Monday, August 31, 2015

Tomorrow's Children (1934)

During the 1930s and 40s, it seemed that virtually no topic was considered off-limits as fodder for exploitation filmmakers. This specimen, from 1934, deals with the subject of forced sterilization, certainly a hotly-debated issue at the time, when the eugenics movement in the US had gained astonishing support. The story is sensational stuff, involving a young woman who comes from a socially undesirable family, and is thus deemed unfit to reproduce and ordered by law to be sterilized.

Though predictably heavy-handed and didactic in its presentation, the film is nevertheless effective in its condemnation of compulsory sterilization, offering a sympathetic view toward the conditions of the different individuals forced to undergo the procedure. Of course, it also lives up to expectations as exploitation, combining elements of graphic, quasi-informative medical jargon (the doctor explaining the vasectomy process to a criminal), silly, slapstick comedy (Sterling Holloway accidentally imbibing a glass of castor oil) and ludicrous, high melodrama (the girl is saved in the end by the efforts of her fiance and a conscionable doctor, who are able to stop the procedure at the last minute after obtaining a tearful confession from the girl's mother that she was, in fact, adopted!). Otherwise, it's a pretty typical piece of '30s exploitation filmmaking, directed without any particular distinction by Crane Wilbur.

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