Tonight’s Saturday Night Cinema is perfect for a late night flick. Wicked Woman is sleazy noir — a wonderfully lascivious B film noir directed by Russell Rouse. Deelish!
This sleazy drama was considered quite racy during its time. It is the story of a bar maid who works for a married couple. She is involved with the husband and they are planning to run off to Mexico. Their plans disintegrate and she is blackmailed into having an affair with the local tailor. When her employer’s wife catches her embracing the odious tailor, the wife forces him to return to his nagging wife. The waitress then takes the next bus out of town.
Wicked Woman (1953)
At the Palace — H. H. T. NY Times, Published: March 27, 1954
By straining for steam at the expense of substance, “Wicked Woman” manages to squander some persuasively realistic upholstery. This low-budget misguided little melodrama of an adulterous triangle, accompanying the Palace’s stage program yesterday, comes from Clarence Greene and Russell Rouse. Their independent writer-director-producer unit, it will be recalled, got off to a spunky, commendable start with “The Well.”
In decided contrast to that study of flaring, racial tensions, the Greene-Rouse compass now has been unwaveringly set for some hot stuff. Consequently, an air of self-conscious tawdriness pervades this enterprise, distilling, often shaping the acting of a capable little cast, headed by Beverly Michaels, as the wicked one, and Richard Egan, her victim. On the other hand, the hard-bitten dialogue, forthright camera work and soiled authenticity of the backgrounds could hardly be improved. The result, released through United Artists, is a threadbare, unquestionably graphic tome from the confessions-type magazine rack.
Not that Miss Michaels suffers particularly. As a predatory, platinum blonde with a past, she lands in town and blandly seduces a strapping bar owner, Mr. Egan, who has hired her under the amiable nose of his alcoholic spouse. The lovers then hatch a plan to swindle the lady and flee to Mexico.
Until the scheme backfires, with a surprising lack of bloodshed, the picture suggests “The Postman Always Rings Twice.” Under Mr. Rouse’s economical direction, there is considerable suspense, as the pair sweat out bank clearance of a forgery, sidestepping the ever-present wife, played by Evelyn Scott, and racing against time.
The second-rate neighborhood bar, where about half of the events occur, is not only lifelike but alive. Messrs. Greene and Rouse, in addition, have supplied a captivatingly grubby portrait of life in a fifth-rate boarding house, complete with feuds, blackmail and open, early morning warfare over the bathroom. And the knock-down-drag-out climax, when the boarders pitch in with the battling lovers, is ugly, funny and a sight to behold.
However, the film remains a far cry from the stinging construction and passionate urgency of “Postman.” Miss Michaels (possibly under instruction), pouts, widens her eyes and walks with baffling, slow-motion angularity. Mr. Egan is manly and generally convincing, if a little too intelligent-looking to go overboard. Miss Scott and Percy Helton, as a lecherous bachelor, are sound throughout. But not, for all the impressive sharp edges, “Wicked Woman.”
WICKED WOMAN, screen play by Clarence Greene and Russell Rouse; directed by Mr. Rouse and produced by Mr. Greene; an Edward Small presentation, released through United Artists. At the Palace.
Billie Nash . . . . . Beverly Michaels
Matt Bannister . . . . . Richard Egan
Charlie Borg . . . . . Percy Helton
Dora Bannister . . . . . Evelyn Scott
Mr. Lowry . . . . . Robert Osterloh
Gus . . . . . William Phillips
Mr. Porter . . . . . Frank Ferguson