'The Parasite' (with its overwrought title) is an extremely misogynistic melodrama, an example of what I call a 'bad woman' story: one of those dramas in which a vampire (in Kipling's sense of the word) sets out to destroy people in general and men in particular, not for financial gain nor for any other credible motive, but simply because she CAN. Movies like this create the impression that all women (or at least all good-looking women) are innately sinful and evil, beyond redemption.
SPOILERS COMING. 'The Parasite' does at least deviate from this cliched course with an unexpected ending, in which the bad woman redeems herself by giving up her life to spare an innocent child.
Madge Bellamy plays Joan, the ex-wife of respectable Arthur Randall (Owen Moore, badly miscast). Although they're divorced and no love is lost between them, Joan continues to bleed her ex-husband for alimony, and she attempts to improve her own social standing by emphasising her ties to Randall. Meanwhile, Randall has remarried: his new wife Laura is played by Lilyan Tashman, also badly miscast. Tashman tended to play flashy floozies, but here she plays a respectable woman who uses her newfound position as Randall's society wife to become a philanthropist. For starters, she's adopted a little orphan named Bertie.
Joan, the hissable villainess, wants to wreck her ex-husband's new marriage, hoping to keep him (and his money and society position) for herself. Joan abducts little Bertie and drives away with him, planning something unpleasant. Joan's car goes off a cliff and ends up in a ravine. (The stunt work is laughably bad here: Madge Bellamy is clearly doubled by a male stunt double, and little Bertie is doubled by a dummy.) After a couple of days in the ravine, it becomes clear to spoilt wilful Joan that no rescue is coming soon; she and Bertie will probably die slowly of starvation or dehydration. At this point, after the entire movie has depicted Joan Laird as the second coming of the Whore of Babylon, she does a complete volte-face: Joan slits a vein in her own arm and allows Bertie to lap the blood, so that he can stay alive. Rescue comes eventually ... in time to save little Bertie, but only because Joan made the ultimate sacrifice.
There is a heavy moral tone here: the film admits that even a jezebel like Joan Laird is capable of redemption ... but she must die in order to achieve this. I found this entire film extremely heavy-handed, moralising, and misogynistic. I'm tempted to rate 'The Parasite' zero points, but I'll give it one point in 10.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?