Saturday, 30 November 2013

Swamp Women (1959)


Roger Corman made a lot of 'women criminals' films, probably because he recognised the allure of a 'bad girl' to the average male film-goer. Swamp Women (aka Swamp Diamonds or Cruel Swamp) is one of his earliest efforts in the genre. It tracks the efforts of the New Orleans police to recover a fortune in stolen diamonds. The only ones who know the location of said diamonds are the gang who stole them. The men of the gang are dead; executed for their crimes, but their girlfriends are doing time at the local jail.

And thus a policewoman is sent undercover as an inmate at the jail. Her job, to help the criminal trio break out, go with them to the diamonds, then signal the watching police to move in.

Naturally, the plan hits a few snags along the way, whether it be a handsome oil man who ends up as their prisoner, the swamp's ubiquitious alligators, or the women's own rivalries and tempers. Some of this feels a lot like padding (which is exactly what it is), to drag out the journey to the diamonds. I will give them some points, though: when the rivalries between the women turn physical, the fights (though not very well staged from a technical perspective) are fist-swinging western style brawls, not 'sexy cat fighting' in the slightest. It's a nice subversion of the usual exploitation tropes. Most of the hostility remains verbal, though: fight scenes are more difficult and time-consuming to shoot than dialogue, after all, and that means 'more expensive'. Corman always has his eye on the bottom line.

Over-reliance on dialogue is something of a weakness in the film: we more often see people talking about things happening than we actually see them happen, and it's not like the writing or the delivery is polished enough to make all the chitter-chatter compelling. The refreshingly punchy fight scenes are really the only thing out of the ordinary for this entry from the cheapie-treadmill.

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