Monday, 28 September 2015

Lorna (4½ Stars)

"As ye sow, so shall ye reap" (Galatians 6:7)

This is the fourth film in the Russ Meyer Collection, made in 1964, and it's a big change in style from his earlier films. His first three films were light-hearted comedies, but in this film there isn't a trace of humour. It's the first of the films referred to as Russ Meyer's Gothic Quartet, at the same time his most controversial and his most popular films. All four films are shot in black and white, and they're set in dilapidated poor towns. In the case of "Lorna", he chose Locke, California as the setting, a town with a population of less than 80.

Locke's main street in 2006.

The film takes place over the course of 24 hours. One night and one day. Jim and Lorna have been married for one year, but Lorna isn't happy. All the passion and romance has gone from their marriage. Jim doesn't even remember that it's their wedding anniversary.

While Jim is at work in the town's only business, the salt mine, Lorna goes for a swim in the lake. She is attacked by an escaped convict from the local prison. The convict attempts to rape her, but after a short struggle she submits to him, overwhelmed to be with a man who really wants her. (Some people criticise the film for its rape scene, but they didn't watch closely. There's no rape. Lorna has already consented to the act before it begins). Lorna takes the man back to her house for a meal and offers to run away with him. It's obvious to us, as viewers, that he's only using her, but she doesn't see it.

The film is a moral parable. It's a world of black and white. There are good men and there are sinners, there is no in-between. The preacher on the road warns us not to enter Locke, because we will get caught up. The greatest of all sins is adultery, and those who commit adultery will die.

Dead in the dirt.

Dead in the salt mine.

I'll refrain from making my own moral judgement on the film and its characters. I'll leave it up to Russ Meyer, who speaks through the mouth of the preacher. This was the first film in which he preached to the viewer, as he does in many of his other films.

This is the first of Russ Meyer's films in which there is real dialogue. The preacher returns at key points in the film to warn of God's impending judgement, but his monologues shouldn't be interpreted as narration. The characters themselves tell the story.

Locke is a harsh town. Men have to fight to survive. The thread that connects the four films in the Gothic Quartet is violence. Some men fight for good, some men fight for evil, but they all fight. In this film the women are the victims, but in the other three films we see that they too can be violent. I'll write about that when I get to them.

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