Blonde Bait was the US title given to a re-edited version of Women Without Men, a Hammer production about three women who escape from prison, each for their own reason. While the movie itself isn’t particularly memorable, the US poster is anything but, and for a number of reasons. It’s another terrific design from the Fifties that’s doing its best to promote its female cast and characters as having an earthy sensuality, and the kind of loose morals that come about from lounging decoratively on soft furnishings. It’s also another poster that’s packed with incident, from the central image of star Beverly Michaels reclining awkwardly on a chaise longue and trying not to burn a hole in it, to the shocked countenance of Avril Angers staring out from behind bars.
It’s a busy poster, and one that’s making a lot of different statements all at the same time. Aside from Michaels’ attempt at looking sultry while fluffing her hair, behind her head there’s the smaller image of Joan Rice looking defiant as she clutches what looks like the remains of a dress – remains that still allow her to show off a shapely leg. She may be in some kind of trouble, but that doesn’t mean she’s not going to look fabulous while she deals with it all. A girl’s gotta do… and all that. Then there’s the image perched above Michaels’ hip, a one-sided clinch that looks as if the #MeToo movement should get involved. Michaels is trying to get away from her would-be Lothario (actually Jim Davis), but has the look of someone who’s trying to remember if they left the stove on, or if they locked the front door on their way out.
To their immediate right is a classic image, that of a woman pressed against something that helps emphasise the curvature and fullness of her breasts. Here it’s the bar of a cage, an appropriate choice given the movie’s opening backdrop, but in its own way it’s the least subtle image within the whole poster. Moving further to the right, and we have the poster’s most awkward component, with Michaels being doubly threatened by her near-namesake Ralph Michael. With his left hand he’s attempting to strangle her, but what’s going on with his right hand? Is he grabbing her lapel or trying to punch her? (Make up your mind, man.)
The title is represented in clunky chunky yellow lettering that makes for an eye-catching alternative to the other primary colours on display, but it’s not so bold that it distracts from the various images it has to contend with. Its positioning is also effective in terms of the overall composition, but the same can’t be said for the horrendous tagline that begins at Michaels’ left breast and spreads across to the top of her leg. And to make matters worse, the font makes it look like a last-minute addition, and the wording itself doesn’t make any sense. “The kind of mistake a man can make only once”? Really? How about, “The kind of mistake movie posters should never make” instead? At least the poster’s other tagline, “I don’t need a gun to catch a man!’ is a little more in keeping with the movie’s subject matter.
The poster is rounded off with the usual round of credits, expressed in a nice Roman-style font, and reflecting the inclusion of three stars who didn’t appear in the original British version (Davis, Travis and Cavanagh). The inclusion of Associated Film Releasing Corp in the credits helps explain the logo towards the bottom left hand corner, and further reinforces the notion that this is an exciting, passion-filled American movie (and not some stuffy British crime drama – Heaven forbid). Though there’s a fair degree of misrepresentation going on in this particular poster, it’s hard to complain about it too much as pretty much everyone was doing the same in the mid- to late Fifties. As always, sex is the selling point, though for once there’s no image of some exaggerated, gravity defying cleavage. Now, that’s where the designer went wrong…