Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Trailer Tuesday: OUTRAGE (1950)

OUTRAGE (1950) (aka NICE GIRL)

Directed by: Ida Lupino.
Written by: Collier Young, Malvin Wald, Ida Lupino.
Starring: Mala Powers, Tod Andrews, Robert Clarke, Jerry Paris.
Produced by: Collier Young, Malvin Wald, Ida Lupino..
Cinematography by: Archie Stout.
Music by: Paul Sawtell.
Production Design by: Harry Horner (THE HUSTLER and THE DRIVER!).

First off: There is no trailer available for this film. How is that even possible? So here is some guy's (great) review of the film that has all kinds of great shots in a brief running time.

No secret that I am a huge fan of Ida Lupino, a great actress who knocks it out of the park in one of my favorite movies THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT where she plays the wife of Alan Hale, who owns a long haul trucking company, and plots his murder... by electric garage door opener! She gives an amazing performance in that film... and many others. But as a film director, she became one of my favorites without even knowing that it was the same person! She directed my favorite episode of the THRILLER TV anthology show, GUILLOTINE, and had an interesting career in films as well. After a career of playing sexy young women, she began writing and producing her own films with screenwriter husband Collier Young - and even after they divorced, continued to work with him. Their first film as producers was NOT WANTED (about unwed mothers) and after their director had a massive heart attack a couple of days into filming, she jumped behind the camera and completed the film... not taking credit. But everyone knew she had made the film... and when she decided to direct their company’s second film, the financiers were happy to put up the money. She was a director... and extremely skilled (she paid attention as an actress to the big name directors on the films she starred in). This was her third film, the second film she was credited for as director, and a great example of her social issues films...

Ann Walton (Mala Powers) is a 20 something office worker in a small town, who lives with her parents and is dating a nice young man Jim Owens (Robert Clarke) who she will one day marry. They meet for lunch in the town square every day: he buys sandwiches on his way, she buys desert from a lunch counter (two pieces of chocolate cake, their favorite).The creepy waiter (Albert Mellen) at the lunch counter hits on her... hey, she’s pretty. She meets Jim, and he has good news - he just got a raise and now they can afford to get married. There’s a great bit here where a shoeshine boy and a nosey old woman do everything possible to kill the romantic moment as he asks her to marry him. Ann says he will need to talk to her father, first... who was Jim’s math teacher... and who came close to flunking Jim. After dinner, Jim asks her father and mother (Raymond Bond and Lillian Hamilton) for permission to marry their daughter. Mom is excited, Dad is against it - this is his little girl! She’s not ready to be married! After Mom pulls him aside, Dad reluctantly gives his approval.

The next day, after telling everyone at work that she’s getting married, Ann heads home... passing the creepy waiter, who is closing up shop and asks her out. She says no... and he begins following her. He unbuttons his shirt slowly - which is really creepy! Ann tries to lose him in the industrial section of town, but he is still following her - his footsteps echoing. This is a great suspense scene that builds and builds and builds. She runs... the Waiter walks... and seesm to be gaining on her. There is no escaping this creepy guy! She yells, “Please! Somebody help me!” But this is the industrial part of town, and darkness has fallen... no one to hear her screams. There’s a great overhead shot here, where she seems powerless as she tries to find a place to hide in a maze of parked delivery trucks. She hides inside a truck, but when the Waiter gets closer and closer and closer she ducks down to hide... hitting the truck’s horn. It gets stuck. The Creepy Waiter yanks her out of the truck, throws her down, and BRUTALLY rapes her - the truck horn drowning out her screams.

This is a film from 1950 - and the rape is shocking.

Ann staggers home - clothes and face dirty and torn... bleeding.

Her Mom finds her collapsed at the front door and pulls her inside.

LATER: A Doctor and a Police Detective talk to her Mom and Dad... Dad feels powerless. When the Detective questions Ann, she keeps saying “I couldn’t get away” and only remembers the scar on the rapist’s neck - not that he was the Waiter. There’s a great shot here of Ann through the bars of the bed headboard as if she is in prison. Trapped. She doesn’t get out of bed, doesn’t leave the house, for a long time. When Jim comes to visit, she tells Mom to send him away - there will be no marriage. She never wants to see another man in her life - severe PTSD. When she finally tries to go back to work, she breaks down - and there’s a great scene where an office worker stamping papers becomes the sound of the rapist’s feet as he follows her down the alley to the parked trucks. Everything reminds her of the rape. Everything.

The police have some suspects in a line up... including the Waiter who raped her. But she completely freaks out and can’t identify him. She’s a mess. Jim is there to drive her home, and he tells her that what happened hasn’t changed the way he feels about her. He loves her. They can get through this together... but she dumps him. “I don’t want you to touch me!”

She doesn’t want any man to touch her. Forever.

This film does a great job of making us understand just how emotionally damaging rape can be.
A man looks at her... it reminds her of the rape. Every man is a threat... and as the audsience, we understand that this isn't just paranoia, those men are real potential threats. She's an attractive young woman, and they see her as a conquest, their prey.

Ann runs away from home - hopping a Greyhound bus for Los Angeles. Not telling her parents or anyone else.

When the bus has a meal stop in some part of rural California, some guy hits on her at the lunch counter and she freaks again and takes off running. Trying to escape every man on earth. Running. Running. Eventually she falls down at the side of the road - passed out from exhaustion.

A car slows... passes her... stops... and a Man picks her up and puts her in his car. Then drives away.

Watching the movie, I said “No! No! Hell no!” Because this film had done such a great job of making me feel her trauma. And that Man who picks her up and puts her in his car? I didn’t trust him, or any other man. And I am a man.

Ann wakes up in a strange bed.

Oh, hell no!

In a strange house.

Oh, hell no!

She seems to still be wearing all of her clothes. The Man hasn’t done anything to her... yet. But when she tries to leave the bedroom... The Man blocks the doorway and tells her to get back into the bed.

Oh, hell no!

She tries to get past him - fighting - but he over powers her and tells her that she has to stay in the room. Orders her to get back into the bed. He begins pushing her to the bed...

Oh, hell no!

Okay, now what do you think has happened to her? Is about to happen to her?

This is a great example of leading the audience, because once the Man has her in the bed.... A kindly Older Woman comes in with some water and calls the man "Doctor" and we understand what the Man's intentions were.

This scene puts us in her shoes, and makes every man a potential threat. We feel what she is feeling and think what she is thinking. That is great directing. Always think about ways to lead the audience so that they are in your protagonist's shoes and feel what they feel - no matter what it is. The reason why we are talking about this film now, and Ida Lupino as a director now, are scenes like this. Where we are frightened for Ann. Where every man is a threat to Ann... and a threat to us. This film is 70 years old, and still powerful.

The bedroom, by the way, is in the Kindly Older Woman's house - her daughter's room before she got married and moved away. The Older Woman, Madge Harrison (Angela Clarke) and her husband Tom Harrison (Kenneth Patterson) own orange orchards in this part of California. A rural area. The Man who blocked her way is Rev. Bruce Ferguson (Tod Andrews), a hunky and handsome (and sexually safe) Minister nicknamed "Doctor", who only wants to help Ann. Make sure that she is safe. He knows that she is running from something, and maybe needs to hide for a while to get her life back together. He promises that he won’t tell the police about her, and will make sure that nobody bothers her... and then he asks Tom if he and will be accompanying his wife to church this Sunday...

Fatherly Tom gives Ann a job at the orange packing plant - it’s harvest season and they need to get the oranges packed in wooden crates so they can be taken by truck and train to market. She’s great at packing oranges...

And this is a great sequence for a lower budget film. We are taken inside the orange business and shown how the fruit are inspected and selected and packed into wooden boxes and the boxes are sealed for shipping - all on a conveyor belt. It’s fascinating. This was shot in Marysville, California and the production value from the endless orange groves in the background and the packing plant that Ann works in takes us into this world that most of us have never seen before. People are fascinated by how things are made, so any time you can show them the details of some job that we don’t really know anything about, it’s better than special effects. This is sort of an Orange Packing Procedural...

Reverend Bruce shows up to make sure that she’s okay, and asks her what she did for a living previously (one of the reasons why I like this movie is that it’s about working class people who have jobs and have to earn a living whether they are men or women), and Ann tells him that she was an accountant for a company... and Reverend Bruce says that Harrison needs an accountant more than he needs an orange packer... and gets Ann a promotion.

All of this is Ann finding a new home, and slowly getting back to normal. Sort of.

On Saturday, Reverend Bruce asks if she wants to go with him while he sketches. Ann alone with a man? She decides to go (showing us that she is healing). He takes her to this beautiful hilltop overlooking the whole town, and sketches the trees and flowers. Tells her that he wasn’t always a Reverend... he was raised in Philadelphia, went off to World War 2, and lost all faith in God during the war. After the war he ran away... finding himself in this small town... and realized that he needed time to heal. Which brought him back to the church, and he became a Reverend. Through his story, he hopes to find out what her story is... or at least to show her a path to peace.

Just as Ann is beginning to find peace in this small town, the County Sheriff (Roy Engel) stops by the orange packing plant to ask if anyone has seem a young woman reported as a runaway by her parents... Tom Harrison and Reverend Bruce cover for Ann... but she is afraid that the Sheriff will arrest her and take her back home... where everyone knows that she was raped. Where everyone knows...

So Ann runs away.

Both Tom Harrison, who has become her surrogate father, and Reverend Bruce (who is hunky and dreamy and not sexual - so maybe her surrogate boyfriend) are worried. They search for her and can not find her. Both want to keep her safe, even if it means continuing to lie to the Sheriff. These are good men.

They can’t find her.

Reverend Bruce goes home, worried, and begins playing the piano to calm himself... when Ann shows up at his front door. He invites her inside and she is alone with a man. She tells him that she is the runaway girl, and confesses to him. He thinks that this is the catharsis she needed. That now she can move on with her life...

The town has a post harvest dance, and Reverend Bruce convinces her to go... socialize. This is her town, now... she needs to meet people. She feels ready for this. She buys a pretty dress. She goes to the dance...

But she avoids dancing. She isn’t ready for that. There's a great shot of everyone dancing and our protagonist Ann and a homely woman standing on the sidelines watching.

A man comes up to Ann and asks her to dance, she says no.
He GRABS her and starts dancing with her.
She struggles and escapes, running away.
He CHASES her - and it's like a rural replay of being chased by the rapist.

Oh, hell no...

This man, named Frank (played by comedian Jerry Paris from the DICK VAN DYKE SHOW) catches her, says that all he wants to do is kiss her. Without her permission. She seems to have no say in this. It’s just a kiss... just a harmless kiss...

Then we get a big close up of Frank’s lips heading towards her face. And this shot dissolves to the rapist's face coming closer to hers.

What would you do to this guy who just wants a harmless kiss?

The reason why this film is so effective is that by this point, that “harmless kiss” is rape. It’s some guy grabbing at this woman (who we identify with) without her permission, without her consent. Can’t these men just leave her alone? Can’t they just wait until she’s ready to dance or kiss? Can’t they ask first instead of take?

As Frank’s face dissolves into the rapist’s face, she grabs something from the old trailer behind her - a wrench - and slams it into his head until her lets go of her.

Frank lets go of her. Falls to the ground. Head bloody. Dead?

Ann sees what she has done and runs and runs and runs.

Reverend Bruce finds here at his special place, the hilltop overlooking the whole town. “Why’d you do it, Ann?” He tells her that he has to take her back...

At the Sheriff’s Station...

The County Sheriff tells Reverend Bruce that he has taken Ann’s fingerprints and IDed her as the runaway girl... who was raped. Frank who just wanted a harmless kiss and ended up with a wrench to the head, is alive in the hospital and should have no trouble pulling through... but Ann is still in big trouble. The Sheriff will have to charge her. She may go to prison.

Reverend Bruce goes to visit Ann in Jail. Real Jail, not pretty. Not some Hollywood set. This is a dirty, grungy place. He tells Ann that he knows what happened back home... and she opens up, tells Reverend Bruce everything about the rape... about how when that man chased her and tried to kiss her, she just snapped. Thought it was going to happen all over again...

Reverend Bruce makes a deal with the Sheriff - have Ann seen by the Court’s Psychiatrist for an evaluation... and let Reverend Bruce talk to Frank in the hospital. After everyone understands the circumstances, and that Ann snapped because she thought she was going to be raped again, the Judge decides to give Ann probation as long as she gets help.

Reverend Bruce finds out that her rapist was captured by the police... after doing it again... and is now behind bars. He can never hurt Ann again. And her parents and boyfriend Jim are back home waiting for her. Ann says goodbye to Reverend Bruce and heads back to her old life and her old job... and her fiancé.

This movie was amazing for a 1950 film - though the rape was nowhere near as brutal as IRREVERSIBLE, it’s still shocking when they go from the Rapist holding Ann down on a loading dock with the truck horn blasting louder than her screams and slowly move up to a Man who looks out his apartment window, then shuts it so that he doesn’t have to hear the truck horn. This was all in one shot - and that’s one of the amazing things about this director. Even in her first films she was using the camera to tell the story - not just an actress who knew how to do the acting part of filmmaking and thought that was enough to direct. Lupino studied the technical elements and used shots like that to tell her story visually. There’s a great shot in one of her THRILLER episodes from the 60s where she gives us a little girl’s point of view as she swings on a swing - and even though the cameras back then were as big as a Volkswagen, she manages to get one to mimic the point of view of the little girl. That was practically an engineering problem - and she did it in her TV episode, probably shot in less than 6 days. Most of the male directors on that show didn’t do any shots like that (with the same cinematographers - so it wasn’t the camera department covering for her). All of her films and TV episodes are filled with shots designed to tell the story. She understood the language of cinema. There are hundreds of male directors who were never as good as she was. In her first film - the one she took over from the director who had a heart attack after a couple of days of shooting - she has an amazing chase scene that rivals anything that men were doing at the time. One of her mentors was Don Siegel, another of my favorite directors, and her action scenes are comparable to his.

Just used to tell stories with female leads dealing with social issues that were (and are) of interest to women. Rape, unwed mothers, dealing with heartbreak, and many other issues that her films tackled because Hollywood Studios weren't dealing with them. But they would gladly make some money distributing them. Her independent company The Filmakers made close to ten great films... and we will be looking at them in future Trailer Tuesdays. Probably next up (later in the year) will be her first film NOT WANTED about unwed mothers. We still have a THRILLER episode of two that she directed coming up this year.

- Bill

PS: I know that it's a Counter Man not a Waiter - but it's 2020, and who knows what a Counter Man is?

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