Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|The Woman Condemned|
Actors: Claudia Dell, Lola Lane, Richard Hemingway, Jason Robards Sr., Paul Ellis
Director: Dorothy Davenport
Genres: Drama, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
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Why did ya kill her?
Steven Hellerstedt | 06/27/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Golden throated radio star Jane Merrick (Lola Lane) must take an indefinite leave of absence to "get away from everything." Station manager Jim Wallace (Jason Robards Sr.) begs her to stay and marry him. The only answer Merrick can give is to beg patience and wait "until I can come back to you and say yes."
Merrick holes up in her apartment and tells her maid to refuse all visitors. A frustrated Wallace hires a private detective agency to find out what's going on. Meanwhile a beautiful blond woman (Claudia Dell as Barbara Hammond) is arrested while trying to jimmy open one of Merrick's apartment's window. Hammond is taken to night court and charged with breaking and entering. Handsome and intrepid young reporter Jerry Beal (Richard Hemingway) is instantly smitten with the young girl's beauty, and he tells the judge that Hammond, who is a complete stranger, is his fianc?e and a wicked practical joker. The judge, who ought to have known better, delivers a short lecture on the perils of practical joking and, in an astoundingly impetuous moment, marries the young couple on the spot.
Once outside the courthouse the newlyweds part. Hammond can't, or won't, explain what she was doing outside the radio star's apartment. Beal must trust her. For reasons unknown Hammond returns to the apartment and discovers Merrick entertaining an unidentified man (his back is to us throughout the scene.) The man is an extortionist, leaving the apartment and the distraught radio star with cash and jewelry in his pockets. Moments after the man leaves Merrick sees someone in the mirror and turns and scream. A shot is fired and Merrick is fatally wounded. The gunshot wakes the neighbors and when one of them enters the apartment they find Hammond with a smoking gun in her hand.
If I write anything more about the plot I run the risk of spoiling things. WOMAN CONDEMNED is a slick little whodunit. It was directed by Dorothy Davenport, a silent movie star with over 100 movie appearances to her credit. Her last appearance before the screen occurred in 1934. In 1913 she met and married silent screen idol Wallace Reid. In the early 1920s Reid was in an automobile accident and, as will happen, became addicted to pain medication. Reid died of a morphine overdose in 1923, which resulted in a major scandal.
WOMAN CONDEMNED is a whole lot better than it has any right to be. It was produced by the short lived poverty row studio Progressive Pictures, a studio which existed just long enough in the mid-30s to produce less than 10 pictures, most of them mild exploitation flicks. WOMAN CONDEMNED was directed by a woman and its major protagonist is a woman. In fact the movie features two women protecting a secret, and their male counterparts aren't much more than two sacks of testosterone straining at the leash.
That the movie holds together as well as it does for the first fifty minutes is a tribute to the deft direction of Davenport. The movie transcends its humble origins for the final ten minutes and delivers a powerful closing scene. Claudia Dell owns this movie for those last few minutes. I was a little surprised to search her name on the internet and discover that she's probably best known for playing Spanky's mother in a couple of Our Gangs shorts.
The quality of the print is pretty poor, but I'm inclined to cut Alpha Video some slack on this one. A title like WOMAN CONDEMNED isn't going to be a top seller and restoration is an expensive proposition. At least digitizing this title preserves it, albeit in less than pristine condition."