The Male Gaze vs. MISS SADIE THOMPSON on Twilight Time Blu-ray

Miss Sadie Thompson 3D is now available from Twilight Time in a Limited Edition of 3000 units.

It’s a setup that’s just asking for trouble. An attractive, free-spirited woman (Rita Hayworth) arrives on a South Pacific island full of bored Marines, becoming an object of lust or love for nearly every man stationed there.

Technically a remake (earlier versions of the tale were released in 1928 and 1932), Miss Sadie Thompson uses the general setup from W. Somerset Maugham’s salaciously-reputed short story “Rain” and puts a spin on it by setting it in the post-WWII Pacific, and adding a love interest — Sgt. Phil O’Hara (Aldo Ray). The Sarge pulls rank to get close to Sadie and keep the other hounds (including a young Charles Bronson) at bay. Like every other man on the island, he’s infatuated with their pretty guest — but soon falls completely in love with her.

Unfortunately, Sadie also attracts the attention of Alfred Davidson (José Ferrer), a missionary of some political influence. Davidson’s a man who likes to throw his weight around, bullying the local government, enforcing churchgoing, and “advising” the island’s bar to stay closed on Sundays.

Despite its Production Code compromises and sanitization of elements from the original story, Miss Sadie Thompson courses with a certain sexual energy. The male characters are constantly creepy and leering, but Sadie also invites and enjoys the attention. She’s a party girl with a nightclub background, who likes to flirt, smoke, drink, and party, filling the movie with enough sweaty song and dance numbers that it’s practically a musical.

Her behavior is popular with the Marines, but invokes the seething indignation of Davidson, a small-minded and petty man who sets out to antagonize her in a misguided moral crusade governed by hypocrisy and false piety — to disastrous ends.

Unusually forward-thinking for its time, Miss Sadie Thompson doesn’t make much effort to judge its title character for her sins. It’s more concerned with the way the the other (male) characters respond to her. Even the Sarge, who serves as the male protagonist, love interest, and friendly counterbalance to the Davidson’s hateful rhetoric, is guilty of being handsy and self-centered.

It’s a surprisingly relevant message in modern times, when “rape culture” is still quick to point finger at women for the actions of men.

The Package

It’s the usual Twilight Time treatment; attractive artwork, a transparent frost-colored case, and a full-color 8-page booklet with thoughtful commentary on the film, written by Julie Kirgo.

The disc has some worthwhile features. The huge deal here, of course, is that the 3-D presentation is also included, a practically unprecedented treat considering the film’s 3D theatrical run was well over 60 years ago — and lasted a mere couple of weeks.

The picture quality looks pretty soft and some parts, particularly the night scenes set in the bar, are downright murky. These are just general observations, though — I have no idea whether these are due to a poor transfer or simply inherent to the source.

Special Features and Extras

Introduction by Actress Patricia Clarkson (4:23)

Original Theatrical Trailer (2:59)

Audio Commentary with Film historians David Del Valle and Steven Perros

Isolated Music & Effects Track

A/V Out.

Available directly from Twilight Time.

Except where noted, all screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have slight compression inherent to file formats. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.

Previous post Criterion Review: BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB
Next post The Archivist #61: Western Legends United for RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY (1962)