Safe in Hell (1931)

Safe in Hell (1931), directed by William A. Wellman.

When a New Orleans prostitute encounters the man who ruined her life she leaves his body behind and flees to Tortuga, where there is little law and no extradition, just a collection of seedy, unreliable and dangerous men.

There is one good man in her life -- an officer of the merchant marines -- but their letters are intercepted by a villain. Put in a jam, she'd rather die than submit again.

Dorothy Mackaill is very good in this; I don't remember seeing her before, and recognize very few among the rest of the cast. The plot is contrived, the island men are cartoonishly vile, and the resolution unbelievable. Still, it is an entertaining 73 minutes.

I don't have the link but this was on a list of recommended pre-Code films which feature the women's point of view. I had never thought of that. Pre-Code suggests sex and violence not allowed after 1934, but other topics also lapsed for a few decades. Not until Douglas Sirk's "women's" pictures (All That Heaven Allows (1955), Imitation of Life (1959)) do we see more pictures about the woman's inner life, the effect that men have on her, rather than the reverse. (On second thought: that's overstated. We could come up with a list of good Code films with a woman at the center who is not there simply for the men).

Other points of interest:

Michael Curtiz was originally scheduled to direct, and Barbara Stanwyck was considered for the lead.

Available on DVD. Poor image.