Slaves in Bondage
Slaves in Bondage (1937) is an unusual and groundbreaking film directed by Elmer Clifton. It stars Lona Andre, Donald Reed, and Wheeler Oakman.
This is a low-budget, independently produced exploitation film presented as a cautionary tale about the evils of white slavery prostitution rings operating in America's cities. Like so many exposes of this era, it claims to warn the public of the shocking sin and depravity corrupting today's society. In reality, these films were cynical, profit-motivated vehicles that wallowed in lurid, taboo subjects such as drug abuse, promiscuous sex, venereal disease, polygamy, child marriages, etc. Some even included brief nude scenes such as Sex Madness (1937), Marihuana (1936), and Assassin of Youth (1937) — also directed by Elmer Clifton.
The story tells how naive country girls are lured to the big city with the promise of employment only to be abducted and forced to work as prostitutes in decadent, high-class brothels. The film is loaded with scenes of scantily-clad prostitutes lounging around, performing risque dances or engaging in fetishistic entertainments for their clients.
The spanking scene
This film is noteworthy for being one of the first (if not the first) to show spanking and cat-fighting as sexual fetishes. The brothel madam shows off her special Oriental room ("reserved for the exotic") where two lingerie-clad prostitutes playfully grapple on a bed while swatting at each other. One girl is forced onto her stomach and gets a dozen hard and fast hand-smacks, after which she demands: "Now it's my turn." The other girl then lays down and begs: "Well, all right; not too hard now". We see her get a few fast swats before the scene cuts away.
Besides the obvious fetishism, there is a trace of mild masochism (and implied lesbianism) that is quite unique and remarkable for the 1930s. We will not see another scene like this one until the 1968 sexploitation roughie In Hot Blood.
Cat-fighting: There is also an eroticized "catfight" scene with energetic wresting, slapping, hair pulling, and tearing of clothes staged for the patrons' amusement. Also ahead of its time, female wresting depicted as a covert sexual turn-on will not be exploited until the early 1950s.