Film Review: OUTRAGE (USA 1950) ***

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outrage.jpgA young woman who has just become engaged has her life completely shattered when she is raped while on her way home from work.

Director: Ida Lupino
Writers: Collier Young (written for the screen by), Malvin Wald (written for the screen by)
Stars: Mala Powers, Tod Andrews, Robert Clarke

 Though dated as the film may seem, OUTRAGE was controversial at the time of release being only the second film dealing with the subject of rape – thigh the word was never used and the rape implied and never spoken of in detail. The first film was JOHNNY BELINDA that earned Jane Wyman the Best Actress Oscar.

OUTRAGE deals with a single young lady, Ann (Mala Powers) about to be married. But when she is raped one night by a man with a scar on his neck, Anne leaves home, totally traumatized and unable to function properly in a social setting. She meets a sympathetic Rev. Bruce Ferguson (Tod Andrews) who helps her recover. At a party, she almost kills a man who make advances towards her, she imagining him to be her attacker.

Lupino’s film clearly has a strong feminine presence as observed in many scenes, the story and characters. Ann’s office is made up of a larger female than male staff. The males often perform more tedious tasks compared to the females, perhaps Lupino’s preferred take on an alternative universe. For example, Ann’s male colleague neighbour is given the arduous monotonous job of stamping a pile of pages, one after another non-stop. Ann’s father is a Geometry teacher, bogged down by a boring teaching job teaching what is widely well known as a boring subject – Mathematics, and down to an even more boring branch of it, Geometry. Ann’s mother is the more sympathetic one and shown to be the stronger of the two parents n terms of making in impact on Ann’s happiness.

Lupino, who co-wrote the script with two other writers is a simple enough story that traces the traumatic effects of a night assault on an innocent young woman, how her life is affected by it, and how she slowly but finally recovers with the help of kind human beings. No mention of the details of the assault are given, the nastiness just put aside, leaving the audience to imagine the worst, as observed by Ann’s after-attack behaviour.

Lupino builds up suspense and audience anticipation whenever she can. The scar of the coffee seller is shown on camera close-up early in the film, implying the man to be of questionable character. He is later revealed to be Ann’s attacker. Ann agrees to work late one night, which prompts the audience to fear for her.
Ann’s after assault behaviour is drastically different undergoing changes such as visions of her attacker, denial of her engagement and paranoia that everyone around her is looking at her and judging her. This is drastic behavioural change that almost results in Ann killing a man at a party who has made advances towards her. Lupino shows the aftermath of a sexual assault in all its fury and unpleasantness.

OUTRAGE ends with the attacker getting caught as informed casually to Anne, though nothing is shown of the incident.

OUTRAGE is an ok film, solid for its time, but a bit dated considering how films have progressed since with censorship now relaxed.

OUTRAGE will be screened on August 24th at the Bell Lightbox in its 35mm archive print as part of the TIFF Cinematheque Retrospective on Ida Lupino entitled INDEPENDENT WOMEN that runs from August 4, 2017. Watch for the Lupino article that will include capsule reviews of selected films from this retrospective.

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