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#104. The Sin of Nora Moran - Review

The Sin of Nora Moran film posterThe Sin of Nora Moran (1933) is an early American avant-garde melodrama that succeeds at experimentation, creating a bizarre and tragic experience that is as obsessed with style as its existential themes. The film tells the painfully tragic story of Nora Moran (Zita Johann), a young woman whose life has been filled with such misfortune and hurt that it is bitterly ironic she will be a martyr for true love. The movie’s nihilistic melody sings loudly throughout the picture, introducing the titular Moran mere moments before she will be put to death serves as a base for the film’s thematic goals. It within these early moments of the film that director Phil Goldstone and cinematographer Ira Morgan begin to play with both the camera and narrative structure. There is a scene early on in the film where Moran lays helplessly on her cot, staring wide-eyed into space, constructing her ill-fated life in her mind while she helplessly awaits her own death in prison. The camera creeps closer towards Moran’s face, meeting her haunting glare, desperately trying to find any hint of emotion behind the painful eyes of this doomed spirit. Suddenly the screen is washed over with a grayish tint, her eyes resembling those of someone trying to peer through a filthy screen door knowing danger lurks on the other side. The Sin of Nora Moran film posterThe film continues on a complex path of quasi-consciousness; playing with time and reality the filmmakers courageously employ flashbacks, dreams, hallucinations, and even conversations between the living and the dead, to effectively construct an uncanny existence that any fan of the The Twilight Zone (1959) can appreciate.

The Sin of Nora Moran is the quintessential B-picture all of the dark and twisted noirs of the 40’s wanted to be, invoking the same existential discontent that so many gritty American melodramas were obsessed with come mid-century. While Nora Moran seems to have been lost to history, its more famous brethren like Murder, My Sweet (1944) and The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) owe a lot to its surreal and gritty sensibilities. 

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Reader Comments (2)

Definitely add MADAM SATAN and DEVIL AND THE DEEP to your list if you like hysterical pre-code melodrama. I love NORA, though sadly the movie is more remembered for its racy poster than for its outrageous and bizarre content.

It certainly has some of my favorite "floating head" camera trickery.

March 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMr. Merlin

Thanks for the suggestions Mr. Merlin, I will get on watching those flicks as soon as I can! I really loved Nora Moran, so any thing similar is appreciated.

March 14, 2011 | Registered CommenterBrandon Roberts

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