Monday, August 10, 2020

Blu-ray debut for Phil Goldstone and Frances Hyland's pre-code trailblazer, THE SIN OF NORA MORAN

You have to try to put yourself back in time close to 90 years in order, I think, to fully appreciate how unusual THE SIN OF NORA MORAN must have seemed to audiences of the time. Everything this odd little movie (it lasts but 65 minutes) does has now been done a thousand times over. But in 1933, the style, cinematography, editing and just about all else (aside from the somewhat soap-opera plotting) was quite new to cinema. As was (and actually still is) the tale's conclusion -- which I'll leave you to learn on your own. In any case, the film is certainly worth viewing, particularly for fans of old/classic cinema and/or its mildly famous star, Zita Johann (below, who also starred in the original Mummy movie from 1932).

The most iconic thing about the movie, actually, is its original poster -- the artwork and lettering of which is shown at top -- designed by the famous Alberto Vargas, creator of those hot-to-trot Vargas Girls for the purpose of getting most of the men aroused and most of the women envious or annoyed. Most ironically, the poster has absolutely nothing to do with the movie at hand. The luscious and ample body of that blond with long, curly hair looks nothing at all like the brunette and petite Ms Johann, or like anyone at all in the film, and there is no scene in this movie that remotely resembles what's shown here. But, hey, that's one red-hot momma whose submissive stance and scantily-clad, feel-me-up body is iconic, all right!

The Sin of Nora Moran
tells the tale of a young woman on death row who could but won't defend herself and so is certain to be electrocuted soon. Nora's story is slowly revealed to us via flashback (nothing unusual there) but also by using everything from fantasy and dreams to memories and various film techniques not only not seen so often at this time but used here sometimes near simultaneously so that we are placed more firmly than expected into the fraying mind of our heroine, as well as that of her love interest, a would-be governor played by Paul Cavanagh (below).

The new limited edition Blu-ray transfer is from an excellent 4K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative, and while there is but a single Bonus Feature on the new disc, it's a very interesting one: An appreciation of the film and Ms Johann and her career by producer and film historian Samuel M. Sherman, who was a big fan of both the film and Johann. In fact, he got to know the actress in later years and even used her in a movie he was making at the time. 

You can't quite call this film feminist, as far too many of the usual male attitudes toward women are present here. And if too much sentimentality overpowers the film's message of true morality and doing-the-right-thing-out-of-genuine-love, that message remains worthwhile and one we hear just about never anymore -- where politics, Presidents, or personal relationships are concerned.

From The Film Detective, with the DVD in Dolby Stereo and the Blu-ray in DTS, with an aspect ratio of 1:37 pillar boxed, this is by far the best overall transfer I've yet seen from this particular distributor. Both DVD and Blu-ray hit the street this past July 29 -- for purchase (and I hope somewhere for rental, too).

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