The Flesh Merchant (also released under the title The Wild and the Wicked) is a 1956 exploitation flick that tries desperately hard to be lurid and shocking, but without going so far as to be actually lurid and shocking. It wants to be bad, but it doesn’t quite make it.
The ingredients are certainly there. A young woman from a small town arrives in the big city, looking for excitement. She looks up her big sister, who’s been in the city for a while. Big sister advises her to get straight back on the bus, or she’ll end up like her. Big sister lives a nightmare existence of luxury apartments, fancy clothes and lots of money, but she’d gladly give all that up to go back to her home town and marry a decent guy and raise children. Well, she doesn’t actually plan on doing that, but she would if only wicked men would stop providing her with luxury apartments, fancy clothes and lots of money.
Little sister promises to go back home, but she doesn’t. She gets a job, modelling for “art classes” - and of course, as we all know, that’s the first step on the road to degradation and ruin. Pretty soon she’s mixed up in a white slavery racket, and (shameless hussy that she is) she’s accepting expensive gifts from the rich men who hang out at The Colony. All sorts of debaucheries are practised at The Colony. Dancing. Mixed bathing (with the women wearing nothing but bathing costumes). And “photography” - real hardcore stuff, with the girls wearing nothing but bathing costumes.
Things get complicated when it turns out both sisters are working for the same white slavery ring! Can big sister do something in time, to save her kid sister from certain ruin?
The first half of the movie is quite entertaining, in a very campy sort of way, although it loses steam a little in the second half. But since it only runs for about an hour it doesn’t really have the chance to wear out its welcome. The obligatory moralising speeches are even more clumsy than usual, but that adds to the fun in this type of movie. The acting is cringe-inducing, and the dialogue is of the same standard, Citizen Kane it ain’t, but if you find this type of thing amusing (and I do) you’ll get a giggle or two out of it.
It’s another of the movies included in the Girls Gone Bad: The Delinquent Dames Collection boxed set.