Child Bride (Harry Revier / U.S., 1938):

The "page from the Book of Life" is swiftly made flesh, the camera tilts down from the tome on the headboard (Child Marriage is a Crime) to the slumbering nymphet (Shirley Mills). Underage matrimony among Ozarkians is the problem, barely pubescent girls wed into arduous labor and premature feebleness, the reformist schoolmarm (Diana Durrell) rallies around the mountain: "You can’t jump from childhood to womanhood by saying ‘I do!’" (A hayseed shrugs: "We’re short of women...") The local miscreant (Warner Richmond) responds to her protests with torches and tar cauldrons; foiled, he turns his rotten gaze to barefoot 12-year-old Mills, "the prettiest young ‘un in the community." A crossroads of stilted message and unadorned prurience, Harry Revier’s infamous hicksploitation classic is nevertheless a lingering magnificat of female distress that mingles shabby sets with a fierce sense of the elemental (mud, downpours, howling wind are virtual characters). Nothing beats Richmond courting his bride with a raggedy doll for sheer repulsion, unless it’s the ludicrousness and horror of the wedding ceremony, framed like a scabrous parody of a matrimonial portrait: Plainclothes priest going through the motions, helpless mother avoiding her daughter’s alarmed eyes, erect groom waiting for the kiss. Erskine Caldwell on Poverty Row, or Shirley Temple Amid the Wolves, if you prefer. Either way, a goldmine for the Buñuel of Los Olvidados (Richmond's mug at the window), Nazarin (Angelo Rossitto as a dwarf moonshiner who answers the heroine's prayers), and above all The Young One, practically a remake. With Bob Bollinger, George Humphreys, Dorothy Carrol, and Frank Martin. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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