Just before his two masterworks with Louise Brooks, Pabst directed this provocative study of an upper-class woman's sexual frustration. Neglected by her work-obsessed husband, Brigitte Helm falls in with a fast crowd of Berlin nightclub denizens (the "wrong turn" of the title), toying with an artist and a boxer as potential lovers. Pabst sketches this milieu in terms of consumption of cigarettes, liquor, and drugs, but it looks considerably more realistic than the garish cartoon decadence of CABARET and its imitators. A highlight of a lengthy nightclub sequence is some amusing play around the erotic impact of a backless evening gown. If Helm writhes with coiled intensity in almost every scene, she still creates a credible psychological portrait. While the plot devolves into a can-this-marriage-be-saved? formula, Pabst sustains interest through expert framing and shrewdly chosen gestures: thus, the act of dividing a pastry comes to represent the possibility of divorce. An intelligently adult resolution, offering no easy answers, adds to the film's stature.
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