Produced at Paramount at a time when the studio was floundering under financial hardship, The Story of Temple Drake is perhaps the most legendary film in the sordid history of the pre-code era. An adaptation of William Faulkner’s highly controversial 1931 novel Sanctuary directed by Paramount contract filmmaker Stephen Roberts, the film follows Temple Drake, a Southern belle who, for all her charms, revels in her ability to leave men wanting more. She becomes trapped in a lurid web of lust and sexual depravity after being captured by a gang led by the slimy Trigger (Jack LaRue)—and the film thus must grapple with the aftermath of violence and the physical and psychological impact on Temple. “The film retains to the end an ambivalent but compassionate view of Temple, and the swampy atmosphere created by Karl Struss’s gauzy, expressionist camerawork conveys the oppressive mental haze through which she must grope for clarity.”—Imogen Sara Smith.
Preserved by The Museum of Modern Art with support from Turner Classic Movies and The Celeste Bartos Fund for Film Preservation.