The Road to Ruin

October 11, 2010 at 2:11 am (3 Heads, Road to Ruin) (, , , )

The Road to Ruin – 1934 – United States

The Road to Ruin is a remake of a 1928 silent film of the same name, both of which star doe-eyed Helen Foster. While I’ve yet to see it, apparently the 1928 version is hotter. Good. The 1934 version is so restrained it’s an indecipherable code of vague allusions within which the plot’s promise of sordid sexiness is all but lost.

A naive teenager and her worldly friend smoke, drink, kiss boys, and lie to mom. Their activities eventually snowball to raucous strip parties with older men. The girls’ carnal exploration begin by reading (barely) dirty novels while our tragic heroine asks her friend, “Eve, do you let boys kiss you?” Fast-forward 30 minutes and we find her in the embrace of rich hustler. They carry on decadently until the police raid their drunken pool party. At the station, our girl is branded a “sex delinquent” and discovers she’s pregnant. Her playboy boyfriend arranges a sketchy abortion, which goes south and she dies from an indistinct surgery related infection. In the arms of mom and dad, she utters, “It seems like such a beautiful world…but it’s all…over…”

Unfortunately, while you’re watching, Road to Ruin is never as lurid as all that sounds. Until the very end, it’s not clear that any sex even happened—everyone mostly just dances and kisses. The pregnancy is discussed in such abstract terms that I mistakenly assumed the girl had contracted syphilis. And the “wild” parties consist of drinking and singing where promiscuity is limited to off-handed quips: “Brother, what a dish! Would I like to put her in the book!” “I wasn’t aware you had any pages.”

Road to Ruin is boring, somewhat redeemed by pretty girls, catchy songs, and vintage slang, but it lacks the salaciousness and sensationalism expected in this sort of flick. It comes off as naively moralistic instead of depraved, which is what audiences (then and now) clamor for from this type of plot. There are hotter/kinkier and/or more shocking/disturbing flicks about cute co-eds in the downward spiral. Call me a perverted heathen, but aside from old men kissing teenagers, I can barely object to these girls’ “road to ruin”—I call it just a part of growing up.

Rating: 3/10 Shrunken Heads. A lifeless exploration of teen sex, satisfying as neither realism nor fantasy.

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