Wicked Woman

Screening on Film
Directed by Russell Rouse.
With Beverly Michaels, Richard Egan, Percy Helton.
US, 1953, 35mm, black & white, 77 min.
Print source: Park Circus

The role for which B-movie actress and cheesecake model Beverly Michaels will be forever remembered. Her movie is as lurid and low budget as Detour (Edgar G. Ulmer, 1945) and the closest thing to a companion piece for that Poverty Row paragon, but with one difference: the protagonist here is a woman, and in the hands of director and soon-to-be-husband Russell Rouse, Michaels is a woman who does bad things, but does them for understandable reasons. She lives in a world of flophouse creeps and leering drunks, and makes a break for freedom from all this patriarchal crap the only way she knows how—and we find ourselves pulling for her. She’s an amazing presence, the towering Michaels, who contrived for this el cheapo movie miracle a gliding, super-sensual gait not unlike the scudding of a just-surfaced submarine. With Cary Grant having already copyrighted the deep chin dimple, leading man Richard Egan ingeniously moved his own skin divot to a place of prominence right between the eyes, and the gambit paid off in a handsome career closer to the margins of mainstream movies and television, where he worked for decades. Long-divorced from Michaels, director Rouse closed out his career helming his gloriously rancid The Oscar (1966)! Wicked!

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