They Were So Young (originally titled Mannequins für Rio) is a slightly odd inclusion in VCI’s Forgotten Noir DVD set. Although released under the Lippert Pictures banner it’s a 1954 West German production and to call it noir is stretching things quite a bit. However it’s not entirely without interest.
We start with the arrival in Rio of a group of girls from various parts of Europe. They have all been attracted by advertisements promising glittering careers as fashion models. Among the girls is Eve Ullmann (Johanna Matz), an attractive 20-year-old from Düsseldorf.
Eve is innocent and a bit naïve but she’s not a complete fool. It doesn’t take her long to figure out what’s really going on at Madame Lansowa’s glamorous modeling agency in Rio - it’s a cover for white slavery!
Dutch girl Connie Voorhees (Ingrid Stenn) has figured things out as well. Eve and Connie decide to go to the police but the police either don’t or won’t believe Eve’s story. Then Eve remembers a handsome young American, Richard Lanning (Scott Brady), to whom she’d been introduced after her first fashion show. He’d tried to pick her up but in spite of that he’d seemed like a kind and decent young man and besides Eve knows from watching movies that handsome young Americans are always willing to help damsels in distress.
Rescuing Eve is obviously going to be quite a challenge, especially when she and Lanning are stuck in the middle of the Brazilian jungle.
Of course this being 1954 the exploitation elements are handled with caution but in some ways that makes them all the more effective, and we’re certainly not left in any doubt as to the fate in store for the unlucky girls.
Director Kurt Neumann was born in Germany but worked mostly in Hollywood, mostly in low-budget movies which included some minor sci-fi classics such as Rocketship X-M and The Fly. Within the obvious budgetary constraints of this film he does a very competent job.
Loan Shark being the standout. Portland Exposé is also not bad, and Arson Inc. is well worth a look.
They Were So Young is no masterpiece but it does offer a nice mix of sleaze and glamour, of romance and suspense, and Raymond Burr’s presence is a very big plus. Recommended.