Film Society to highlight films directed by women

IMDB.com Mala Powers in “Outrage,” (1950), the first film in the New Ulm Film Society’s series of films by women directors. “Outrage” was directed by Ida Lupino.

NEW ULM — The New Ulm Film Society will kick off its new film series featuring movies directed by women. For the first film in the series the Film Society has dug up a low-budget classic from 1950 called “Outrage.”

The film starts at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 9 in the Library basement.

The film is about a young woman, Ann Walton, played by Mala Powers, who shortly after becoming engaged to her long time boyfriend is assaulted by a stranger. Ann in unable to cope with the trauma of the attack. She becomes convinced her friends, family and neighbors are gossiping about her. Unable to face the trauma she run away from her family. Ann tries to start over in a different community where no one knows her, but the trauma follows her.

“Outrage” was a shocking film in its time. It was only the second film to discussed rape since Hollywood began enforcing the Hayes Code, which was the precurser to the modern film rating system. As the title suggests this was an outrageous film to make in 1950, but in terms of the way society dealt with sexual assault this movie was ahead of its time. Now, 68 years later the film is still relevant in that discussion.

Even though Ann is the victim of a horrible crime, she is the only person being put on trial, both figuratively and literally. It was one of the rare films to point a finger at western culture’s habit of blaming women for being victims. The reason for the film’s sensitive treatment of women is due to in large part to the director. “Outrage” was directed and co-written by Ida Lupino, one of the first women to direct in Hollywood .

Lupino was born in London in 1918. She came from a family of entertainers and began writing plays at a young age and even touring with a theater group as a child.

By the 1930s she became a film actress playing the quintessential “bad girl” character. She continued to act through the 1940s, but Lupino often refused parts she thought were beneath her or insisted on script revisions. This led her to be suspended from productions, but while on suspension she would remain on studio sets watching and learning the directing process.

Along with her husband Collier Young she formed an independent company called The Filmmakers. At the time independent film companies were rare. Lupino became one of the first successful independent filmmakers, male or female.

By creating films outside of the studio system, Lupino was able to make stories with subject matter the big companies would never touch. The films she directed tackled the subject of out-of-wedlock pregnancy, bigamy and rape. Lupino intentionally gravitated toward social-message films throughout the 1950s.

The trade-off was most of her films were low budget and were labeled B-movie or exploitation films. Despite being relegated to directing low-budget projects Lupino flourished as a director.

In the 1960s she continued to act and direct, but had shifted to television. By the time she retired Lupino had directed over 100 episodes of various TV shows including “Have Gun-Will Travel,” “The Donna Reed Show,” “Gilligan’s Island” and the “Fugitive.” Lupino was also the only women to direct an episode of The Twilight Zone.

Today, Lupino is best remembered for paving the way for female directors in a time when few women were given the chance to lead.

Tuesday’s screening of “Outrage” will be the first in a series of women directed film. The New Ulm Film Society will present a different film on the second Tuesday of each month. Film Society members will give a brief presentation on the history of the film and director before the screening and facilitate a discussion after the movie.


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