There seems to be a great deal of pre-release confusion concerning what will actually be included on this upcoming set, and why. In the interest of sorting things out, I should first point out that although this is the first "Forbidden Hollywood" collection to be released by Warner Home Video on DVD, the franchise itself is not new. There were previously two "Forbidden Hollywood" boxed sets and a number of double features released on LaserDisc back in the 1990's. Additionally, quite a few "Forbidden Hollywood" titles were also offered on VHS cassette. From the git-go, "Forbidden Hollywood" titles were only culled from that cache of movies that premiered during the few short years after the introduction of "talkies" and the imposition of the Hays Production Code in 1934.
During this time frame, roughly 1929 to mid-1934, Hollywood studio product became increasingly concerned with subject matter that would later be condemned as taboo after the Code came into effect; these so-called "pre-Code talkies" were filled with characters who indulged in premarital sex, extramarital affairs, and even gay and lesbian liaisons. Films touched on hot-button topics such as rape, abortion, feminism, having children out-of-wedlock, drug abuse, and other social ills. And mind you, these things weren't just delicately hinted at in screenplays ... they frequently were shown on-screen and discussed quite frankly. After the Hays Code was adopted by the motion picture industry as a self-censorship tool, this group of films was deemed unacceptable for future distribution and exhibition without judicious editing to trim out now-objectionable material, and so they became, literally, "Forbidden Hollywood" product.
This new two-disc DVD set will feature three titles, but four films, two of them extremely rare. The first disc will include James Whale's 1931 "Waterloo Bridge", a film once thought "lost" and for the last 20 years only screened at film retrospectives (and apparently once or twice on TCM several years ago). The 1940 remake starring Vivien Leigh, though a wonderful and deservedly beloved film, will not be included here since it is not from the pre-Code era, and was never suppressed as part of the "Forbidden Hollywood" catalogue. Instead, the second film on this first disc will be the racy 1932 Jean Harlow vehicle, "Red-Headed Woman", which pushed the envelope back in the day for its bold depiction of a sexually free secretary who sets her sights on her married boss.
The second disc will include two versions of a single film, the 1933 scorcher "Baby Face", starring Barbara Stanwyck as a blonde bombshell who - after being pimped out by her father in her own hometown - moves to New York and sleeps her way up the corporate ladder to the very top. Many film historians point to "Baby Face" as the single film most responsible for the introduction of the Hays Code, the one that ushered in an era of censorship that was to last for more than 30 years. Intriguingly, the version that so shocked the public was actually an edited version of the original cut, which then disappeared for over 70 years ... until a complete print was found, restored, and finally premiered on the revival circuit in early 2006. That long-awaited, long-sought original version will be included on this set, as will be the edited version that managed to cause such an uproar when it played theatres in 1933.
And there you have it, the official contents of the "Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Volume One", enough to have a large number of pre-Code devotees jumping for joy at the chance to finally see (and own!) some seldom-displayed jewels. Let's just all hope that Volumes Two, Three, and so on are quick to follow!