Bite Size: Violated (1953)

While the title and promo materials suggest an early roughie, 1953’s Violated is a bit of an exquisite corpse, making gestures toward both the arthouse and the grindhouse in its barely feature length run time.

Jan C. Verbig (William Holland, also the film’s producer) is a seemingly mild mannered glamour photographer. With a vague accent and name like a bad Scrabble hand, his courtly manner and sharp eye make him a fairly popular promo shot producer for the local actresses, models and dancers. Yet, when night falls, he finds himself stalking those same beauties.

Verbig’s particular brand of the death of 1000 (off screen) cuts involves not just slashing the women’s faces, but fetishistically shearing off the hair of his victims. Rejected by mercenary burlesque star Lili Demar (real life burlesque queen Lili Dawn), his urges to kill become even more difficult to control. As the cops close in on cracking the case, he sets his obsessive sights on Susan Grant (Vicki Howard), an innocent young ingenue, as his next target.

The Greenwich Village of the early 50s was both beatnik and beat down, simultaneously trendily transgressive and seedy enough for artistic types to still be able to afford the rent. The location certainly helps make a virtue out of Violated‘s various visual concessions to budgetary necessity. The best big bankroll studio pros couldn’t have classed up any of the joints used as filming locations, so the odd jerky editing and the run down quality of the sets aren’t nearly as jarring as they might otherwise be. A sordid little story like this feels like it belongs in a visual world full of threadbare couches and cracked pipes.

The film’s best moments are when it fully leans into the gutter noir beats of its plot, with a suggestive, somewhat sexually charged edge. The first victim discovers she’s doomed when her manicured nails play sensually over the fabric of a sport coat, only to discover a sharp pair of scissors in the pocket that will seal her fate. There are some character filled close ups of the exhausted, deeply lined faces of the cops and the bored usual suspects they round up. As Tony Mottola’s minimalist jazzy score drifts over the soundtrack, Verbig wanders the New York night, and Violated almost hits on the particular brand of loneliness you can only feel when in the middle of a crowd.

These quieter moments don’t last, and mixed into the proceedings are the sort of classical exploitation tropes that are as loud as a carny lemonade barker on a particularly hot day in July. There’s an expositional psychologist that does little more than provide the usual veneer of educational respectability for taboo discussion of mental illness and sexual perversion. The burlesque subplot allows for both some scandalous (for the era) flashes of skin and a random catfight backstage. Lili Dawn delivers her lines like a cut rate Diamond Lil. By the time sodium pentothal gets involved, the slight promise of the film’s first third is wasted, and not even a comparatively well done ambiguous ending can quite put all of the tonal shifts back together again.

For the majority of both cast and crew, Violated was both the first and the last film they ever worked on. Thankfully, writer/producer William Mishkin realized that the film’s utter flop at the box office was a strong indicator that cinematic nuance was not his particular strong suit.

Leaning into the lurid, Mishkin became a producer and distributor of both sexploitation and horror fare over the next two decades. In addition to successful recuts/retitles of European sex films, he produced the Lee Frost exploitation oddity The Man With Two Heads, and the best known work of misanthropic microbudget madman Andy Milligan.









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