Child Bride

March 21, 2017 at 1:55 am (1 Head, Child Bride) (, , )

Child Bride – 1938 – United States

This film is tasteless and disturbing.

On Thunderhead Mountain in the Ozarks, “back yonder folk” live in rustic squalor. They wear rags and sleep in shacks. Their only fun is to go swimming or drink corn liquor. Their one room schoolhouse has pigeons in the rafters that defecate on the students. It is tradition for the community’s men to marry “young ‘uns” since “there ain’t enough women”. A (comparatively) cosmopolitan teacher moves into town. She campaigns against child marriage and is nearly tarred and feathered for it. One man wants to marry a particular 11-year-old girl. He murders the girl’s father and blackmails her mother until she consents to the marriage. Thankfully, he is shot to death before the marriage can be consummated. Eventually, child marriage is made illegal.

Child Bride is infamous for a swimming scene in which the 12-year-old star bares her breasts and butt. It’s pretty shocking and some of the commonly available versions of the film are censored. Also disturbing, but rarely mentioned, is a scene where the same girl begins to undress her unconscious (presumed drunk) father under the pretense of “putting him to bed”. I suspect this was intended to be suggestive. Moments later, she discovers a knife wound on his chest and realizes he is dead.

On its release, Child Bride was promoted as an educational film. Its many excesses clearly mark it as exploitation. There are fist fights and murders, and a drunken man beats his spouse. When the film’s preteen protagonist finds her battered mother sprawled on the floor, she says peevishly, “Is daddy drunk again?” The woman stabs her abusive husband in an act of self-defense and is wracked by guilt and grief.

The film’s only heroes are a mentally handicapped man and a dwarf.

Rating: 1/10 Shrunken Heads. Gross.

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