The Unholy Wife

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The Unholy Wife
The Unholy Wife.JPG
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Farrow
Produced by John Farrow
Screenplay by Jonathan Latimer
Based on the teleplay The Prowlers on Climax!
by William Durkee
Music by Daniele Amfitheatrof
Cinematography Lucien Ballard
Edited by Eda Warren
RKO Radio Pictures
John Farrow Productions
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date
  • October 1957 (1957-10) (United States)
  • March 6, 1958 (1958-03-06) (New York City)
Running time
94 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Unholy Wife is a 1957 Technicolor film noir crime film produced and directed by John Farrow at RKO Radio Pictures, but released by Universal Pictures as RKO was in the process of ceasing its film activities. The film features Diana Dors, Rod Steiger, Tom Tryon and Beulah Bondi.[1][2] The screenplay was written by William Durkee and Jonathan Latimer

The film is about a femme fatale named Phyllis (Diana Dors) who tells her sordid story from her prison cell in flashback.


The film begins with Phyllis (Diana Dors) telling her story in flashbacks. It begins how she meets rich vintner Paul Hochen (Rod Steiger) from Napa Valley in a bar and marries him soon after.

Not long after the marriage, Phyllis begins having an affair with a local rodeo rider, San Sanford (Tom Tryon), seeing him every time her husband is away, which is frequently. One night, her elderly mother-in-law (Beulah Bondi) thinks a burglar is breaking into the house, so she calls the police. Phyllis sees this as an opportunity to kill her husband and blame the burglar for the crime. The plan backfires a day later when she instead kills her husband's best friend. Not wanting to go to jail, she convinces her husband to confess to the killing and they concoct a story that would set him free after the trial.

Unfortunately for her husband, Phyllis lies at the trial and he is put away for murder. The "unholy" wife finally gets the punishment she deserves when her mother-in-law dies of poisoning and the blame goes to Phyllis, who is sent to prison—for a crime she had nothing to do with. Later, she faces her execution in the gas chamber. The film ends with Paul showing their son Michael (Gary Hunley) the vineyard that will someday be his.



Critical response[edit]

The New York Times panned the film when it was released, writing, "Indeed, this might be an excellent time for the actress to take inventory or choose a comedy (her real forte). For the new R. K. O. production and Universal-International release, teaming her with Rod Steiger, is a dull, unholy mess, and an absolute waste of anyone's time. Including, we might add, that of the two principals. Pretentiously tinted in garish color, and staged with coronation pomp by director-producer John Farrow, the picture is a hollow, tawdry little drama of frustration, violence and a loveless marriage in California's Napa Valley."[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Harrison's Reports review; August 31, 1957, page 138.
  2. ^ Variety film review, September 4, 1957, page 6.
  3. ^ Crowther, Bosley. The New York Times, film review, March 7, 1958. Accessed: August 5, 2013.

External links[edit]