail, she finds out Murray's lawyer recommended to Phil he take the rap, which includes a two year stretch in the state pen...gee, maybe Murray isn't the altruistic sort he's making himself out to be...Dona eventually starts to piece things together, but even then she didn't seem all that bright to me, especially given the situation she got herself into near the end of the film. Along with the main plot and its various threads, we're also treated to some interesting dance numbers (one featuring a scantily clad Asian woman doing a fan dance, and another featuring a skimpily dressed female contortionist), along with a few bizarre, ill-fitting comic routines. The first includes two out of work schmucks practicing their highly homoerotic physical comedy routine in the boarding house, another focuses on a ditzy dame (who reminded me somewhat of Fanny Brice's `Baby Snooks' character) in a horse betting parlor, and a third bit involves two alcoholics acting stoopid at one of Murray's high-class swank parlors. So what was the lesson learned here? Well, the obvious one is young women should be cautious of employment opportunities that call for young, attractive women with no experience, because it will most likely lead to something fairly sinister, but I believe there's another lesson, one that may not be as obvious., and that's if you're the head of a major vice racket, don't get hung up on some dame to the point where you can't see the signs of mutiny within the ranks of your own henchmen until it's too late. All in all this is a curious little piece of early exploitation cinema focused on the skin trade, worth your time if you're interested in that kind of thing.
The picture quality on this Alpha Video DVD release looks decent, slightly better than I would have expected, and the audio comes through fairly well. There aren't really any extras, other than some previews of other Alpha DVD releases of some dubious looking independent films.
Alpha puts out a decent DVD here
Michael Favareille | Pinole, CA United States | 11/19/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film is a exploitation film from 1938, and was usually shown at theaters that typically showed other lurid product under an "adults only" banner. (These films would sound and purport to be more lurid than what actually showed on screen but that was part of the producer's game here. These types of films dealt in subjects that were forbidden by the mainstream studios to produce due to the Production Code. The film's producer, JD Kendis, was known as one of the infamous "Forty Thieves".) Plot involves a beauty parlor owner who lured women into her employ(by advertising in out of town newspapers looking for makeup workers) and wound up using these women as prostitutes in a brothel. Wheeler Oakman, best known for appearing in the Flash Gordon serials of the 1930's, plays her right-hand man. John Merton, another heavy from Republic serials, plays another gangster. Lurid for its era, although quite tame compared with today's stuff that would pass on network TV.
Alpha, a company who usually specializes in subpar DVD releases of Public Domain films/TV shows, actually puts out a good DVD here. The picture is quite decent, there doesn't appear to be any dialogue jumps or missing footage, and the dialogue can be heard cleanly. This is much better than other Alpha product that I have bought in the past."