Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tuesday's Forgotten Film: SANCTUARY, Noir, Nuns

This is an adjunct of Todd Mason's Tuesday's Forgotten or Overlooked Film Series.  You can see the entire list from several authors and bloggers at this link.

Stephen Crane, author of The Red Badge of Courage, also wrote a poem entitled "In The Desert" which has inspired some titles of novels:

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said: "Is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter—bitter," he answered,
"But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart."

Which always leads to the moral-relativist argument:  Knowing what we know about human psychology, do we allow the ignorant to persist in their folly?  Or, seeing as how different people and different cultures have different notions, should we let everyone go to hell the way they want to, as Robert Frost opined.

Temple Drake, the protagonist of this week's forgotten film noir, flouts conventional morals, manners, ambitions, and assumptions.  A college coed, a daughter of a judge, she becomes addicted to promiscuous behavior.  She's violently raped, yet becomes enamored with her rapist and stays with him by choice, even though he farms her out.  Even though she knows that he may be a murderer.

Back then, there was no such thing as Stockholm syndrome.  Audiences were shocked.  Who in their right mind would choose to live like that?  Well, Temple Drake does, because it is bitter and it is what her existential heart desires.

The Story of Temple Drake starring Miriam Hopkins and Jack La Rue is rare but well worth watching if you can find a copy.  I found a cheap DVD of it on Ebay, but that was some time ago.  Turner Classic Movies has shown it a time or two, I know.

It was pointedly scandalous then, even when toned down for its movie release in 1933.  Some historians believe that it led to the tighter censorship which followed.  In William Faulkner's novel upon which the movie is based, she is raped with a corn cob, the bloody remains of which are offered as evidence in a trial.

Faulkner said that Sanctuary and its sequel, Requiem For A Nun, were written expressly for the commercial market, potboilers, though the critical literature suggests otherwise.  But by anyone's definition, they are works of noir, as are the movies made from them.

Lee Remick in SANCTUARY
In 1961, there was a remake of the movie which morphed Requiem For A Nun onto Sanctuary, and threw some other things into the stew for good measure.  It is out of print and you can hardly find it today despite a cast which included Lee Remick as Temple Drake, Yves Montand, Bradford Dillman, Harry Townes, Strother Martin, and Odetta.

Of course books and movies are influenced by other books and movies, and no doubt the noir influence of Sanctuary, at least in some convoluted way, continues today.

1 comment:

  1. THE STORY OF TEMPLE DRAKE has been selected a couple of times before by folks, but not for a while...but I don't think SANCTUARY has as yet...