Plot: Warner Archive’s Forbidden Hollywood Collection celebrates the wild movies of the pre-code era of the early 30s, which could push social limits and feature controversial topics that would later be off limits. This first volume of Forbidden Hollywood is home to three movies that highlight stories about women and sexuality, with three skilled, big name talents in the leads. Red-Headed Woman brings us Jean Harlow as a woman who uses her seductive charms to advance her social status, Waterloo Bridge finds Mae Clark unable to leave her past behind her and see herself as worthy of love, while Baby Face stars Barbara Stanwyck as a woman tired of being used by men, so she turns the tables and takes back the power.

You can read individual reviews for each movie below, but I found all three to be well worth a look. Red-Headed Woman and Baby Face were the stars, but Waterloo Bridge has a lot to offer as well, so this is an ace selection of pre-code pictures. Baby Face offers two versions of the movie, one the original theatrical release and the other a pre-release edition, restored by the Library of Congress with several minutes returned to the duration. The transfers on all three are solid, but show the usual, expected signs of the tolls of time. But most of the material is clear and quite clean, with good detail and stark contrast. A softer scene or washed out sequence can be seen at times, but overall, the movies looks fantastic here.

1. Red-Headed Woman–

2. Waterloo Bridge–

3. Baby Face–

Final Thoughts: I think this collection is a terrific introduction to pre-code cinema, as all three movies are bold in how they deal with female sexuality and boast remarkable performances from the leads. You can’t ask for much more than Stanwyck, Clarke, and Harlow all in superb efforts, as memorable and bold characters. Baby Face alone is worth the price of admission, but all three movies are must see titles for fans of pre-code cinema or classic movies in general. So if you’re new to pre-code movies, this is an excellent starting point and if you’re already a fan of these brash pictures, then you’ll want them all in your collection.

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