The Strange Woman

Year 1946

Hedy Lamar as  Jenny Hager
George Sanders   as John Evered
Louis Hayward as Ephraim Poster
Gene Lockhart as Isaiah Poster
Hillary Brooke   as Meg Saladine
Ian Keith as Lincoln Partridge  
Director - Edgar G. Ulmer
Screenwriter - Herb Meadow

The movie has a femme fatale in it and there's murder afoot, but there's no mystery. So what was this movie doing in the 100 Mysteries pack? That's the real mystery here.

This is a chick flick along the lines of "Gone with the Wind" only not so epic or grand or colorful. It also takes place in Bangor (pronounced "bang-ah"), Maine beginning in 1824. Nevertheless it held my interest. Hedy Lamar ("That's 'Hedley'!") as Jenny Hager is attractive. Curious to see how strange she could get, I kept watching.

How strange, er, bad could she get? As a child, she nearly drowned playmate Ephraim Poster deliberately and then twisted the events to appear as though she saved his life. As a young woman, through deception she married the wealthiest man in town, Ephraim's father. Wanting only the old man's money, she seduced Ephraim and coerced him to murder his own father. At this point, between the coercion and the actual murder, she spotted John Evered (George Sanders) and decided that she really wanted him, too. It didn't matter that her best (only?) friend was in love with this man first. Then the son did murder his father and the wealthy widow gave him the air. Jenny eventually seduced John and they got married.

Talk about a chick flick! Here's a money grubbing harlot who gets everything she wants by seducing men. In today's society she'd be praised along with Marsha Clark (who bankrupted the city of L.A. District Attorney's office budget on a single case, lost the case in embarrassing fashion, flagrantly cheated on her husband, and subsequently won numerous "Woman of the Year" awards and became a hot ticket speaker for various women's groups.) It's sick, I tell ya! It's sick!

But in this movie, Jenny really does fall in love, has an epiphany, and gets her just deserts. The ephiphany comes while attending a revival hosted by traveling evangelist Lincoln Partridge (Ian Keith) who, in part three of his hellfire and brimstone sermon, describes "The Strange Woman". In the end pathological Jenny becomes someone who just can't seem to overcome her dark, destructive nature.

As a side theme, the movie is really down on alcohol. Jenny's father became a lush after her mother ran away. While drunk he used to beat her. When lumberjacks come down from hills they drink and go on a tear that nearly destroys Bangor. It becomes a passion of Jenny's to rid the world of alcohol since it's at the root of the world's ills.

The acting is pretty much top notch. George Sanders does an excellent job in his role as the leader of the lumberjack camp who easily transitions to a man capable of running a large company. Considering that he's English and soft spoken and articulate, it's a credit to his acting ability that he's believable as a New England lumberjack in the mid-1800s.

Hedy Lamar ("That's 'Hedley'!" or for something more obscure "Kirwood Derby"*) is like a female William Shatner, only much better looking. She overacts and has deliberate, prolonged pauses when she speaks. In fact, she's worse than Shatner in this respect.

Still, she's watchable and so is this movie. If you can get a better print than the thirty-center I watched, and you don't mind a lot (and I do mean a lot) of pretentious melodrama, a guy could watch this with a girl and not be too embarrassed to admit it.

It turns out that Edgar G. Ulmer also directed the At Least Once movie The Black Cat, another story of twisted souls.

*No, "Kirwood Derby" is not a reference to the restaurant scene in Pulp Fiction. Tarantino borrowed it from something else. Hint:It was a cartoon series.

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