Plot: This second volume of Warner Archive’s Forbidden Hollywood Collection continues the exploration of pre-code cinema, collecting controversial films from the early 30s that have wild narratives and big name talent involved. Volume Two hosts five movies and for fans of strong female leads, this is a true treasure trove. All five films center on women who take charge and while things might not always work out, at least they’re bold enough to tempt the fates. A pair of Norma Shearer performances are present here with A Free Soul and her Best Actress turn in The Divorcee, while Joan Blondell leads an impressive lineup in the saucy Three on a Match. But the fun doesn’t end there, as we also have Ruth Chatterton in a radiant lead performance in Female, while Barbara Stanwyck sparkles in Night Nurse. The movies also feature such luminaries as Bette Davis, Clark Gable, Lionel Barrymore, and Ann Dvorak, not to mention some impressive behind the camera talents.

You can read full, dedicated reviews of each movie below, but once again, Warner Archive has collected a terrific assortment of pre-code cinema here. I’d have a hard time choosing a favorite, as each of these movies has a lot to offer and several are absolute classics. All five tackle interesting, bold topics such as female sexuality, alcoholism, criminal activities, relationship dysfunction, and more general moral and social issues, so none of these movies play it safe. In addition to the five movies, we have a feature length documentary Thou Shalt Not, which examines the pre-code cinema realm via film clips and interviews. You can also listen to audio commentaries on The Divorcee and Night Nurse, while trailers are also present for several of the movies. I found all five movies to be well treated here as well, with rock solid visual transfers that look worn, but cleaner and more detailed than you might expect.

1. The Divorcee–

2. A Free Soul–

3. Three on a Match–

4. Female–

5. Night Nurse–

Final Thoughts: This second volume is a goldmine for fans of classic cinema, with five bold, dynamic pre-code releases. An all star lineup of cinema legends from the strong and fearless female leads to the remarkable supporting cast, all given material with real bite to work with. These are fun, powerful, and controversial films, all given proper treatments for this collection. I think this release is an absolute steal, with five movies plus supplements for a more than reasonable price. For fans of pre-code cinema or classic movies in general, this one belongs in your collection.

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