(director/writer: Ida Lupino; screenwriters: Collier Young/Malvin Wald; cinematographer: Archie Stout; editor: Harvey Manger; music: Paul Sawtell; cast: Mala Powers (Ann Walton), Tod Andrews (Rev. Bruce Ferguson), Robert Clarke (Jim Owens), Albert Mellen (rapist), Jerry Paris (Frank), Raymond Bond (Eric Walton), Lilian Hamilton (Mrs. Walton), Rita Lupino (Stella Carter), Kenneth Patterson (Tom Harrison), Angela Clarke (Madge Harrison), Hal March (Detective Hendrix), Roy Engel (Sheriff Charlie Hanlon), Tristram Coffin (Judge McKenzie); Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Collier Young; RKO; 1950-B/W)
“A sensitive melodrama on a rape victim who becomes unhinged.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The fine actress Ida Lupino (“Hard, Fast and Beautiful”/”Never Fear”) helms a sensitive melodrama on a rape victim who becomes unhinged by the assault and runs away to hide from her shame. It’s thin on entertainment value but offers a contrast to how Hollywood at that time shied away from dealing realistically with rape. Co-writers Lupino, Collier Young and Malvin Wald keep it as a well meaning sociological study, showing how rape is a violent crime even if the victim is not physically hurt but may be psychologically hurt. It shows how society’s sexism contributes to the stigmas attached to rape. For its time, it handled the tabu rape subject in the movies with sincerity. Though the film is outdated, and its preaching about openly facing such problems seems sketchy in the modern-world.
The naive Ann Walton (Mala Powers) lives with her folks in a small town in California and works as a bookkeeper at the Capital City factory. Her working-class boyfriend, Jim Owens (Robert Clarke), gets a raise and proposes, feeling he makes enough now to get married. She accepts even if her dad, a high school teacher, at first objects because she’s too young but then relents to give the couple his best wishes. In the evening, Ann leaves the office alone and is unaware that the creepy scar-faced guy (Albert Mellen) who works at the counter at the fast-food wagon parked in the factory lot, follows and then rapes her in the surrounding deserted industrial setting.
Even though her boyfriend accepts her after the attack and still wants to marry, she doesn’t feel right and believes when coming into contact with strangers they are whispering about her, and though innocent still blames herself for the attack. Filled with shame and guilt she takes a bus to run away and hide in Los Angeles, without telling anyone.
At a rest-stop in northern California, Ann freaks out hearing on the radio about her disappearance, and wanders away from the bus. She collapses on a country road after spraining her ankle, but luckily a kind stranger passing by, the do-gooder Reverend Bruce Ferguson (Tod Andrews), is concerned and takes her to the nearby ranch of a generous couple (Angela Clarke and Kenneth Patterson), who treat her ankle and get her a job as an orange packer on their ranch. She uses the name Ann Blake, and decides to live there. Bruce talks to her in a consoling manner, but she keeps silent about herself only revealing she was a bookkeeper.
Things wind down after several incidents (with the most significant one of the rapist’s memory returning when a man (Jerry Paris) at a dance comes on too strong to her and she attacks him). A cautious judge (Tristram Coffin) orders that she receive psychiatric treatment for a year as a punishment for the attack. It’s shown through the good will of strangers how she slowly regains a more healthy outlook and goes back home to her loving folks and a faithful Jim to start over.
The Holy Man leaves us with this social commentary, which could be a tweet on today’s social media: “too many neuroses” are going around.
REVIEWED ON 11/6/2020 GRADE: B-