A title that conjures up sordid images doesn’t disappoint. A b-programmer from Monogram co-produced by and starring the sublime Kay Fancis as a crime-boss in one of her last roles, Allotment Wives is really a late gangster flick. The organisers of the San Francisco’s Roxie Theatre coming noir series, I WAKE UP DREAMING: The Haunted World of the B Film Noir, have stretched the envelope by including this feature. Though others no doubt will pull out the tired arguments: the emasculating femme-noir threatening male dominance during the War, and the eroticisation of violence.
The story of a woman who uses her social status and ill-gotten wealth to front a bigamy racket where dames marry multiple GIs during WW2 to skim the allotment support paid by the Defense Dept to spouses of men on active duty, is predictable but well-made with a snappy script. Noir regular Paul Kelly as an army investigator is disappointingly wooden and his performance is underwhelming at best. Otto Kruger is fine as the lady boss’ right-hand man. The climax is brutal with Francis plugging a dame without qualm or remorse, but justice triumphs in the end. Francis’ flamboyant hats and her hair-do add a juicy camp quality to the goings-on.