5/17/2019

The Sin of Nora Moran

Phil Goldstone, US, 1933, 65 min., b&w

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The Sin of Nora Moran is neither classic nor camp, but a unique mélange of both. Its standard pre-Code plot (victimized woman descends into a life of degradation) and extremely low budget were common to B-pictures of the period. The film’s promotional materials tend to exploit the salacious angle. But it’s the telling of the story that elevates Nora Moran into a class all its own. It accomplishes this through a series of flashbacks, flash-forwards and flashbacks-within-flashbacks so complex that the entire narrative structure quickly ceases to make sense, assuming a free-form, dream-like quality that enhances rather than detracts from it.

Contemporary reviews likened it to The Power and the Glory, due to its borrowing of that picture’s narrative devices. Although the Sturges-Howard collaboration clearly is the better film, it’s still the more traditional of the two for all its revolutionary technique. Certainly nothing like Nora Moran had ever come from Phil Goldstone, a Poverty Row producer since 1921 whose best-known effort remains The Vampire Bat (1933). Sources speculate that someone other than Goldstone, who took over from the original director, Howard Christy, was responsible. However the film happened, film buffs rejoice. Haunting, hallucinatory, artistic, exploitative—this may be the best B-film of the 1930s.

Preceded by:

Hearst Metrotone News, Vol. 4, No. 269 (1933)
Short newsreel.

Balloon Land (1935)
Short animation. Director: Ub Iwerks.

Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by The Packard Humanities Institute.