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Five Branded Women

1960 | 4:3 | Black & White | Quality: Excellent

Vera Miles, Silvana Mangano, Jeanne Moreau, Barbara Bel Geddes, Carla Gravina

Richard Basehart

Van Heflin


Five Yugoslavian women have all been seduced and abandoned by one German sergeant played by Steve Forrest. All slept with him for various reasons, all are trying to survive the best way they can. After partisans capture Forrest with one of them, all five women are shorn of their hair as reminders of what fraternization with the enemy means. The five women so branded are Silvana Mangano, Jeanne Moreau, Vera Miles, Barbara Bed Geddes, and Carla Gravina. One of these women is pregnant by Forrest. The Germans banish the women because they remain walking symbols of partisan reprisals. Alone, scared, and wandering through the wilderness, the women stick together because all they have now is each other.... but the women quickly find their footing and set out for revenge. It's not long until a partisan band headed by Van Heflin sees the now-armed women deal with a Nazi patrol and they are accepted into the band. But they soon find out that war is a brutal business and the guerrillas they've signed on with are determined to make it the most brutal kind of war there is.

Martin Ritt who partnered with Paul Newman in such films as The Long Hot Summer, Hud, and Hombre did this rather unknown work that was critically well received back in the day, but remains sadly unknown to today's filmgoers. The mixed feelings that director Ritt leaves you with are intentional - the line between right & wrong in wartime is a total blur. When watching 5 Branded Women, especially if you are a woman, you wonder what you might do to survive. This is both an anti-war film and a film that shows you just what you might have to do to repel an invader. Van Heflin is the lead partisan, first hell-bent on punishing the women, then, possibly, falling in love with the strong-willed Mangano. Richard Basehart is a captured German soldier and Harry Guardino is one of Heflin's hot headed cohorts. Ritt's direction is fine and the script is really unflinching. There are no happy endings here - just the brutal realities of war laid bare. The cinematography is by the great Giuseppe Rotunno, who shot Visconti's ROCCO & HIS BROTHERS the same year.

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