History and culture in a melodrama about heroic women on the comic-book page and real life.
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
Director: Angela Robinson (Herbie Fully Loaded)
Cast: Luke Evans (Beauty and the Beast), Rebecca Hall (The BFG)
Runtime: 1 hr 48 min
by John DeSando
Who would have thought Wonder Woman, whom we have this year glorified in a worthy film, has her roots in an American ménage a trois? Professor Marston and the Wonder Women almost chastely depicts Marston (Luke Evans), a psychology professor at Radcliffe in the late 1930’s and early ‘40’s; his brilliant wife, Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall); and Bella Heathcote (Olive Byrne), a comely student and niece of Margaret Sanger, the birth-control feminist.
Their research and the comic-book heroine get parallel inspiration from Marston’s fundamental DISC theory that all human behavior can be traced to a form of dominance, inducement, submission, or compliance. The take away from this unusual docudrama is that Wonder Woman for several years was steeped in violence and sadomasochism until puritanical forces overcame it, only for it to be resurrected with her super powers but, alas, no bondage, no homosexuality, no controversy.
Except for that skimpy bathing suit, to which apparently the male power structure gave a pass. Although Professor Marston’s comic-book gift to feminism can’t be overstated, the film spends much more time on the love triangle, its difficult reception in the burbs, and the surface pleasantries of seeing three lovely actors kissing.
Credit writer-director Angela Robinson for tastefully depicting this alternative life style without rancor or dramatic turns. Quietly out of it came the lie-detector machine and a comic book that shook the culture, mirroring the professor’s own beliefs that men should respect the power of women, whose power should be glorified rather than feared (take that, Harvey W).
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women combines the inherently interesting origin of the Wonder Woman myth and the groundbreaking assertion of three people fighting for their right to love as they like. You’ll leave the theater with history and a fuller appreciation of contemporary feminism’s roots. That’s just entertaining and illuminating cinema.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com