Judge Daryl Loomis wants to breed his cats to make dinner for him.
We're going to make a real Hitler woman out of you.
Now, we all know that the Nazis were a pretty scummy group. Nobody's going to argue with me there. Aside from the rare denying idiot, we all understand and accept the horrors they inflicted on Jews, Gypsies, Catholics, homosexuals, and many other populations, committing genocide and murdering millions across Europe. I did not know, however, they did something even worse during their reign of terror. According to 1943's Women in Bondage, the worst crime they committed was, in fact, forcing a woman to marry for the cause rather than for love. I know; how could they be so cruel?
Margot Bracken (Gail Patrick, My Favorite Wife), the wife of a Nazi soldier, is sent to live with his family while he fights the Soviets on the Eastern Front. Though she has minimal military experience, she is given the command of a group of young female paramilitary soldiers. When Toni Hall (Nancy Kelly, The Bad Seed), one of her recruits, is denied the privilege of marrying her true love based solely on the grounds of near-sightedness, Margot sees clearly how badly the Nazis treat their people and how evil a group that they are. So she decides to fight back, helping the people being mistreated and getting herself and her family in trouble in the process.
To be fair, in 1943, the American public didn't quite have a handle on how dark Germany had become under Nazi rule, and really wouldn't know until the end of the war, so it's forgivable that they wouldn't go into the awful truth. Still, the idea that they are villains because of their mandates on marriage is quaint and hilariously naive.
Still, I have to wonder what original story writer Frank Wisbar, a German, and director Steve Sekely (Revenge of the Zombies, a Hungarian, both of whom fled Germany at the start of the trouble, were thinking. Clearly they should have known better. It may be they weren't allowed or they weren't thinking at all, but the result makes for a great piece of camp.
>From the eugenics that force marriages in the name of the Master Race to Nazi baptisms conducted next to Mein Kampf rather than the Bible, there's hardly a moment in Women in Bondage that isn't totally ridiculous. This is classic Poverty Row action from Monogram Pictures. It's a B-production to its core and has no pretense of anything else. Because they didn't seek out approval from the Hayes office, their production code didn't matter, giving them the freedom to be a lot more graphic and sensational, which they play up all the way. The Nazis are written as a total joke and there's as much hyperbolic Nazi dialog as you could ever want to see. All that, bad as the movie really is, makes Women in Bondage a bottom of the barrel treasure.
Women in Bondage comes to on-demand DVD from Warner Bros and Warner Archive. It's bare-bones, as usual, but it looks surprisingly good for its age. There has been no remastering of any kind done to the print, but it's fairly clean, with only a few instances of notable damage, and the contrast is sharp and nice. Whites are clean and blacks are relatively deep and inky. The sound is serviceable, but no more. The single channel Dolby track has little dynamic range and a bit of background noise, but nothing too distracting.
Though Women in Bondage may be a terrible movie in basically every way, it is a highly enjoyable piece of camp that would make for a very fun viewing party. I'm glad for Poverty Row pictures like this one for the reminder that this era of Hollywood still produced less sanitized, salacious garbage. Warner Archives is often hit-or-miss, but this is most definitely a hit. Completely awful and totally recommended.
Up yours, Nazis!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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