In a small town in the American South, a spoiled rich girl, played by Miriam Hopkins (These Three), is forced into prostitution by her rapist.
Reaction & Thoughts:
“You can’t be arrested for dreaming.”
Sordid, nasty, totally off-the-wall Pre-Code melodrama that needs to be seen to be believed. The Story of Temple Drake is one of the films responsible for the implementation of The Hays (Moral) Code — conservative groups decried the movie as sinful thus making it of great interest to modern eyes.
The Story of Temple Drake is based upon William Faulkner’s 1931 novel Sanctuary, but at times it feels like a Jacqueline Susann (Valley of the Dolls) potboiler. It also feels like a ’70s grindhouse — it’s a grungy and very, very odd movie.
Like David Lynch’s legendary 1986 thriller Blue Velvet, The Story of Temple Drake does a good job suggesting the depraved underbelly of small-town life. People always talk about the sins of urban areas, but as a man who has lived in both big cities and sleepy small towns, I’m here to tell you that there is more crazy stuff happening in rural America than inside the so-called concrete jungle — this film tells it like it is!
Miriam Hopkins is fantastic here. She has the arduous task of suggesting things that you can’t mention and/or show. The words “rape” and “prostitution” are never used, so it is up to Hopkins to convey ideas through sheer force of acting. It’s a no-holds-barred, impressive performance, one of Hopkins’s very best.
Also in the excellent cast are William Gargan (Cheers for Miss Bishop) as a lawyer, Jack La Rue (Three on a Match) as a gangster and Irving Pichel (Fog Over Frisco) as a petty criminal. Florence Eldridge (Inherit the Wind), who usually plays ladies, is surprisingly effective as a disgusting hick. Karl Struss’s (Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans and The Great Dictator) brilliant camera work is a big plus (the movie looks great!).
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
The Story of Temple Drake is like a surreal version of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. You won’t believe your eyes. It’s a must-see film for fans of Pre-Code Hollywood. The 1961 remake with Lee Remick (The Omen) is more candid, but not nearly as much fun as the original. Highly recommended! B&W, 70 minutes, Not Rated.