THEY WERE SO YOUNG. First released in Germany as Mannequins fur Rio (Corona Filmproduktion, 1954). Lippert Pictures, US, 1955. Scott Brady, Raymond Burr, Johanna Matz, Ingrid Stenn, Gisela Fackedely, Eduard Linkers, Gert Frobe. Screenplay by Felix Lutzkendort and Kurt Neumann. Suggested by Interpol files compiled by Jacques Compandez. Additional screenplay uncredited by Dalton Trumbo, Michael Wilson, and Ernest Blass. Directed by Kurt Neumann.

   Their hearts were high in the sky … They never knew their feet were in the dirt.

   Sometimes mistakenly identified as film noir, this West German and American co -production is pure exploitation with only the presence of American stars Scott Brady and Raymond Burr anywhere near actual noir.

   It opens with the discovery of a dead half-nude young woman on the beach in Rio de Janeiro, with a quick stop at the Brazilian police who announce this is a case for Bureau 19 of Interpol.

   That noted, and despite the film allegedly being based on Interpol files and one later mention of the International Police (there is not and never was such a thing and Interpol has no enforcement abilities much less having any agents in 1954 television and movies to the contrary — I’ll save my rant about the infamous and phony Interpol for the comments section if anyone doesn’t know their troubled history) that aspect of the film ends with this single reference.

   Very quickly this switches from an investigation by Interpol to a straight up story of innocent girls caught up in a white slavery ring.

   “The Desperate Drama of Lost Women,” as the trailer claims.

   Eve (Johanna Matz) and Connie (Ingrid Stenn) arrive in Rio in the company of M. Albert (Eduard Linkers) who has brought them to Rio to work as fashion models living and working at the Villa Berganza under the direction of Mdme. Lansowa (Gisele Fackedely), “You’ll meet a good many rich and cultured people… I suggest you let me choose your friends at first.”

   Among the rich and cultured people they meet is Jaime Coltos (Raymond Burr) a local tycoon and his American engineer Richard Lanning (Scott Brady) just back from six months in the jungle. Burr is attracted to Connie, and Brady, a little worse for drink, gets a water bottle broken over his head by Eve.

   Eve has caught on what Villa Bergandza is a front for and she and Connie leave the next day seeking help, but they have no papers and the police show little sympathy. Gaslighted by Albert and Mdme. Lansowa they find themselves back at the Villa Bergandza with no authorities they can turn to, not even their own Consulates.

   But Eve, out on an arranged date, remembers Lanning is at the hotel where she is taken and goes to him for help. He agrees after spying the men who followed Eve and plans to let her stay in his room while he seeks help, but an emergency phone call from Coltos forces him to return to the jungle and Coltos’s villa there.

   Rather than leave Eve he decides to take her with him and perhaps persuade Coltos, an influential man, to help her. I won’t offer any Spoilers here, but it you haven’t figured out the twist coming you haven’t paid attention to any movie of this type you have ever seen, much less ever seen a movie from this period with Raymond Burr in it.

   Brady plays the usual somewhat lunk-headed gauche American abroad common to this era. At least here his blundering is blundering, not portrayed as somehow an advantage. At best you can say his character is determined to help the girl however ineptly.

   Eve ends up prostituted on a riverboat where Connie has been sent run by the murderous Captain Lobos (Gert Frobe) used as a pleasure boat for the local workers and Lanning, by now falling for her, slips on board with a party of workers with an ally hoping to help Eve escape.

   Another twist more or less out of left field awaits them, but Interpol still has nothing to do with it.

   Running a short hour and twenty minutes this is a fairly tight, well done little melodrama that skirts film noir and exploitation without ever being exactly one or the other. However exploitative the trailer and campaign for the film, it never comes anywhere near living up to that promise. Despite a few scenes this was mostly shot in Hamburg.

   Some film enthusiasts may get all excited by the uncredited appearance of Dalton Trumbo and Michael Wilson’s names related to this, and there are a few decent bits of dialogue here and there that they might have contributed, but honestly you could never tell watching this such distinguished company worked on it. Neither the story nor the dialogue suggests anything special here. At most they might have punched up the script for the American dubbing.

   Brady is fairly charming here as a mostly one-note hero, exactly what is called for, but nothing more. Matz is attractive and innocent enough if a little hard to believe as quite this naive despite a back story out of Dickens and Little Nell. The villainy is acceptably smarmy and Ingrid Stenn actually halfway good as the doomed Connie.

   I do question if Connie is really a common name for Belgian girls, but then I lived in France not Belgium.

   The exploitative American title sounds like some sort of teen drama or soap opera which probably kept this from getting to any audience it might have had on initial release.

   It’s currently available on YouTube. Nothing special here, but better done than you might expect with the American stars lending a bit of weight to it. It’s worth killing an hour or so if you have nothing better to do which is actually fairly high praise for this kind of film.