Blu-ray Review: The Story of Temple Drake | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Sunday, August 9th, 2020  

The Story of Temple Drake

Studio: The Criterion Collection

Dec 09, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

One of the last - and most salacious - films of the pre-Code era, The Story of Temple Drake wallowed in obscurity for decades following its release due to its torrid subject matter. Adapted from the novel Sanctuary by William Faulkner, the film follows its titular character - a flirty, hard-partying debutante - who finds herself descending into a morass of sexual violence and crime after a night out gone wrong.

Directed with dream-like Southern Gothic dread by Stephen Roberts, The Story of Temple Drake is notable for its then-graphic depictions of sexual assault and frank discussion of similar subject matter. The most notable sequence in the film finds Drake stranded in a backwoods speakeasy, dodging an increasingly grotesque cohort of drunken would-be rapists. Hurling herself through the deep shadows and crumbling architecture of a crumbling plantation manor, Miriam Hopkins gives her all in a full-bodied performance that combines with the film-making to bring the film closer to the horror genre than its ostensible categorization as cautionary melodrama. Roberts shoots the fateful encounter between Drake and snarling bootlegger Trigger - played by Jack LaRue - as a pair of straight-on close ups that Jonathan Demme would use to equally powerful affect sixty years later for the conversations between Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. The intimacy is striking, even for a pre-Code film, made even more disturbing by the context of the encounter itself.

Criterion’s new restoration of the film features several interviews with critics and historians contextualizing the historical significance of the film as well as its gender politics and themes regarding societal acceptance of female sexuality.



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