Much has been made of cinema’s recent vanguard of female superheroes, the crusading women who give as good as they take. But long before Wonder Woman and her Amazonian sisters charged the big screen, long before feminist scholars began calling out the film industry’s inequities and long before talking movies became the norm, women ran wild in movies. And I mean, really wild. They riotously schemed, fought and defied convention, racing and laughing their way to liberation — or something like it.
This weekend, you can get a peek at just how free women in cinema were in a program of shorts called “Queens of Destruction: A Selection of Films From Cinema’s First Nasty Women.” Screening Saturday and Sunday at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, this program of 11 titles is a tasty sampler of “Cinema’s First Nasty Women,” a four-disc Kino Lorber box set that will be available Sept. 27. A mind-expanding endeavor, the set features 99 mostly comic rarities produced from 1898 to 1926, gleaned from archives and libraries across the globe. It is a triumph of scholarship.