Because Of Eve

Director: Howard Bretherton  
Wanda McKay, Joseph Crehan, John Parker

It should probably come as no surprise that I consider myself a twenty-first century person. You probably consider yourself one as well. When it comes to technology, I am among those who are in the front of the pack. I have in my apartment a microwave, as well as high speed Internet for my computer. When it comes to entertainment, I also have the latest technology when it comes to entertaining myself. I own a LED television, and attached to it is a Blu-Ray player. As for the particular entertainment I partake with the technology that I own, I have to admit that much of what I watch on my television - movies or television shows - is stuff that is brand new or fairly recently made. But since variety is the spice of life, I occasionally watch something that is much older in nature. But it has to be something that has an interesting aspect to it. I have to admit that when I scan the schedule for Turner Classic Movies every day, most of what's listed does not fit my tastes. Not long ago, I was looking at the TCM schedule, and an odd thought came into my head. What if I wasn't born when I was born, and instead I was born way back in the 1930s? Or even born a lot earlier than that date? Would the environment that I would have been born and raised in shaped my tastes in a way that would have me devouring the culture of that era? Take the music I would have listened to back then, for example. Would I have been jitterbugging in the malt shop to the Andrews Sisters' song "The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy"? And during the time when rock and roll unfolded during the 1950s, would I, if I was an adult at that time, thought that what I was listening to was utter garbage and downright depraved, like so many adults did at the time?

I strongly suspect that if I was born all those decades ago, the answers to all of those musical questions would be "yes". Unless I had a time machine and could have access to the music of the decades to come, I would have been drawn to the music that was popular way back then. The question that naturally comes up next, since this is a movie review web site, is what I would have though of movies playing at my local cinema while growing up all those decades ago. My first instinct is to say that I would have probably eaten up those movies way back then despite my turning up my nose at many of them today. But I have to wonder about that a little when it comes to certain genres of movies. I want to talk about certain exploitation movies that played more than fifty years ago. Exploitation movies that tacked certain taboo topics. One famous example is Reefer Madness, which demonized the marijuana narcotic. Then there was the notorious Mom And Dad, which dealt with premarital sex as well as unwed motherhood. I have seen a number of such movies as those, and I have to confess that in this day and age I find the majority of them to be really tame. Of course, a lot of that is due to the fact that I have seen so many harsher movies that these old exploitation movies in comparison seem quaint. But so many of them I suspect even when they were first released seemed tame to a number of audience members. For example, the only remotely controversial things found in the 1937 VD movie Damaged Goods are the mentioning of the words "prostitute" and "syphilis", as well as a shot of the syphilis disease though a microscope. No nudity or sex in sight, nor even the slightest mention of bad language. I am pretty confident many paying members of the audience felt ripped off by this tame treatment.

Because I find so many of these ancient exploitation movies to be tame, I haven't exactly been eager to review any of them before selecting Because Of Eve to be reviewed. You may be wondering what about this sixty plus year old exploitation movie got me interested in it. Well, years Because Of Eveearlier I saw a clip from it in the bad movie compilation It Came From Hollywood. The clip was so ridiculous and hilarious that it got me extremely interested in the entire movie. However, since It Came From Hollywood didn't identify the name of the movie it got the clip from, for years I was mystified just what movie the clip came from. But recently, quite by accident, I stumbled upon the movie while poking around a used DVD store. The back of the DVD box described the clip that had mystified and tickled me all those years ago, so I immediately bought the movie and brought it home to watch and review. Because Of Eve starts off pre-credits with an explanation of what it's about: "The story behind the STORY of LIFE," it starts by saying. "About A Year Ago, CRUSADE PRODUCTIONS set out to do something worthwhile in the field of sex education. THEY REALIZED that the thinking of the American people on the subject of sex was undergoing a gradual revolution. They saw the Kinsey report, the various school experiments, the innumerable magazine articles... all pointing to the need for better education on this vital question." If you ask me, the education that's needed would be for the people who placed all these mismatched fonts on the screen... but I digress.

Continuing, the movie states, "SO... to contribute to this need, they produced these three educational films: THE STORY OF V.D. with scenes taken inside health clinics, showing actual symptoms and treatments of these all-too-prevalent venereal diseases. THE STORY OF REPRODUCTION with animated drawings showing the marvellous female cycle and the fascinating process of conception and prenatal development of the human child. THE STORY OF BIRTH with actual step-by-step scenes showing the miracle of human birth, by both normal delivery and Caesarian section. INITIALLY, these films were intended for the exclusive use of high schools and colleges, and they are being so used today. The idea of combining them with a story to form a full-length feature picture came, not from the producers, but from the health doctors and teachers who helped them in their production work. These doctors and teachers felt that such vital facts should be made available not only to the school children, but to their mothers and fathers as well... in other words, to the whole family. This Is The Story behind the STORY OF LIFE a motion picture conceived, produced, and brought to you in the name of social progress, AS AN HONEST EFFORT at making our beloved America a cleaner, healthier, happier place in which to live." In other words, the inevitable sickening pictures of diseased sex organs we are about to see, added with the upcoming nauseating footage of babies being born is a patriotic and uplifting experience for the entire family. Who said that the family film wasn't around in the 1940s?

Next, we get a quotation from the Bible, and a couple of minutes of a pompous narrator quoting (not quite accurately) from the Genesis portion of the Good Book, stuff I'm not going into because it's not particularly funny and I'm in a hurry to get to that scene of the movie that tickled me so much years earlier. Eventually, the movie introduces us to a young couple consisting of Bob (John Parker) and Sally (Wanda McKay) Stephens. They have been married for a year, and they think that there is a baby on the way. At home, Bob is ecstatic: "Think of it - me, a real live father!" He is apparently thinking of the idea very hard, since the dish he is drying in his hands is promptly thrown into a padded chair. Shortly afterwards, the Stephens' physician, one Dr. West (Joseph Crehan, The Babe Ruth Story) drops by to tell the happy couple that it's a little too early to tell if a baby is indeed on the way. Despite this news, the lovebirds are very hopeful. Bob and Sally tell Dr. West that their happiness is due to his efforts over a year ago. Sally says, "Remember, doc, when Bob and I came trotting into your office just before we were going to get married? We couldn't wait to get those pre-marital physical examinations out of the way. What a time that was..." And as she smiles, the movie dissolves to a flashback, where most of the remainder of the movie is to take place.

Okay, it's here that I can finally tell you of the scene from the movie that amused me so much years ago. We have flashbacked to more than a year before that last scene. It takes place at Dr. West's office, and the engaged Bob and Sally have come in for the results of their pre-marital examinations. "[You are both] as solid as a new dollar!" Dr. West tells the madly in love couple. As the two smile at the news, Dr. West then says, "Sally, that first baby didn't hurt you a bit! You can have a dozen more if you want to!"

A look of horror comes on both the faces of Sally and Bob. But ol' Doc West isn't finished yet! Almost immediately after, he then tells Bob, "And Bob, you'll be pleased to know that there's no trace of your old V.D.! One hundred percent cured!"

Naturally, both Sally and Bob are further horrified. Bob is the first to try to comprehend the situation. He blurts out, "Sally, you never told me you were married before!"

Sally, however, is trying to understand things at her end first. "Doc, what did you call it? V.D.? You mean Bob has actually had one of those horrible diseases?" she asks Dr. West.

"Just a minute!" demands Bob. "One scandal at a time! When were you married before?"

"I wasn't," Sally says quietly.

"But the doctor said you had a baby," insists Bob, who is still somehow uncomprehending.

"That's right, I have had a baby!"

"You mean it was illegitimate?" gasps a shocked Bob.

Sally confirms it with just a few words, but instantly afterwards insists Bob explain what the doctor meant about his old V.D. Bob gets miffed, exclaiming, "If you must know, I have had it! But it's no worse than having an illegitimate child!"

This does not satisfy Sally in the least. With tears in her eyes, she exclaims, "I'd sooner marry a leper!"

"Little Miss Purity!" Bob lashes out. "Has herself a baby out of wedlock and then plays holier-than-thou! A fine attitude!"

Sally turns to Dr. West and says, "Thank you for letting me know this in time, Dr. West." Turning to Bob, she tells him, "And now I'm going out in the clean fresh air!", storming out of the office.

After Sally leaves, Bob turns to Dr. West and says, "Well, there went my happy wedding right out the door."

"I'm terribly sorry," Dr. West tells Bob in a passive voice. (Well, I'm sure that in real life the doctor would be sorry - he would have lost two sources of income!) But this is movie land, so Bob stays in West's office instead of storming out immediately after Sally.

Well, what you just read was the silly scene I saw so many years ago, a scene I still find ridiculous. But that's not to say that's there isn't more silliness to come. Let me go on. Dr. West goes on to explain that he thought Bob and Sally would have brought up the issues in their relationship before seeing him. After exchanging a few more words, Dr. West gets to the point: Just how did Bob get V.D.? Bob explains that the person to blame was his college friend Nicolas Wilde. No, Nicolas and Bob didn't have sex - that would be too taboo for an exploitation film of this period! Nicolas was a roommate of Bob's in college who one night brought over an infected women shortly before both men went off to fight the war in Europe. But Nicolas saved Bob's life in the Battle of the Bulge, getting killed in the process, so that makes up for a little infection - right?

Dr. West isn't satisfied with Bob's story. He wonders if Bob, even after his experience with V.D., knows enough about the topic to prevent it from happening again. Luckily, Dr. West has a film projector in his office that's already hooked up with the reel of film he wants to show Bob. The lights are dimmed, and we are treated for the next twelve minutes to that aforementioned short film THE STORY OF V.D. The film itself is indeed informative, telling us about both syphilis and gonorrhea in detail, and how at the time these diseases were prevalent in the United States (the film claims one out of every ten people at the time had one of these diseases.) However, the film is very tough to sit through at times because it shows us several examples of the diseases' symptoms, with infected body parts (including sex organs) shown in close-up and great detail. No doubt this short film helped stopped the spread of V.D., because anyone watching it would be turned off by the mere idea of sex.

After the short film comes to an end, we cut back to Dr. West and Bob. Dr. West then hears someone come into his reception room and checks it out. It's Sally. Although she's come back, she's still upset about Bob's past infection. Dr. West lectures her about her making too much of a fuss about Bob's reckless decisions as a youth and not thinking about hers. Dr. West then asks her about the man who made her pregnant years ago. Sally tells him, "He's dead... He was killed in action. He was in the infantry in Europe." (You don't think that...?) When Dr. West asks for his name, Sally tells him (you guessed it!), "Nicolas Wilde."

Talk about coincidence! Dr. West brings Sally into his office where Bob is waiting. Bob and Sally are still sore, and they bicker for a moment before Dr. West asks Sally to tell her story - though to not name the father of her child for the moment, no doubt because telling it now would end the movie much quicker. Sally then tells the story about how she and "Mr. X" were engaged, and when Mr. X got his draft notice they tried to cram everything in during that fateful night. (Well, she sure crammed something in, if you know what I mean.) A month later, with Mr. X away, Sally realized she was in trouble. Subsequently learning that Mr. X was killed in action, a despondent Sally walks to the docks, and the next thing we see is a newspaper with a gigantic headline: CO-ED TRIES SUICIDE. (Must have been a slow news day despite a world war happening.) We are told Sally did eventually have her baby, but it was born dead. Ah, the hilarity never stops.

Dr. West then tells Sally she can name the father of her baby to Bob, who was touched by Sally's story and now thinking her baby's father was a real lout. When the name of his former college roommate is named, he is stunned, though quickly regains his composure enough that with Dr. West's blessing he tells the story of how he got V.D. thanks to Nicolas. Nicolas, drunk from celebrating his last night as a civilian before going into the army, brought a girl over to the dorm room. A few seconds later we cut to the next morning with Nicolas' departure, so we don't know what happened with Bob and that girl the night before (DUH!) A week after, Bob finds himself in trouble, and first tries treating himself for his new disease, with no effect. A visit to a quack doctor just drains his bank account, but when Bob is soon after drafted, the army doctors find his problem. Instead of throwing him out, they send Bob to the hospital, where to his surprise his disease is cured, "in just a few days!" Bob is reunited with Nicolas when he's transferred to an army base in the east, but oddly Bob doesn't mention punching Nicolas' lights out or even yelling at him when they are reunited. Anyway, Bob goes on to say what we already know what happened when they got to Europe to fight the war.

After Bob finishes his story, he and Sally are both in a forgiving mood, and it seems the wedding will happen after all. But Dr. West is not finished. He feels that the past problems Bob and Sally got themselves into were due to ignorance. "What do you know about the facts of life?" he asks them. When they say they don't know that much (yes, at this point I find that hard to believe!), he heads to the projector. Without changing the film in the projector, he tells them that the second film he is about to show will have them never again picturing sex as something "wonderful, miraculous, almost divine." (Uh, I think the first film he showed did that.) Anyway, the projector starts, and we are treated to the short film The story of REPRODUCTION. For the next twelve minutes we are treated to an informative though mostly dry reporting on how babies are made. The most interesting thing about this short film is that while it shows some surprising full-frontal nudity, like other films of its ilk it somehow fails to explain just how sperm from the male gets into the woman's body. Someday I'll find the answer to that question.

After the film has ended, Bob and Sally look informed and impressed. Dr. West then tells the ready-to-be-married couple that they should get a book on marital relations, and read it on their honeymoon. Uh, wouldn't it be better if they read the book before they got married, to see if they are properly prepared for marriage and the responsibilities that lie ahead? Anyway, the movie fades to black a few seconds later, and an announcer informs us that we in the audience are about to see one Alexander Leeds. When this movie played in theaters, this was the time that someone playing Leeds stepped in front of the screen and pitched two booklets, Father & Son and Mother & Daughter, both of which were aimed at parents who wanted to teach their children the facts of life. On the Something Weird DVD, newly shot footage (starring legendary exploitation producer David F. Friedman) has been inserted at this point, recreating what one of these hard sells was like to an audience at the time. It's a nice (and amusing) touch.

After that, the movie cuts back to the story of Bob, Sally, and Dr. West. It moves back to the present day where we first saw these characters. Moving on a week, Bob and Sally have returned to Dr. West to get the results of the pregnancy test. There's good news from Dr. West - Sally is indeed pregnant. Now Dr. West has a third film to show the couple, and his projector is already loaded and ready to roll (Well, at least this time he had plenty of time to prepare.) The film is The story of BIRTH. For the next fourteen minutes, we are shown the two types of births, "normal" birth, and caesarian section. Both are quite different births, but they have one thing in common - they are extremely disgusting to watch, even thought the movie is in black and white. I am pretty confident that audiences in 1948 were even more sickened than I was. But Bob and Sally, after the film is over, seem enlightened and educated, and as they go out the door they promise that their upcoming baby will be properly educated in the facts of life.

As you can see from what I've written, much of Because Of Eve is a lot of fun to watch. The story of Bob and Sally contains a great deal of ridiculous material to audiences today, and I strongly suspect that much of its audience in 1948 found parts of it silly as well. However, the movie is marred somewhat by the inclusion of those three short films. The sober tone of each of these shorts is somewhat of a cold shower after chuckling so much between each of them. Also, as I made clear, there is some disgusting medical footage in these short films that's tough to sit through. Still, the movie is overall definitely above average in the genre of educational exploitation movies of its era. If you are curious about the genre and want to see one of these movies yourself, Because Of Eve is a pretty safe bet. Just don't see it with a loved one, because he or she may not even want to touch you for several days afterwards.

(Posted July 19, 2015)

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See also: Jabberwalk, Mondo Mod, The Secret Sex Lives Of Romeo And Juliet