Captive Women (1952)

(aka 1000 Years from Now, 3000 A.D.)

This is a dauntingly unavailable film, perhaps the rarest of the films in the early
Fifties SF boom.  Naturally, my expectations for it were quite low.

It has the dubious distinction of being the first of the long series of films featuring primitive societies developing after a nuclear Armageddon, a full six years before Robert Vaughn was a Teenage Cave Man – and the equally dubious distinction of having Jack Pollexfen (the writer and producer of The Man from Planet X) as its writer/producer.

But it is obviously a far more expensive production than his earlier film, with lots of matte paintings of the devastated ruins of Manhattan and some reasonably interesting sets.

Like One Million B.C. a dozen years earlier, we get a story about warring tribes and love crossing tribal barriers (it’s almost an afterthought, but it is there).  There are the Norms who live in the ruined subways; the Mutates, who live across the river and occasionally raid them for normal women with whom they hope to produce healthy children and end the curse of their mutations; and the Upriver tribe, who are savage, power-hungry bandits.

The most curious part about this is the deeply Christian theme:  the Norms have rejected God because of the War and have started worshiping the Devil, while the Mutates have held onto “true religion” and still worship God, and quote from the Gospels.  While the main theme is a very familiar one – about the need for Man to set aside his prejudices and find peace – it is seen from this Christian perspective, and it is interesting to compare the two weddings portrayed for the obvious theological differences.

However, just to be clear, the Norms, while they do live in the abandoned subways of New York City, do not worship the devil in the form of the Omega bomb, nor do they have mental powers.  And the Upriver tribe aren’t Apes.

But it’s hard to ignore the similarities, once you notice them.

However, many people will find the claims that RKO’s studio head, Howard Hughes, slapped the title  “Captive Women” on the film far more interesting.  One suspects he was trying for a touch of sensationalism, with hints of women in prison – but at the cost of hiding its SF identity (and, incidentally, making it much harder to look for the film online, thanks to all the links to porno films).

If you accept it for what it is (a low budget offering with a few interesting elements), then it is moderately amusing – and, thankfully, as it is only a little over an hour long, relatively painless.  Yes, they made many far better SF films during the Fifties.

But, then, you’ve seen them all.

(Movie available here)

(Former member of Mark’s Wish List)

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