Wicked Woman (1953)
Directed by Russell Rouse
Produced by Clarence Greene
Screenplay by Clarence Greene, Russell Rouse
Cinematography by Edward Fitzgerald
Edited by Chester W. Schaeffer
Music by Buddy Baker
Edward Small Productions
Distributed by United Artists
(1:27) (adapted from a Noirvember 2017 post)
If you like your film noir a little on the trashy side, you’re gonna love Wicked Woman. Its low-budget seediness makes itself known in the opening lounge-lizard tune sung by Herb Jeffries, which includes this immortal line:
“You know that what she’s doin’ is sure to cause your ruin…”
The “she” in question here is Billie Nash (Beverly Michaels), who hops off a Trailways bus and slaps down six bucks to stay in the Rooming House from Hell where all the tenants constantly yell at each other while the landlady screams “I run a respectable place!” Billie encounters more bad luck in the form of Charlie (Percy Helton), a weasel who lives across the hall who can’t stay away from her.
Things start looking up (Understand that “looking up” is a relative term in this joint…) for Billie when she lands a job as a waitress at a bar run by Dora (Evelyn Scott) and Matt Bannister (Richard Egan). Dora’s a lush and Matt and Billie immediately have eyes for each other and, well, if you’ve seen any film noir whatsoever, you know what happens next.
Wicked Woman is certainly low-budget fun, a 1950s sleaze-fest that demands you either take it or leave it on its own terms. Although it’s not a great film, I liked it and will henceforth consider it a guilty pleasure. Slumming they may be, but the actors are mostly up to the task. Let’s face it: Michaels just sort of slinks her way through the film the way a toddler innocently topples a Jenga tower. And it’s always fun to see the great Percy Helton doing his thing, which he does quite well here. As long as you go into the film with the understanding that you’re not watching Double Indemnity or The Postman Always Rings Twice, you’ll have a great time.
Side note: Russell Rouse is also responsible for D.O.A. (1949, writer), The Well (1951, writer and director), The Thief (1952, writer and director), New York Confidential (1955, writer and director), House of Numbers (1957, screenplay and director), and others. If somebody put out a box set with Wicked Woman and any combination of these films, I’d be on it quicker than Percy Helton would sprint over to Beverly MIchaels’s door.
Well, maybe not quite that fast…
Photos: Film Noir of the Week, Laura’s