Saturday, February 13, 2016

WICKED WOMAN (1953)


Any old film buff should have enough time for a Beverly Michaels film festival. One evening should do it. This role is one of her more popular as she uses her self-serving curves to fire up the male ego. The film opens with  “Larry Lounge-Singer” performing the title song for this sordid tale of a deceitful woman who is on the last rung of life’s ladder. Traveling by commercial bus is not exactly first-class so the opening scenes set the tone for the title character. Her reputation on display as soon as she steps off the bus.



Michaels, with her occasionally obvious overbite, checks into “Hotel Carcinogen.” A tenant across the hall is that handsome Percy Helton. A lady magnet. A creepy weasel lady magnet. All the chairs in his apartment have been stolen from a first grade classroom. With legs crossed, Michael’s knees are above the table with help from an unusual, low camera position. The table’s top above Helton’s chest. He hits on her as only Helton could in his trademarked, suspendered, hunched fashion. She entices him because there is something she needs. He is a seamstress. Michaels certainly puts the man in manipulative.



In her early shopping scenes, Michaels is filmed in slow motion, looking like those old silent Blackhawk 8mm movies. A weird director’s idea perhaps. She even exhales tobacco smoke in slow motion when trying to seduce Richard Egan. Yeah. That will do it. He and his wife are owners of the local bar where Michaels is hired as a waitress. In slow motion, she is very popular with the gents. On the cusp of stupidity, Egan, looking quite beefy in a white T-shirt, falls for her and she immediately suggests he sell the bar, take the money and both head for Mexico. She is apparently on a tight schedule. Egan’s wife is the financial boss of the bar and that causes concern. Since the buyer has never met the wife, Michaels fills in. What seems like an editor’s miscue, because nothing comes of a single hand close-up, Michaels is not wearing a wedding ring. But a tight shot of Egan’s face suggests there may be trouble ahead. 



Helton eavesdrops on Egan’s visits to the hotel. He threatens to blackmail Michaels unless he gets his way with her. Helton is a very lonely man. A man of sewability. Egan barges in, catching him caressing her and goes ballistic. He realizes his stupidity and turns his anger on Michaels. She takes the brunt of some seriously effective shoving by Egan. The audience cheers. A kind of Egan and the Tramp. Michaels plays out the scene on her bed, sobbing and beating her pillow into submission.

The film closes with Michaels buying a new bus ticket to any town, hoping for a few more men who are attracted by a bleached blonde who could have used braces when she was a kid. She flashes a big “one-off” grin at a male traveler but he has no dental fear. He is hooked. Larry Lounge appropriately ends this ugly, and quite amusing, story with a shortened title song.

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