Test Tube Babies (1948) (NTSC)
|Year Of Production||1948|
|Running Time||52:59 (Case: 70)|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||W. Merle Connell|
Mary Lou Reckow
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 mono (1536Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||480i (NTSC)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.37:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Under the guise of educating the public about the perils of sexual promiscuity, such as sexually transmitted diseases, unmarried mothers, prostitution and homosexuality, filmmakers from the 30s to the 50s sought to get away with raising otherwise forbidden topics in a titillating way, “sexploitation”, as long as there was a message and moral at the end. Gryphon have released a 6 film, 3 DVD collection entitled Horny – Sexplotation Films from the 30’s to the 50’s, which is a fascinating look at how sexual topics were portrayed in films during those three decades.
In 1948 Test Tube Babies raised the issue of artificial insemination at a time when it was considered unnatural and scandalous. The advertising for the film included the tags “witness the unnatural” and “fast times left them sterile” and the film was directed by M. Merle Connell, whose credits included The Wild and Wicked (1956) (also included in this box set), Untamed Women (1952) and Not Tonight Henry (1960), one of the earliest colour near nudie films which suggests that Test Tube Babies could be an expose of wild living and sexual promiscuity. What we get, however, is an educational film that extols the safety of artificial insemination and it’s important role in saving marriages, plus an almost unrelated story that is an excuse to show some female flesh.
Test Tube Babies commences with a couple of static text screens praising those medical pioneers who, in the face of man-made prejudices performed miracles, even altering the course of nature itself. It is stated that a child born through artificial insemination is free from all taint of heredity and “astonishing as it may sound” the baby even resembles the parents. Then a text crawl up the screen basically states that “motherhood is the only link necessary to sustain their love”. After this introduction we are introduced to a young couple in a montage of scenes. Cathy (Dorothy Duke) and George (William Thomason) are very much in love and get married. A year later Cathy is disenchanted with the hours George is working and wants a baby, and both are critical of the party lifestyle of their unmarried friend Frank (John Michael). After a party in their house gets a bit rough, Cathy and George decide they need a baby to save their relationship and they go to a doctor to try to find out why they have been unable to conceive. It turns out that George is sterile and after the doctor, at great length, explains the whys and wherefores of artificial insemination, they go ahead and Cathy has babies. The end.
Test Tube Babies may provide important information about artificial insemination and counter 1948 prejudices, but it is a poor piece of filmmaking. Despite the scandalous suggestion that fast living left them sterile, in the case of George this is just not true; the film is quite clear that he is as clean living and untainted by scandal as anyone could be, and that he is sterile through no fault of his own. The sub-plot with Frank’s playboy ways and the party (although sub-plot is still putting it too high) is a different film entirely that disappears as soon as Cathy and George consult the doctor for the first time. Indeed, the party is just an excuse to show some female flesh, including a strip tease and a cat fight between two women over Frank that results in a lot of leg and panties being shown during the tussle. Indeed, in various parts of the film there is a bit of female body on show in various stages of undress, including a quick flash of female nudity. All this belongs in another film, and I suppose their inclusion here, and the scandalous taglines, are to get the punters into the theatre so that the message about A.I. can be delivered! It would be interesting to know if the film was funded in any way by the Artificial Insemination Association of America (if that body exists)! At the end this message appears on screen: “We hope this story has convinced you that a fruitless marriage, caused by the lack of children, can be saved”. Enough said.
Test Tube Babies is included in the 6 film, 3 DVD collection Horny – Sexplotation Films from the 30’s to the 50’s, a box set from Gryphon. The films are: Sex Madness (1938) and The Wild and Wicked (1956) on disc 1 with the additional short film Boys Beware (1961), Damaged Lives (1933) and Gambling with Souls (1936) plus the short film How Much Affection (1957) on disc 2 and Test Tube Babies (1948) and Child Bride (1938) with the short film What Makes a Good Party (1950) on disc 3.
Test Tube Babies is presented in a ratio of 1.33:1, and is not 16x9 enhanced. The original ratio was 1.37:1.
This is a very soft print, with detail very much lacking. Faces, except in close up, are indistinct and at times people almost disappear; pause at 4:42 and try to see George in the shadow of the porch. Blacks are various shades of gray and, not surprisingly, shadow detail is non-existent. Contrast and brightness varied quite considerably, there is macro blocking and missing frames. The blinds at 35:51 jump all over the place, for example. There are also numerous scratches throughout the print, and both positive and negative artefacts, and for the last 15 minutes or so a large and persistent black mark appeared in the centre of the frame. The Mill Creek Logo appears in the bottom right hand of the frame at 5:54, 18:48, 31:00 and 45:24.
There are no subtitles.
The summary? This is a 60 year old unrestored print, and it looks it. All the prints in this box set have issues, but this is probably worse than the films 10 years older. Nevertheless, note that the scores given have been adjusted, as it is not valid to compare this print with those of modern films.
Audio is an English Linear PCM track at 1536 Kbps. It comes with a persistent hiss, a few drop outs, crackles and pops and is quite scratchy. Dialogue is sometimes unclear, effects are dull and tinny. There is no surround or sub woofer use.
The score is not credited. It seems to use stock music sparingly.
There were occasional lip synchronization issues but nothing too distracting.
|Surround Channel Use|
There are no extras as such, but on the same disc as Test Tube Babies and Child Bride is the short film (10:32) What Makes a Good Party (1950). This is an instructional film produced with the collaboration of the Head, Homemaking Education Department, Mississippi State College, and it really shows an innocent time of well dressed boys and girls, party games and not a hint of alcohol! The key apparently to a good party is planning. Black and white, with numerous small artefacts and obvious analogue tape origins, a slight hiss on the audio and some lip sync issues.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
I cannot find a record on sales sites of Test Tube Babies being available in other regions.
I cannot find any equivalent of the Horny box set package in any other region.
Test Tube Babies may provide important information and counter 1948 prejudices about artificial insemination, but it is a poor piece of filmmaking. The sub-plot is a different film entirely and seems just an excuse to show some female flesh.
The video and audio are poor, worse than some films in this box set that are over 10 years older.
Test Tube Babies is included in the 6 film, 3 DVD collection Horny, a box set of sexploitation tales from the 1930s to 1950s from Gryphon for a RRP of $19.95. The films taken together are a fascinating window on how sexual topics were portrayed in films during those three decades.
|DVD||Sony BDP-S350, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||NAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Speakers||Studio Acoustics 5.1|