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A rootless working class woman takes up with an abusive criminal.
Near the Pennsylvania coal mines, Wanda Goransky is staying with her sister, resentful brother-in-law and their several small children. Wanda, who has recently abandoned her husband and two children, has no money and so borrows from neighbors to attend her divorce hearing. At the court, she agrees to all her husband's charges and, stating that the children are better off with him, voices no objection to the divorce. She returns to the clothing factory where she worked a few days, and even after learning that almost her entire salary was deducted for "taxes," asks for more work. The owner, however, brusquely informs her that she works too slowly, and sends her away. Dejected, Wanda goes to a local bar, and after a traveling salesman buys her a beer, she goes with him to his motel. The next morning, he deserts her at an ice cream stand. After wandering the city streets for hours, she goes to a movie, where her money is stolen after she falls asleep. Later, Wanda enters a closed bar to use the restroom. Mr. Dennis, a robber whom Wanda mistakes for the bar owner, demands that she leave as she attempts to wash up. Stepping into the main room, she asks him for a towel and a drink, failing to notice the bar owner tied up on the floor. Dennis sees someone outside and, nervous about exiting alone, drags Wanda with him to the nearby diner, where he buys her dinner. Despite his silence, she accompanies him to his hotel and sleeps with him. Afterward, Wanda, who calls him "Mr. Dennis," asks if he wants to know her name, but he says no and refuses to answer any questions. Later, he instructs her to bring him some food, and after she leaves, looks at the pictures in her wallet of her husband and children. Dennis is infuriated when he sees Wanda on the street talking to a man and later, when she wanders the hallway calling his name, having forgotten their room number, he slaps her. In the morning, however, he brings her along as he steals a car, and as they drive, he demands that she read the newspaper story about the bar robbery. Although she can barely read, she realizes what Dennis has done and questions him. In response, he commands her to get out of the car, but when she quietly refuses, he allows her to stay. They drive to see his longtime accomplice, but the man, afraid of the risk, backs out of their planned bank robbery. On the road again, Dennis' migraine headaches plague him, but with Wanda at the wheel, he is finally able to sleep. Later, they rest in a field. As Dennis drinks, he grows more voluble, and suggests that she wear a hat to cover her lank hair. When she responds that she has no money, he states, "If you don't want anything you won't have anything, and if you don't have anything, you're as good as dead." As men nearby fly their model airplanes overhead, Dennis climbs onto the car roof to shout at them happily. Hours later, Wanda manages finally to rouse the sleeping Dennis and they drive to a store. After instructing her to buy a hat and dress, he steals from parked cars in the lot. Driving away, he throws her slacks and curlers out the window, declaring they makes her look "cheap." As they rifle through a pile of stolen clothes, Dennis asks Wanda about her husband, and she states that she was "no good" at being a wife or mother. They continue driving, and although he still refuses to answer her questions, he caresses her legs. Some time later, they reach Dennis' target, the Third National Bank. After checking out the interior, he goes to the nearby church where his father is attending services. His father tells Dennis that he is a "good boy" who only needs a job, but when Dennis tries to give him money, his father refuses it. Soon after, Dennis asks Wanda to pose as pregnant and be his accomplice. Just before the day of the robbery, she tries to back out, but he reassures her she must go through with the plan. Dennis rehearses with Wanda, who can barely keep track of his simple instructions. The next morning, after Wanda vomits out of fright, they reach the house of bank manager Anderson, where Dennis trains his gun on him. When Anderson fights back, Wanda grabs the gun and subdues him. As she ties up Anderson's teenaged daughters and wife, Dennis arms a bomb and promises that as long as they return with the money in one hour and fifteen minutes, he will dismantle the explosive and no one will be harmed. Dennis gets in the car with Anderson, with Wanda set to follow them and drive the getaway car. Before driving off, she and Dennis exchange a few tender words. On the way to the bank, Wanda makes an illegal u-turn and is stopped by the police. Forced to go on without her, Dennis reaches the bank and ties up the guard and staff, as Anderson opens the safe. Unknown to Dennis, however, the police have been alerted, and as he fills his bags with cash, the police surround the bank. Finally Wanda finds her way back to bank, but cannot enter, as it is blocked by policemen and a crowd of spectators. Standing in the mob, Wanda watches in horror as Dennis' body, shot down by the police, is borne away. Later, she sits at a bar in shock, listening to a television newscaster announcing that Dennis has died, the bomb was a dummy and the Andersons are all safe. After a soldier buys her drinks, Wanda leaves with him, but when he tries to have sex with her in his car, she attacks him and runs away through woods, collapsing in tears. She walks on to a roadhouse bar, where a kind woman takes pity on her and introduces her to a large, raucous group. Surrounded by celebratory strangers, Wanda sits in tortured isolation.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||GP||Premiere Info:||Venice Film Festival screening: 21 Aug 1970; New York opening: 28 Feb 1971; Los Angeles opening: 31 Mar 1971|
|Release Date:||1971||Production Date:||
A Film by Barbara Loden with Nicholas T. Proferes
|Color/B&W:||Color||Distributions Co:||Bardene International Films, Inc.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Foundation for Filmmakers|
|Duration(mins):||100-101 or 105||Country:||United States|
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User Ratings & Review
P D Phillips 2017-12-14
Boring. At least 45 minutes of film could have landed on the floor and nobody would have missed it. I just don't see 'masterpiece' at all....
Erik Eriksen 2015-10-08
Another in the long list of one person being the writer, director, lead...and is none of the above. Stiff, staid, stilted and tediously long....
This movie blew me away. I have never been so emotionally drawn into a film. The undercurrent of desperation, loneliness, and uncertainty provide a...