Sunday, 20 May 2012

Because of Eve

We begin with Bob and Sally, who are engaged to be married, going to their doctor. He reveals two shocking facts: Bob was previously treated for VD. Sally had previously been pregnant. These revelations lead to accusations and recriminations from the couple. Fortunately the doctor is able to make them see sense through showing two educational newsreels.

Bob’s is about syphilis and gonorrhoea, identifying the symptoms of the diseases and their consequences if left unchecked. Meaning we get some documentary shots of diseased genitals, infants born with congenital syphilis and the like. Interestingly this footage is intercut with flashbacks to how Bob became infected, via a prostitute that his friend brought back to their lodgings prior to his leaving for the army.

Sally’s is somewhat tamer and places a greater emphasis upon her own back story: She was with a guy who unwittingly impregnated her before he also leaving for the army, where he was killed in combat.

The surprise coincidence is, of course, that the third party in both narratives is the same person, leading to the couple’s reconciliation.

Following this, which takes around a third of the running time, the subsequent narrative splits into three. First there is more documentary material explaining pregnancy. Then there is a newly recorded colour segment in which David Friedman recites the speech that internationally renowned expert ‘Mr Alexander Leeds’ would give, extolling the audience to buy the ‘invaluable’ yet priced at $1 volumes ‘Father and Son’ and ‘Mother and Daughter’. Friedman performed this task in real life while working with established exploitationeers of the time.

Finally there is birth of a baby footage, both normal and caesarean.

Throughout there’s an emphasis upon voice-over rather than synchronised sound. This was obviously due to economics, as also evinced by the straightforward, no-nonsense approach taken by the filmmakers.

Away from its shockumentary value Because of Eve is worth looking at for what it inadvertently says about US society at the time: In addressing where to get treatment for VD two alternatives are identified: The regular doctor, if one can afford this, or a public health clinic. There is no commentary or critique on this dichotomy. In a similar manner the discussion of illegitimacy seems to endorse carrying the foetus to term and then having the infant adopted, largely avoiding discussion of contraception and abortion. This was perhaps why the Catholic Legion of Decency did not condemn the film, as might have been expected.

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