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Edgar G. Ulmer
Betta St. John,
Beautiful Jenny Hager finds she can always get what she wants from the men in the 1820's port of Bangor, Maine. Freed by his death from her drunkard father she soon manoeuvres herself into a position to marry a middle-aged monied local businessman. Though she often uses his money to do good, she continues to consider all other men fair game. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <email@example.com>
Propelled by powerful performances, a good script and strong cinematography, The Strange Woman explores the life of a beautiful, headstrong, passive aggressive femme fatale in Bangor, Maine, during the early 19th century. Hedy Lamar leads an excellent cast and gives it everything she has. Jenny Hager is a deeply troubled woman who grew up in a dysfunctional relationship with an alcoholic father, and married into a rich family. Throughout her life before and after this marriage, she quietly and subtly plotted and schemed to get where, what and who she wanted, while keeping up the appearance of a good, honest country lady.
The film focuses almost exclusively on Jenny and her romantic entanglements, but is also satisfying as a rather odd example of an anachronistic film noir. As such, it is very original in both concept and story. The Strange Woman may be the best piece of directing accomplished by the very prolific B film-maker Edgar Ulmer (Detour). It is nicely shot and paced, and, unlike many noir films, contains a few positive messages in addition to the disturbing stuff.
Recommendation: Serious noir fans will appreciate this, but you have to give this film some time to breathe. It is fairly slow and contains only a few action scenes - which are not its highlights by any stretch. It is also very focused on gender stereotypes (not all of which are treated uncritically), so its appreciation takes a little more thought than the genre standard.
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