Wednesday, 15 October 2014

No Orchids For Miss Blandish (1948)

When it was released in 1948, No Orchids For Miss Blandish resulted in a storm of controversy:

"A most vicious display of sadism, brutality and suggestiveness..." The Evening Standard.

Critics were shocked by its violence and lack of morality, as were MPs and clergy who also condemned the film. The problem was its story of a young heiress Miss Blandish (Linden Travers) ...
Linden Travers
... who is kidnapped but falls in love with her kidnapper Slim Grissom (Jack La Rue):
Jack La Rue
Based on the 1939 novel by British author James Hadley Chase, whose 90 or so novels covered library shelves during the sixties and seventies, it’s one of those rare cases of a British film that is set in the USA. As a result, there are a few rather odd accents although they are saved by the fact that even in American films of the period upper class Americans and their servants were usually portrayed as having British accents.
Linden Travers & Jack La Rue

The film opens impressively, with unrestrained violence ...
Linden Travers & Richard Nielsen

Linden Travers & Leslie Bradley
... and a brooding sense of menace hangs over the film as the characters refer to the elusive Slim. However, once he appears that sense of menace is somewhat diminished. Indeed, some of the most explicit violence comes from Ted and Riley (played by Leslie Bradley and Richard Nielsen) who aren't even members of the 'Grissom Gang' ...
... led by the repulsive Ma Grissom (Lili Molnar):
Lili Molnar
Jack La Rue just doesn’t have the same cadaverous look and sense of amorality as the character in the original novel. The original ‘Slim’ is a menacing figure of evil, with a vicious streak of sexual violence dominating his persona. Instead, in the film he is portrayed as a man as a violent killer but not a psychopath. The Slim of the film is a thoughtful man, wracked by guilt over his love for Miss Blandish and is without “the guts to rub her out”. It’s a far cry from the novel where he drugs her and keeps her as a plaything, just waiting until it will be time for her to be murdered. Even the selection of Jack La Rue as Slim doesn’t fit: Even though the American actor was known for playing gangsters, a far closer visual choice would have been Walter Crisham who played gang-member Eddie Schultz, and has the right sense of menace:

Walter Crisham

The film’s depiction of Slim as a man drawn to Miss Blandish, who then uses her own desire to escape from the restrictions of upper class society, thus drawing him closer and effectively damning him, falls strictly into Film Noir territory: man drawn in by woman, changed by love, but ultimately unable to escape his fate. And, like so many ‘noir’ thrillers, the helpless villain eventually commits suicide by deciding to fight it out with the cops, despite the overwhelming odds.

 With its graphic violence and controversial theme, the film always ran the risk of falling foul of the censors. Maybe this was behind the filmmakers' decision to introduce comedy characters as a form of light relief, these being the French waiter, Louie ...
Charles Goldner (centre)
... and a nightclub comedian whose routine is genuinely funny:
Jack Durant
Also appearing:

German born actor Walter Gotell appearing in his ninth film, but in his first non-war film:

 Sid James:

Bart Norman:

Frances Marsden: 
Danny Green (left):
Hugh McDermott:
Irene Prador & Bill O'Connor:

 Jack Lester & Percy Marmont:

 John McLaren:

MacDonald Parke:

Michael Balfour:

 Richard Nielsen:

Zoe Gail as a night club singer, who gets to sing the immortal couplet: "Lancelot got hot pants a lot, but he didn't care for romance a lot.":

Annette Simmonds plays 'Cutie', the nightclub cloakroom girl who earns her tips by allowing customers to unzip her dress ...

... as Hugh McDermott tells her, she has a "nice smooth action."

Currently available on DVD:

It's always worth remembering, when the Daily Express condemns a film as having "morals about the level with those of a scavenger dog..." and calls it "a disgrace to the British film industry" it must mean it's worth watching!

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