Thursday, February 28, 2019

Phil's Exploitation Cinema: THE WAGES OF SIN (1938) from Something Weird Video - February 14, 2019


Starring Constance Worth, Willy Castello, Blanche Mehaffey, Clara Kimball Young, Carleton Young, Paula Bromleigh
Cinematography by Harvey Gould
Edited by Robert Jahns
Produced by Willis Kent
Directed by Herman E. Webber
Originally released by Willis Kent Productions (as Real Life Dramas)
Released by Something Weird Video

Welcome everybody to a brand new installment series entitled Phil's Exploitation Cinema! In case you don't know the term, an exploitation film, "is a film that attempts to succeed financially by exploiting current trends, niche genres, or lurid content; are generally low-quality B-movies." Since the dawn of cinema, exploitation films have been part of the movie-going experience. Case in point, imagine if you will: The year is 1939. The two biggest films of the year GONE WITH THE WIND and THE WIZARD OF OZ are battling it out at their respective theater chains. But down the street, around the corner, and down an ally way there's an independently owned movie theater where they're showing a different kind of motion picture. One that offers something different, more adult, and more scandalous. The film in question is the exploitation classic THE WAGES OF SIN.

The film's official synopsis: The sole support of her worthless family, Marjorie Benton (Worth) works during the day in a sweat shop. But when Florence (Mehaffey), a co-worker, asks her to go on a blind date, Marjorie’s taken to a roadhouse where she gets her first taste of booze and drugs. Marjorie promptly gets shitfaced and attracts the attention of slimy Tony (Castello). With big plans for her future, Tony arranges to have Marjorie fired from her job, then asks her to move in with him, promising to marry her in the morning. Three months later, they’re still not married when Tony decides to pimp her out. By the time another three months pass, Marjorie’s a hard boiled hooker turning tricks at a local hotel under the “professional name” of Judy. Starting to “look seedy,” Tony finally ships her off to Fat Pearl’s whorehouse. All of which ends with Marjorie on trial for murder and a contest for the audience: “What will the verdict be? $1,000 in cash prizes will be given for the best answers. Mail your opinion in not over 300 words to Real Life Dramas, 4376 Sunset Drive, Hollywood, CA...”

Original Theatrical Poster (1938)
Australian born actress Constance Worth was originally brought over by RKO, but then was dropped her after her first two American features films (1937's CHINA PASSAGE being one of them)  failed at the boxoffice. She worked for about three years at Columbia while also appearing in poverty row films and B-westerns like BORROWED HERO (1941), CITY WITHOUT MEN (1943), and WHY GIRLS LEAVE HOME (1945). She even has an uncredited role in Alfred Hitchcock's 1941 film SUSPICION. Willy Castello was notorious for playing the "heavy" in many B-movies! Look for him playing almost the same character in other Willis Kent films like SMASHING THE VISE TRUST (1937), RACE SUICIDE (1938), and MAD YOUTH (1939). Actress Blanche Mehaffey started off as a dancer with the Ziegfeld Follies before appearing in Hollywood comedies, westerns and dramas. She starred opposite Charley Chase and Glenn Tryon in several short comedies for the Hal Roach Film Company from 1923 to 1929, before leaving to go study voice and languages for more than a year in New York City. She made her return in 1931 film THE SUNSET TRAIL starring opposite Bob Steele. She went on to appear in other B-movies and westerns like RIDER OF THE NORTH (1931), BORDER GUNS (1934), and THE SILENT CODE (1935). She would retire from the movie business after the completion of this movie. 

Producer Willis Kent is one of the most famous producers out of what was dubbed "The Forty Thieves," a group of directors and producers that operated outside the Hollywood Production Code during this time of cinema. Kent started off producing cheap, low budget B-movie westerns before churning out some of the most infamous exploitation films, such as THE PACE THAT KILLS, COCAINE FIENDS, and MAD YOUTH (all available from Something Weird Video), as well as SMASHING THE VISE TRUST, RACE SUICIDE, and his infamous film CONFESSIONS OF A VICE BARON. The reason why this was one of his infamous films was that it was mostly made up of scenes from earlier exploitation films with new footage of actor Willy Castello as a prisoner about to be executed who dictates the the story of his life of crime added on to the front and end of it! Overall, Kent produced 43 films from  1929 till 1958. He passed away in Los Angeles on at the age of 87.

Something Weird Video was founded in 1990 by Mike Vraney, a former concert promoter who worked at several theaters during his teenage years. Named after the Herschell Gordon Lewis film, his Seattle based company would specialize in, "in releasing a rich array of low-grade trashy out-of-the-mainstream independent fare on both VHS and DVD alike that runs the gamut from horror features to softcore flicks to vintage classroom scare items to TV commercials to hardcore X-rated smut to theatrical trailers to collections of nudie loops and burlesque clips." He would go on to release the film libraries of some of the greatest exploitation filmmakers of all time, including Lewis, David F. Friedman, Harry H. Novak, Joseph W. Sarno, Doris Wishman, William Grefé, Bethel Buckalew and Barry Mahon. Unfortunately, Vraney died from lung cancer on January 2, 2014. He was only 56 years old. His wife Lisa Petrucci now runs the company and continues the legacy of her late, beloved husband.

THE WAGES OF SIN is one of most famous, funny, cheesy, and ludicrous exploitation films of all time! It's a highly entertaining, wonderfully absurd and bonkers movie that diehard exploitation fans will love and new viewers will get an education on the dangers of drugs, vice, and sex!! If you have never seen an exploitation movie before, this is the perfect place to start!! It doesn't get any better than this!! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!!

THE WAGES OF SIN is available on DVD-R from Something Weird Video. To purchase a copy for yourself, please visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show! 

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