Test Tube Babies (1948)
Directed by W. Merle Connell
W. Merle Connell’s Test Tube Babies premiered in San Francisco on April 9, 1948. Then it went on a road show tour of the U.S., and if it happened to be banned in your state you could just drive over to the next state to watch it (see the newspaper ad below). Like most exploitation films, Test Tube Babies was reissued under a variety of titles over the years, including Sins of Love, Blessed Are They, and a longer, recut version called The Pill in 1967.
Also firmly in the exploitation tradition, Test Tube Babies is a train wreck of two very different films. One is a woodenly acted informational film about artificial insemination and the other is a woodenly acted drama about a less-than-perfectly-happy young married couple whose friends are all drunks and swingers.
That young couple are George and Cathy Bennett (William Thomason and Dorothy Duke), and the lack of children in their marriage after the eternity of 12 months is causing them great unhappiness. George isn’t happy that Cathy spends time with the sleazy gigolo Frank Grover (John Michael), and she isn’t happy with all of the wild parties they keep having. But without children, what’s there to do but host swinging make-out parties?
These wild parties consist of a hot record on the phonograph, plenty of drinks, women undressing after gin spills all over them, and men yelling things like “Show ’em how they dance in the burlesque houses!”
There’s a good amount of stripping and undressing in Test Tube Babies, but most of it is fairly discreet. The only actual nudity I spotted occurred during a cat fight that begins with the line “Why you cheap tramp!” and ends with the bleached blonde Mary Lou Reckow rolling around on the floor with another actress and losing her top.
After that fight, George and Cathy vow to never throw another party like THAT again. Cathy tells George they need a family. He agrees. This conversation occurs after the movie is already more than half over, and it’s the first time in Test Tube Babies that they talk about going to see an obstetrician or gynecologist (which they can’t pronounce).
The obstetrician, Dr. Wright, is played by legendary non-actor Timothy Farrell, who worked as a bailiff in the L.A. Sheriff’s Department while acting part time. Farrell is probably best remembered today as the narrator of Ed Wood’s Glen or Glenda (1953), in which he also appeared as the doctor. Unlike Thomason and Duke, Farrell is able to correctly pronounce “gynecologist,” but I did find it weird the way he kept saying “sperms.”
Test Tube Babies was produced and presented by George Weiss, who would go on to have a long career presenting Z-grade exploitation and sexploitation films dressed up as informational documentaries to circumvent Hollywood production codes. His films include timeless classics like W. Merle Connell’s The Devil’s Sleep (1949), Lillian Hunt’s Too Hot to Handle (1950), Ed Wood’s Glen or Glenda (1953), Robert C. Dertano’s Girl Gang (1954), Maurice H. Zouary’s Nudist Life (1961), Joseph P. Mawra’s Olga’s House of Shame and White Slaves of Chinatown (both 1964), and many, many more.
OMG, Adam, that trailer was a perfect scream. I could hardly believe my eyes and ears — and I literally laughed out loud at the part where the doctor is about to make a suggestion, the wife interrupts to say, “Why, doctor, you don’t think –” and the doctor is all, “Oh, no, not that — you misunderstand me!” BWAH! What?!? I have got to watch this movie. Loved your post — it made my night.
I’m glad I could give you a laugh. If you ever feel up to watching this — it’s less than an hour long — I link to the full movie on archive.org in the first paragraph … just click on the title of the film.
That bit with the obstetrician is a howler, but it’s not the only one. When George is waiting for Cathy to deliver their test tube baby, he’s waiting outside the delivery room, obviously. At some point, that same doctor comes out and assures him that nothing’s going to be happening in there for several hours, minimum. Then he asks him to pick him up a pack of cigarettes when he goes out.
I am not making that up.
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