9 March 2014 | bkoganbing
"We only have each other"
Martin Ritt who partnered with Paul Newman in such films as The Long Hot Summer, Hud, and Hombre did this rather unknown work that was critically well received back in the day, but remains fairly unknown to today's filmgoers. I remember well seeing 5 Branded Women in theater back in the day and never saw it again until very recently.
The women are Yugoslavs who have all been seduced and abandoned by one German sergeant played by Steve Forrest. All slept with him for various reasons, all are trying to survive the best way they can. After partisans capture Forrest with one of them, all of them are shorn of their hair as reminders of what fraternization with the enemy means. The five woman so branded are Silvana Mangano, Jeanne Moreau, Vera Miles, Barbara Bed Geddes, and Carla Gravina. Gravina is pregnant by Forrest. The Germans banish the women because they remain walking symbols of partisan reprisals. As for Forrest that son of the fatherland is shorn of something that doesn't grow back.
The women stick together because all they have now is each other. Not for long because when a partisan band headed by Van Heflin sees the now armed women deal with a Nazi patrol, they get accepted in the band. But their rules are pretty strict as they all find out.
War is a brutal business and guerrillas fighting occupiers make it the most brutal kind of war. The mixed feelings that director Ritt leaves you with, you are supposed to have. You watch 5 Branded Women and especially if you are a woman you wonder what you might do to survive.
5 Branded Women is both an anti-war film and a film that shows you just what you might have to do to repel an invader. Nice ensemble performances from the whole cast and a strong if mixed message is delivered.