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Mom And Dad
The first entry in Kino Lorber's Forbidden Fruit: The Golden Age Of The Exploitation Picture, which is done in conjunction with the National Film Registry and Something Weird Video, is William Beaudine's notorious 1945 film Mom And Dad. This cautionary tale tells the sordid story of a young woman named Joan Blake (June Carlson). She's a pretty suburbanite with everything going for her but when it comes to the ways of love, she's more than a little naïve. The school board doesn't offer sex education classes and her parents haven't bothered to properly explain to her the facts of life. So when she gets sweet talked by a man named Jack Griffith (Bob Lowell) and he gets fresh, well, one thing leads to another and before you know it, Jack has got what he wants and Joan is in tears.
A few weeks later and Jack has died in a plane crash and Joan is getting sick early in the morning. He mom says it is from eating too much candy, but the fact of the matter is, Joan is pregnant! As Joan goes about trying to figure out what to do, her mother worries about how this will affect her social standing with her club! When word gets out about what's happened to Joan, the school health teacher shows the class a film called ‘The Facts Of Life' that explains the functions of the female body and the menstrual cycle. It talks about the rhythm method, how ovulation occurs and, well, you get the idea. From there, the film's most notorious scene plays out as we head into a hospital delivery room and witness first-hand the natural birth of a baby, with nothing left to the imagination. After that the teach shows a second film, ‘Modern American Surgery,' where we, along with the class, witness a cesarean section being performed. After that, the class, and as such the audience, lay witness to a film called ‘Seeing Is Believing' which tackles the cold, hard truths about venereal disease complete with fairly graphic footage showing the effects of different STD's.
And that is why Mom And Dad remains infamous to this day. It isn't the overly melodramatic story of Joan and her family that made this a massive and extremely profitable hit on the exploitation film circuit of its day. There were plenty of hokey melodramas made before and after this one that remain forgotten simply because they just aren't that interesting. The acting isn't particularly good, and the pacing is less than perfect. The film does, however, ‘go there' in that yeah, it shows footage, graphic footage, of what was at the time quite taboo. Producer Kroger Babb was savvy enough in the ways of promotion to get the film into theaters and make a bundle off of it, and clever enough to precede the film itself with a text scrawl explaining the merits of the educational services that this picture will provide, but the fact remains that he and Beaudine simply wrapped some graphic hygiene films up with the narrative about Joan's plight and, voila, they had a hit.
It's also worth noting that at the sixty-seven-minute mark, the movie stops for an intermission. During theatrical screenings back in the forties, a live spokesperson using the name Elliot Forbes would deliver a lecture on sex hygiene after which he would promote the sale of books that were distributed to members of the audience by ushers who were sometimes dressed as nurses. There's no lecture included here but the presentation does break for a bit, complete with some on screen text about the booklets before putting ‘and now on with our story' onto the screen!
The movie itself is goofy, but historically important to be sure. There's nothing exceptional about the cinematography or even the performances but there's no disputing the fact that it really does show it all. Very much a product of its time, it is dated in an almost charming way (particularly the ending). While most of us will have seen films like this in high school health class in modern times, this was, no doubt, incredibly shocking stuff back in 1945.
Mom And Dad arrives on Blu-ray transferred from a new 4k scan taken from two separate 35mm prints and a 35mm fine grain master struck directing from the surviving twenty-five-minutes of the nitrate camera negative. The black and white picture, which is presented in 1.33.1 fullframe and in AVC encoded 1080p high definition, does show some noticeable print damage throughout but overall it looks quite good. Detail is quite strong and contract looks really good. The opening credits are in rougher shape than the rest of the movie and there are times where you can tell this was taken from different sources but overall, this is quite a substantial improvement over how the movie has looked on home video in the past.
The English language 16-bit LPCM Mono track is on par, quality wise, with the video. There are no alternate language or subtitle options provided. There's a little bit of hiss here and there and range is quite understandably limited but dialogue stays clean and clear and easy enough to follow. The levels are properly balanced throughout, and while there are some audible defects here and there, overall it sounds just fine given the history of the picture and the elements available to use for this release.
Extras are plentiful, starting with an audio commentary from Eric Schaefer, the author of Bold! Daring! Shocking! A History Of Exploitation Films. He starts by explaining what an exploitation film was during this time in cinema history, the importance of the ‘square up' text that attempted to give the film some legitimacy, before then going over the details of the different cast members that appear in the opening scene in the train, offering some welcome background information on the people that appear here, most of whom had careers doing small roles or who were on their way down, as far as their career trajectory was concerned. He talks about director William Beaudine and producer Kroger Babb, giving us plenty of information about their adventures in the exploitation film business (Babb had showmanship in his blood from an early age!). There's lots of talk about how this film was promoted, the success that it found on the theatre circuit and the controversy that surrounded it brought about not by the melodrama but because of Babb's ability to get the movie into theaters (there was even an article on it in Time Magazine!). There's also talk here about Babb's relationship with David Friedman, the dramatic arc of the storyline, the predatory nature of Jack's character, how Joan never really consents to having sex with him, how the film was added to the National Film Registry as a socially significant film (albeit, after Babb's death), how Babb got blindsided by changes in the film industry and the advent of television and never again found the success that he did with this picture. Schaefer does occasionally narrate what's happening on screen but generally he does a great job of breaking down what makes this film important and detailing the lives and times of the different characters who all had a hand in making the picture.
The disc also includes seventeen-minutes' of radio spots. These are ‘testimonials' that were meant to be played in theater lobbies and what not in order to generate hype for the film. They play out overtop of a series of one sheet and promotional images created to market the film way back when. It's interesting stuff, seeing how this was marketed not as goofy exploitation but as a legitimate hygiene film and one that could help teenagers learn about the facts of life.
Sex Hygienefrom 1942, is a twenty-nine-minute short film that is actually an official training film from the War Department that covers the effects of venereal disease that can spread through illicit sex! According to the intro, the government wants our soldiers to take care of their bodies and be safe, hence the existence of this film. It talks about how false modesty has led to millions of boys not getting their facts straight when it comes to sex and STD's, and then from there we're told how man can be healthy and stronger if they avoid ‘sex relations.' After the lengthy intro we get to the first scene where a guy leaves the recreation room on his base and heads into town looking for fun. He comes back from a brothel and then, with his fellow soldiers, has to attend a screening of a film on STD's. we sit in the theater with the soldiers as we learn the do's and don't's of genital contact, what different STD's can do to a man, how they're spread and more! Complete with footage of infected and fully naked wants, we see up close plenty of icky, gooey footage of the actual effects of STDs. Then we learn about condoms and treatments and, well, you can probably figure out what happened to the soldier that went out for some fun, right?
The disc also contains four ‘Sex Lectures:' The Story Of Bob And Sally, Not Wanted (The Wrong Rut), Life And Its Secrecies and Human Wreckage. The first one runs fifteen-minutes and it's a short filmed lecture in which we learn about ‘the sex or reproductive organs.' It's more of less what you'd expect: a lecture about how penis' and vaginas function and then subsequently how babies are made. We get some graphic birth footage and then head into STD land again for more graphic shots of infected organs. Not Wanted is an interesting artifact in that in the 50's prints of the film were re-released to the exploitation circuit under the alternate title of The Wrong Rut with this short that contains actual explicit childbirth footage and a sex hygiene lecture. This one runs eleven-minutes and it talks all about the dangers that unwed mothers and their illegitimate children pose to America as we learn about how Sally got seduced and then knocked up by a smooth-talking musician. The full version of this one was directed by Ida Lupino and is included in Kino's boxed set collection of her work. Life And Its Secrecies is an eleven-minute piece that covers very similar ground: we get lecture about how life is created and see first-hand how the story of reproduction plays out. We then see four different methods of ‘the miracle of human birth' (the natural way, twins with a breached birth and then two clips of birth in color for the first time on the screen!). Last but not least, Human Wreckage Is a seven-minute piece wherein a guy with a moustache sits in front of a wood paneled wall to tell us all about how syphilis and gonorrhea work, symptoms, effects of the diseases and what can be done should you get one of them. There's plenty of ‘scientific' diagrams in here to explain all this as well as yet more icky footage of infected tongues and genitals!
From there, dig into four different Book Pitches. The first of these is Drive-In Theater and it's a quick one-minute advertisement for a few books and ‘a family calculator' that could be purchased individually or as a set at screenings of the film (and should you want to purchase them, please have correct change!). Donn Davison is a sixteen-minute filmed segment with, yes, Donn Davison who talks about natural childbirth, c-sections and the birth of twins and warns that people do tend to pass out when this footage is screened. He then talks about his articles in Reader's Digest and his appearances on Johnny Carson before waxing and waning about juvenile delinquents, the importance of sex education, the boom of unwed mothers, the importance of good parenting and educating kids before it is too late, and then, eventually, the two books he has available on the subject. Michael And Helga is a four-minute film prologue that promotes two books available for purchase by wrapping it all up in how the book attempts to discuss sexuality honestly and how these books are neither outdated or expensive the way most sex education books are. Last but not least, Walter Hale spends four-minutes on camera delivering a ‘special message' about how after debuting nudie movies in this theater, the management has had requests for even more daring and revealing content. While they can't go with stronger filmed content, they do have available a set of books containing sensationally daring photographs of women in the nude!
Rounding out the extras on the disc are trailers for Mom And Dad, The Wrong Rut and Street Corner. Menus and chapter selection are also provided. The disc is accompanied by a double-sided insert card containing a short essay entitled Forbidden Fruit: An Introduction wherein Something Weird Video's Lisa Petrucci writes about how SWV came to acquire these vintage exploitation films.
Mom And Dad is very much a product of its time, it's melodramatic and overdone, but it absolutely deserves its place in exploitation film history. Kino Lorber has done an impressive job bringing this picture to Blu-ray. The elements for the transfer show their age but the presentation is a vast improvement over past editions and the extra features are plentiful and interesting. Overall, it's an impressive package and a fascinating document not just of the feature attraction but vintage sex hygiene films in general. Highly recommended!
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.