Sex Trafficking in Marseilles

Human trafficking is recognized as a form of modern day slavery today but it has been around for decades. In the early 20th century the white slave trade in Europe became a major crime phenomenon in which hundreds of young women went missing only to end up enslaved in prostitution rings. This criminal activity provided the basis for countless melodramas and sexploitation films but one of the most entertaining and accomplished efforts is the French feature Des Femmes Disparaissent (1959), which was released in the U.S. in 1962 as Road to Shame. Women Disappear is a more accurate translation for the original title but the movie is a tautly directed thriller which has the look of a vintage noir with moody black and white cinematography by Robert Juillard (Forbidden Games, Gervaise).

Continue reading

The Jimmy Piersall Story

Anthony Perkins plays baseball player Jimmy Piersall in the 1957 biographical drama FEAR STRIKES OUT.

There are enough films about baseball and famous ballplayers in the American cinema to constitute its own subgenre but Fear Strikes Out (1957) is a special case that stands alone. Based on the autobiography by James A. Piersall, the former outfielder and shortstop for the Boston Red Sox, and Albert S. Hirshberg, the film is less about Jimmy Piersall’s brilliant though erratic career and more about his struggle against bipolar disorder (also known as manic-depressive illness). 

Continue reading

Siren of the Danube

One of the most important Czech films to emerge during the Czech New Wave of the 1960s was The Shop on Main Street (Czech title: Obchod na Korze, 1965), which was awarded the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film of 1966 and snagged a Best Actress nomination for Ida Kaminska the following year. The important thing to note is that The Shop on Main Street was not really a part of the Czech New Wave. The film’s directors, Jan Kadar and Elmar Klos, were more than a generation older than the young upstarts of that movement that included Milos Forman (Loves of a Blonde), Ivan Passer (Intimate Lighting) and Jan Nemec (Diamonds of the Night), among others. And even though The Shop on Main Street made Kadar and Klos internationally famous, their other films are not as well known to most American filmgoers. That is a shame because their final collaboration, Adrift (1971), is one of their most fascinating features but the troubled production behind it is possibly one of the reasons it is almost unknown today.

Continue reading