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Slaves in Bondage (1937).

May 26, 2010

The Scoop:
It’s more road show exploitation madness in this clunky cautionary tale about naive young country girls who are lured into prostitution in the big city. As is typical, the title makes it sound a whole lot more lurid than it really is, but it does have it’s moments.

At the center of the story are a pretty manicurist (Lona Andre) and her aspiring reporter boyfriend (Donald Reed) who find their tepid courtship inconvenienced by the leaders of a sex trafficking ring (Wheeler Oakman and Florence Dudley). Things work out exactly as you’d expect they would, but not before some mild lingerie-clad titillation that’s far tamer than usual for the genre. The film starts out slow, but picks up steam as it goes along, eventually turning brisk, weird and campy. It actually winds up being quite fun, although not nearly as operatically absurd as “Reefer Madness.”

Perhaps that’s because, unlike many of the anti-drug exploitationers, the core issue here isn’t quite as wildly misrepresented. Although it may look strange to see it portrayed like this in an American setting, this type of racket isn’t that much different than the human trafficking operations that are still at work across many Third World countries today. It’s a reminder that, beneath all the unintentional laughs, there are serious issues that these cheapo films were intended to tackle.

Best Bit:
The odd vaudeville acrobatic act.

Side Note:
The fan dancer is played by Suzanna Kim, who also appeared in the classic “The Good Earth” in the same year she shot “Slaves in Bondage.”

Companion Viewing:
“Reefer Madness” (1936) and “Sex Madness” (1938).

Links:
IMDb.
HumanTrafficking.org.

Take a Look:
The full film is available for free online via the Internet Archive.

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