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Film / Five Branded Women

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Five Branded Women is a 1960 American-Italian war film directed by Martin Ritt, starring Silviana Mangano, Vera Miles, Barbara Bel Geddes, Jeanne Moreau, and Carla Gravina as the titular quintet. These days it's mostly remembered for being the reason why Vera Miles had to wear a wig while appearing in Psycho.

The film follows five women from a Yugoslavian village during World War II — Jovanka (Mangano), Ljuba (Moreau), Daniza (Miles), Marja (Bel Geddes), and Mira (Gravina) — all of whom slept with the same German soldier. As punishment, the villagers shave the women's heads and exile them from the village. The five band together and eventually join the partisans.

This film provides examples of:

  • Action Mom: Mira, who takes up the action while she's pregnant.
  • Adrenaline Makeover: The head-shaving is later followed by all five women becoming Action Girls.
  • The Baby Trap: Marja only slept with the German because she wanted a baby.
  • Birth-Death Juxtaposition: Mira's baby being born coincides with the death of their German prisoner. It's justified since he uses the birth as a distraction to escape.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: Jovanka stays behind with Reinhardt, knowing fully well that the enemy is approaching and they'll probably die soon. Their only hope is buying the others enough time to get away.
  • The Casanova: The German soldier. Also one of the partisans.
  • Chekhov's Gun: An immediate example. Jovanka takes a pistol off a dead soldier and a few minutes later uses it to kill a pair of soldiers who try to rape her and Ljuba.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The man who cuts Jovanka's hair at the start turns out to be the leader of the partisans.
  • Debate and Switch: Mira and Marja worry about what Mira's baby will be like when it's half-German. Their prisoner says "what if it's a good German" and the women icily reply "how can you tell which is which when they invade your country?" and that's all that's said.
  • Driven to Suicide: Daniza slits her wrist early on after everything that's happened, but the others convince her to keep going.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: The women become such when they're forced to fend for each other.
  • Hairstyle Malfunction: Not a wig but the scarf Jovanka used to cover her baldness gets pulled off when a partisan tries to rape her. Seeing this he laughs and runs off.
  • I Have No Son!: Ljuba's brother says he didn't stop them from cutting her hair because he agreed with them and Jovanka's mother only gives her a scarf for her head before sending her away from the village.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Branco is a lech who looks like he's going to rape Jovanka early on, but this is forgotten when the women join the partisans. But after he and Daniza are caught having sex while on watch, his runs out and he gets killed as punishment.
  • Morality Pet: Mira is The Cutie of the group and she's pregnant when they're forced out of the village, so they're all very protective of her.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Most of the cast just use their own accents, though they do have many European actors in there as well.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: The partisans plan to ambush the Nazis as they are holding a festival in Jovanka's hometown. She does not object to the townspeople being killed either because they are the same people who ousted her from the village.
  • Sex Signals Death: Daniza and one of the partisans are killed as punishment for sleeping together while they were supposed to be on watch.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The film ends with Jovanka and Velkos staying behind in the trench to hold off German soldiers. They will surely die when the soliders reach them.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Jovanka and Daniza accomplish nothing, Daniza being killed by the partisans and Jovanka implied to eventually die when the soldiers reach the trench.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: When the partisans come to Jovanka's house she is shameless for sleeping with the German and puts them in their place. Too bad that only made them madder.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: The male partisans try to invoke this but the women are having none of it. Of course Mira and Marja end up staying behind because Mira's in labour and they also have to guard their prisoner.
  • Team Mom: Marja appears to be the oldest of the women, and is very motherly towards them.
  • The Unfair Sex: Something of an inversion as when a man and a woman get caught having sex in the bushes when they're supposed to be on watch, the woman is punished too despite the man being the one who initiated everything.