Rain really doesn't have much of a clue what it wants to be. It starts out alternating between a beautifully staged and framed silent movie and a musical number that would have been great in Lewis Milestone's great film from two years earlier, All Quiet on the Western Front, if that had been a musical, of course. Then we hit precode realism with the couple who run the general store on Pago Pago: a fat Hawaiian woman and her husband Guy Kibbee, who doesn't seem to be acting the idiot for a change. We're then introduced cleverly to the cast and end up with the important people in the story, reformer Walter Huston and hard boiled prostitute Joan Crawford. We hit social comment with Kibbee bitching about the arrival of Huston and his professional reformer wife. He left Chicago to get away from people like them who want to bring people unhappiness to save their souls, whether they want it or not.
It looks great, powerful in the way only a silent movie could be. For quite a while I wanted to turn the volume down and watch it without sound, but then Joan Crawford and Walter Huston always sounded great in precodes, even when the films weren't up to their performances, as was often in Crawford's case. The scenes between them are good ones but very strange.
Huston is Alfred Davidson, bible thumper, pure and simple, who sees it as his duty to save Sadie Thompson's soul at any cost, even if it takes him to what we might see as evil on his own account to do it. He blackmails and brainwashes to get his way which is hardly Christian in my book. He blunders into her room, tells her she's an evil woman who's headed for doom and destruction and takes the moral high ground in every respect possible. He even persuades the governor, through financial pressure, to order her off the island on the next boat. Because he's Walter Huston, we can almost believe that he's working from high ground, but he gets more and more sanctimonious as each minute runs on. Beulah Bondi plays his wife as a bitter shrew out to ruin everyone else's fun and there's no higher ground obvious, just bitterness and judgement based on class.
Sadie Thompson may be a prostitute but she doesn't seem like a bad sort. She's not being used, unless it's by herself, and she does right by everyone around her. She's honest, open and free to admit what she is. Yet Davidson and his wife judge her because of her class, then by things like the fact that she dances on a Sunday. I realise that it's an old Hollywood movie so a lot of grim reality is hidden from us, but it's also a precode so we still ought to be seeing plenty and we don't. We just see the injustice of people who profess to care and maybe even do. Anyway the film ends up how we're wanting to see it without any real explanation of why.
Huh? An A-Z of Why Classic American Bad Movies Were Made
(front cover by Eric Schock of Evil Robo Productions)
Velvet Glove Cast in Iron: The Films of Tura Satana
(front cover by Keith Decesare of KAD Creations)
|I'm climbing the stairway to Cinematic Heaven to review everything in the IMDb Top 250 List, supposedly the greatest motion pictures of all time. Are they really? Find out here.|
|I'm also driving the highway to Cinematic Hell for the awesome folks at Cinema Head Cheese to post a review a week of the very worst films of all time. These are so bad that they make Uwe Boll look good.|
|I'm reviewing everything shown at the International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival, now in its 9th year. Here's an index to my reviews of 2013 films and to my reviews of all 2012 films.|
|I'm also going to review everything I can from the Phoenix Film Festival, now in its 13th year. Here's an index to my reviews of 2013 films.|
|I reviewed all films shown at the independent horror film festival, Phoenix FearCon, now in its 5th year. Here's an index to my 2012 festival reviews.|