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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I grab a handful of discs and start firing them into the machine. I've
seen this, seen that, and so on and so on. By the 5th disc I decide I'm
too lazy to get off the couch again. I stick with the one that's
playing. I've seen it before but never on a decent TV, so I let it
It is the 1957 UK production, THE FLESH IS WEAK. The film features John Derek as the headliner. It is an "expose" noir about the prostitution racket in the U.K. Derek is a pimp who preys on the naive, "just off the bus" young women who come to the big city for fame and fortune.
He wines and dines them and after a few rounds of clutch and grab the girls go for the smooth talker. He gets them a place to stay, a few jewels, some nice duds and even finds them a job. The job of course ends up to be a "hostess" in a gentleman's club. The girls fall for the line and before they know it they are out on the street paying back the DEBT.
Millie Vitale plays the new girl who has just been turned out by Derek. She quickly decides the life is not for her and decides to quit. She has discovered that Derek is part of a ring that has several dozen girls turned out. The pimps let her know that a large knife to the neck is what she will get if she leaves.
In order to teach Vitale a lesson, Derek arranges for her to get busted by John Law on a knife assault charge. She refuses to talk to the police out of fear and takes her six-month bit. She has time to think and decides to go straight when she gets out.
This idea however goes south when Vitale finds Derek waiting at the prison gates on release day. She now knows the only way out of the "game" is to turn State's evidence. She tells all she knows to the police and Derek and his boys soon find themselves on the wrong side of the prison walls.
The cast includes William Franklyn, Martin Benson, Freda Jackson, Patricia Jessel and Patricia Plunkett.
The director was Don Chaffey who is best known for "Jason and the Argonauts". He also worked on series like, "The Prisoner", "Danger Man", "The Avengers", "Charlie's Angel's" and "MacGyver".
I really liked the look of the film where the dark alleys and streets of post war London are put to good use. It is a rather blunt and to the point film for 1957.
There are no vague suggestions about the subject matter here. Right from the start we know what the story is about. John Derek is particularly good as the smooth talking pimp. He plays it all smiles but is more than happy to apply a knife here and there if needed. I found it a excellent time-waster.
One or two performances in this story of prostitution and the pimps
behind it made this an interesting film. The United States hadn't seen
such a blatant tale with such a good cast before; this is why this film
caught the attention of the viewers. The writing was terse and pointed;
the black-and-white cinematography made the picture riveting in much of
its running time. The direction of the film is excellent and always
Certainly, nothing in John Derek's film history gave a hint that he even knew what a pimp was, nor had he played a villain before. His performance was slick and believable. Milly Vitale had played completely sympathetic roles in the films for which U.S. audience knew her -- "War and Peace" and "The Seven Little Foys" -- but roles that amounted to nothing, so her performance in this small, dark film was a welcome surprise.
The remainder of the company -- Martin Benson, Freda Jackson, Patricia Jessel, Shirley Ann Field, and others -- were slightly known here at this time, later to make their superior talents known both on stage and screen; in this film, their contributions are very welcome!
A good British film and a better use of these actors' talents than American cinema gave them!
The Flesh is Weak is directed by Don Chaffey and written by Leigh Vance
and Deborah Bedford. It stars John Derek, Milly Vitale, William
Franklyn, Martin Benson, Freda Jackson and Norman Wooland. Music is by
Tristram Cary and cinematography by Stephen Dade (not Gerry Massy-
Collier as listed in some sources).
It's a British crime drama with film noir shadings. Plot finds Vitale as the innocent girl who upon visiting London falls in love with the shifty Tony Giani (Derek). Before you can say "vice girls" she finds herself facing up to the harsh realities of the Giani family operations.
It's a nasty subject that is still relevant today, but the makers handle the subject well. Obviously clipped somewhat by how far they could push the material at the time, it's still surprisingly frank with the vice girls subject to hand. Strong plot is acted accordingly, with the main characterisations carrying a believable factor that hits home the required impact.
The girls are treated with sympathetic hands, steering the story away from exploitation histrionics, and while it's a bit too stage bound to really give it some earthy strength, it's a well constructed production that's further boosted by Dade's moody photography. Interesting low rumbling horror movie type score by Cary as well. 7/10
When this film was released Soho was dominated by violent gangs.One of the tools of their trade was the flick knife which is shown in the film and which was shortly to be banned by act of parliament.One of the basic problems are the leads.Martin Benson is fine but the parachuted in American star John Derek is woefully miscast,pretty he is menacing he isn't.By the way why does he and Benson have different accents?Monica |Vitale plays an innocent Italian girl picked up by a pimp.There seems to be a gang war of sorts and there is an investigating writer,not reporter,played by William Franklyn.Much of this film is muddled and not helped by the small studios at Walton.It has to be said that this film clearly earned its X certificate on its release.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Flesh Is Weak" has a lot going for it. It's a genuine film noir,
both in story and in the way it's photographed and staged. It has a
literate and detailed script, with strong conflicts. The cast is solid,
with a standout performance by John Derek.
Derek is one of two brothers, the Giani brothers, the other played by Martin Benson. They scout for vulnerable women and then work them in various ways into being a Giani girl, i.e., in their stable of prostitutes. Harold Lang plays their scout. He spots Milly Vitale, fresh from France. Derek cons her by having a stooge attack her, and then he plays savior by punching the guy out. Derek feigns love for her and she falls for him. He tells her various lies over the course of a month, getting her into a position where supposedly to save him from jail, she entertains a wealthy man. That ends up with her selling her body to him for cash to save Derek. Derek then holds her by other wiles, manipulation and intimidation. There is one really climactic scene in which Derek lets loose with his deeply felt hatred of women and blames Vitale and her love for him as the cause of her predicament. His acting is top notch in this scene. The director got it out of him.
But make no mistake, when she attempts to escape, he's right there with a knife to hold her. She doesn't give up, however, and this leads into more conflict. Derek frames her and she goes to jail for 6 months. She's taken in by a journalist (William Franklyn) who has been trying to get evidence on the Gianis. She simply wants to escape and not give evidence against the man she loved, despite his having scarred another one of the girls and being a complete heel and liar. Will she testify against him? At the end, the body language tells it all. Vitale approaches Derek and he her from opposite ends of a courtroom corridor. We see Derek's face go through some remarkable changes that signal first his hope that he still has a hold on her, and then his realization that he doesn't, and then his scorn tinged with his feeling of superiority. We see Vitale's dependency turn into a solid resistance to his wiles.
This is a serious and complete story. No sleaze, no nudity, no exploitation. It's realistic. This is not a b-picture.
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