Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Cocaine Fiends


The Cocaine Fiends AKA The Pace That Kills is a little less propaganda-ish than it's companion films like Reefer Madness and The Marijuana Menace. Nonetheless, it still has those same preachy written opening credits. Although I did find it particularly funny when at the bottom, it was signed "The Management". This is a terribly boring film that drags even at a mere length of 68 minutes. And I have to say that following this film's plot was rather hard. It was 1935 and all unknown actresses looked alike because they were trying to emulate the looks of big Hollywood stars at the time. There's a character here that is an obvious fan of Jean Harlow's and a few Joan Crawfords as well. Anyway, most of the story revolves around Nick and Jane. Nick gets Jane hooked on cocaine by telling her it's "headache powder". Only after becoming a full blown addict does she learn that it's dope. By now, the drugs drive her every action. Like all the other anti-drug propaganda movies released in the late 1930's, this film completely mischaracterizes the actions of certain drugs. The anti-marijuana movies try to convince you that smoking pot will cause irreversible insanity and violent behavior, while the anti-cocaine movies make coke seem like a date rape downer, rendering someone 100% agreeable. Under this cocaine-induced completely agreeable attitude, Jane allows Nick to talk her into marrying him and moving to the city. Two things she would never normally do, but it's the only way to get her fix. They get a crappy apartment in a New York slum that is too gross even for the rats and roaches. Nick really enjoys the control that he has over Jane since he supplies her precious dope. He sadistically taunts her with it unmercifully. Now that he's in the big city, Nick has now become a major dealer. One who even waits outside schools to sell his dope to children, sorta like a narcotics ice cream man. Nick and Jane get evicted from the apartment. Jane turns to prostitution to support both their habits. I love the name of the place she solicits customers... "The Dead Rat Cafe"! Nick figures he can do better and dumps Jane. Jane is now a full time whore just to survive. Eventually, Jane overdoses and dies in the street. There's a tiny subplot about one employee giving another employee some "headache powder" at their place of work and both get fired from their jobs. Where, oh where will they get the money for their precious "headache powder"? There's also the Jean Harlow wannabe that gives money to drug addicts here and there as some sort of glamourous charity worker. There are only two more things worth mentioning about this pathetic film. No coke is ever shown and no one is ever seen actually snorting it. I'm not sure if that's because they weren't allowed to show that yet in a movie or if they just didn't want to give anybody any ideas. The other thing worth mentioning is a scene that has kept me laughing every time I think about it. There's a scene that doesn't have much to do with the film where some singers are performing at a night club. The funny part is the night clubs decor. It's nothing but upside down falling cats. I kid you not. There are falling cats all over the wallpaper, upside down cats on the mirror behind the bar and even more falling cats on the stage set. I guess when you only have the finances for a cheap film like this, a good designer is really hard to find.

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