Chained for Life (1951)

Chained for Life (1951)

“If I have a date, you have a date too, my dear.”

A conjoined twin (Violet Hilton) shoots her sister’s con-artist husband (Mario Laval), and stands on trial for murder.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Con-Artists
  • Courtroom Drama
  • Singers
  • Twins
  • Vaudeville and Burlesque

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this “extremely dull” exploitation film starring conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton truly is a “curio” more than anything else. As in the Hilton sisters’ only other movie (Tod Browning’s cult classic, Freaks), “freaks” of nature are cruelly used and jilted by the “normal” folks around them — but in this case, the “freaks” are forced to stand trial in “normal” society rather than banding together to mete out vigilante justice. Despite its dull storyline, however, Chained for Life does include several interesting scenes (as when Violet is “fantasizing she is a normal woman and dancing with [her lover]”), and it presents viewers with some provocative dilemmas: Would you sentence Violet for what she did? And what would happen, logistically speaking, if one of a pair of conjoined twins was sentenced to jail?

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • An interesting take on the intense loyalty twins may feel for each other (but done much to much better effect by Olivia De Haviland in The Dark Mirror, 1946)
  • Dorothy’s fantasy dream sequence

Must See?
No. Watch the infinitely superior Freaks (1932) to get a more interesting, albeit shorter, glimpse of the Hilton twins.


One thought on “Chained for Life (1951)

  1. This is a very tough call since it’s such a ‘singular’ film (and some ffs may very well see it as such).

    I’m going to give it a tentative must (as opposed to a once-must, cause I can’t recommend it solely on merit). This isn’t an easy watch; it’s one of those that feels longer than its 60+ minutes. But there’s just something about the Hilton sisters that’s very oddly compelling – they have a unique earnestness. Is their acting good? Not really – but, in odd moments, you can’t help but see beyond the film and into their own lives. (You may then feel the urge to look up their history at Wikipedia, and it may give you pause.)

    Their rendition of ‘Never Say You’ll Never Fall in Love’ is particularly touching. And, yes, the dream sequence may move you as well.

    Oddest of all, the film may work on you on a separate level, as you re-think what it means to be human.

    [Note: the Broadway musical ‘Side Show’, which I saw in its short run, is a fitting tribute. There are scenes from it on YouTube.]

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