The Story of Temple Drake (1933) Review

Director: Stephen Roberts

Genre(s): Crime, Drama

Runtime: 70 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

IMDb Page

The 1933 drama The Story of Temple Drake is a picture from the Pre-Code era of Hollywood (before the enforcement of the Production Code) that feels ahead-of-its-time. After a drunken car crash, town flirt Temple Drake (Miriam Hopkins) and Toddy Gowan (William Collier Jr.), the latest man chasing her, find themselves trapped at a remote Southern plantation mansion controlled by vile gangster Trigger (Jack La Rue). Based on the 1931 William Faulkner novel Sanctuary, this one proved to be quite controversial back in the day.

This film is really in its element when at the plantation used as a bootlegger hideout by Jack La Rue’s character (his performance is hypnotic here). These scenes have a semi-surreal and dreamlike quality to them that was largely absent from mainstream American movies at the time of its release. Some of the actors give performances that can only be described as “zombified,” only heightening the otherworldliness. The cinematography’s also pretty incredible.

On the down side, the last act of the flick is largely concerned with courtroom scenes that lack the sinister nature of previous sequences. This part of the movie is appropriately suspenseful, but it just doesn’t have the thick atmosphere of the mobster hideout stuff. The slower pace of these scenes don’t do the overall film any favors.

The role of the gangster Trigger was originally offered to George Raft, but he turned down the gig, fearing an association with this feature would ruin his career. The Story of Temple Drake has a satisfactory opening act, a really, really strong middle act, and a final act that…works well, but can’t top what came before it. It’s a moody, menacing movie…one that fans of the classics will probably want to check out.

My rating is 7 outta 10.

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