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Girls in Chains Movie Review

helen wear goes ulmer

Hey, everybody, it's guilty pleasure time, and for tonight's snack, we are not featuring that bizarre (male) hot dog that leaps into a (female?) bun, but ta-dah!: Fashion Victims of 1943, also known as Girls in Chains. Talk about having to see a movie to believe how cheap it can really be. Director Edgar G. Ulmer must have been out to set some sort of a record with this one. Arline Judge, real-life veteran of seven well-publicized divorces, stars as MISS Helen Martin, who is trying to overhaul the women's prison system. She is handicapped in her sincere reformation efforts by the fact that her brother-in-law is none other than the notorious gangster, Johnny Moon. (In case we have trouble remembering his name, composer Erdody helpfully grafts Louis Lambert's “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” onto his “original” score, again and AGAIN.) And, then of course, there are life-and-death decisions to be made about what hat Helen should wear while breaking into an office to lift incriminating files. Helen chooses a creation with a far-reaching white net accentuated by what look like circles of white felt. Although her choice does not seem to have set off any hat purchase shock waves among other fashion victims of 1943, Helen likes it enough to wear it in ANOTHER sequence. (And yes, the shifty night watchman does notice her wearing that thing.) When Helen goes to nightclubs (with chandeliers, a juke box, armchairs, and a bartender who is always wiping the same glass), she likes to wear pace-setting print dresses with airplanes on them and styles her hair as if a lawnmower ran through the middle of it. The reason she goes to nightclubs is to be interrupted by an incoherent old drunk who leaks vital, but unintelligible, information. The bad guys decide that this blabbermouth needs to be taught a lesson, so they pick him up at midnight and toss him into some stock footage of Hoover Dam at high noon. He does not die or even stop talking, only winds up in traction at a hospital. The good guys corner the bad guys in a hallway cluttered with 19 or 20 chairs and then there's a nice expressionistic climax on a moonlit rooftop. By the way, the title characters, led by Barbara Pepper, do not wear chains, but most have higher heels than usual for prisoners in Cell Block Z. According to Edger G. Ulmer, this movie made a FORTUNE, which just goes to prove that I do not know how to recognize the unappreciated genius and stylish symbolism that were poured into Girls in Chains.

1943 72m/B Arline Judge, Roger Clark, Robin Raymond, Barbara Pepper, Dorothy Burgess, Clancy Cooper, Sid Melton, Betty Blythe, Peggy Stewart, Francis Ford; D: Edgar G. Ulmer; W: Albert Beich; C: Ira Morgan; M: Erdody. VHS

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