25 September 2012 | oldblackandwhite
Don't Believe Everything You Read In The Newspaper, Girls!
They Were So Young (aka: Violated, aka: Party Girls For Sale) is an exotic and entertaining late film noir (broadly speaking), set in Brazil, produced in Germany, and featuring second-tier American stars Scott Brady and Raymond Burr. Apparently American pictures were so popular abroad in the 1950's, a couple of Hollywood players at the top of the bill, even lesser lights like Brady and Burr) would ensure better box office both over there and over here. In the English-dubbed version it's obvious only the two American actors are actually speaking English, and were no doubt dubbed over in the original German. Not that you ever forget this is a German production! Most of the characters have Portuguese sounding names but look about as Brazilian as sauerkraut. Michael Jary's full-bodied score sounds like Wagner frolicking about South America. But it works for the best, as all the villains except for Burr are played by Germans such as Gert Forbe. And those Teutonic types -- let's face it, they're not good at anything if not good at sinister! A kinky middle-age dame with the mouth-full handle of Gisela Fackeldey plays a menacing madam in charge of the exploited models to which the title refers. If she had still been in the pink in the 1970's, she would have been the perfect cruel women's SS camp commandant in that shabby species of exploitation films.
This movie teaches two basic morals. Numer one, some guys are turned on by getting crowned on the head with a water decanter. You will have to watch the picture to discover how that one works. Number two is stated in the above summary. Watch out for newspaper ads that promise too much! That's how a covey of pretty and shapely young models are lured to Rio De Janeiro, supposedly to model high-class duds, but in reality to become high-class call girls. Nasty things happen to those unfortunate lasses who try to back out. Our heroine, very comely Johanna Matz, is more determined than most. She enlists the aid of good guy Brady, a mining engineer in Rio looking for a good time. Follows an action-filled, suspenseful and atmospheric adventure in jungle roads, rivers, and villas. Particularly atmospheric and exciting are the climactic scenes on board and around a broken-down tub of a river boat, which is actually a sleazy floating bordello.
Too much ink has been vainly spilled over whether this picture, or various others, qualifies as a film noir. A noir picture does not have to have starkly shadowed and obliquely angled cinematography, or a femme fa-tale, or a morally ambiguous protagonist, though all of these elements are frequently seen. A dark, seamy story will do. But then the more discerning cinema critics confess that "noir" is not actually a genre but more of a style or better yet a mood. It springs from the dark, doom-laden, uncertain, bitter-sweet, dream-like -- even nightmarish -- ambiance of the 1940's. In that decade almost every Hollywood picture produced reflects at least a touch of that mood, even the Westerns. It bleeds into the early 1950's, but it was fading by the time of They Were So Young. Though the term "film noir" was hardly even known to movie makers or audiences of the time, who knew these pictures simply a "melodramas" or "thrillers", it may well be that film-makers in Europe at least, such as They Were So Young's producer/director Kurt Neuman were self-consciously attempting to capture the mood.
They Were So Young captures enough of the noir mood and has enough of the traditional noir elements that it can't be said VCI Entertainment misrepresents the case including the picture in its nicely restored "Forgotten Noir Double Feature" DVD. Attractive lead players, stalwart villainy, atmospheric, suspenseful and entertaining. Better than many of the similar Hollywood efforts of the time, I regret to say.