Wednesday, December 17, 2008
This is another one of those over the top, ill informed, propaganda films released in the late 1930's that attempted to inform citizens and save lives, mostly about the dreaded Marijuana!! Reefer Madness being the most popular and well known of these films was one of at least three different (or somewhat different... same actors, same sets, same music, same topics, etc) films on the topic of the evils of pot smoking. Ironically, if it weren't for potheads, these films would have died out seconds after their release. Reefer Madness has been restored, colorized, and even remade as a musical. The same care should be taken with Reefer Madness's fellow films, as they are just as bad if not worse. This particular film is called Sex Madness and deals with the very real dangers of syphilis. Though not as "out there" as Reefer Madness, which obviously tries to explain something that it in actuality knows nothing about, Sex Madness is somewhat more informed. Only in the bare sense though really. We know it is transmitted sexually, affects vision, and is damn hard to get rid of (at least in the 30's). Like the others, this movie has a really lame plot and some of the worst acting imaginable. It isn't quite as chopped up as Cocaine Fiends, the editing here is slightly better, but not by much. Made in 1938, Sex Madness was pretty racy, for not only did it deal with syphilis, but it also had a lesbian subplot that didn't have anything to do with transmitting venereal diseases. A secretary hits on her coworker and convinces her to go see some showgirls together. While at the theater, the secretary actually pulls the old "yawn, stretch my arms and end up with my arm around her shoulder" routine. It works, but the story isn't continued. What this had to do with syphilis is anyone's guess. The real hunk of the story revolves around two showgirls named Millicent and Sheila. Sheila already has syphilis and Millicent contracts syphilis at a beach party when she gets drunk and boinks a guy in a Zorro costume. Apparently, it was illegal in 1938 (could be illegal today, I dunno) to marry someone if you know you have syphilis. You could only wed once you got the clean bill of health from a doctor, which back then could take years. Millicent is treated by a quack doctor that promises her she will be syphilis free in a mere 30 days. She falls for it and gets married the second the doctor says she's cured. She then proceeds to have a child. Soon, the husband is having vision problems and the baby is displaying weird symptoms. They all go to a doctor where all three are diagnosed as syphilitic. Millicent breaks down and admits it's her fault. Feeling lower than the rent on a burning building, Millicent nurses her ailing husband who is sick in bed. She has laced two drinks with poison and plans to end both their suffering, when she gets a call from Sheila. Sheila says that she has gone to a "real" doctor and got the news that she will be syphilis free in a year. She's elated at this news (a whole year? I personally wouldn't feel that much better) and says that she also plans to get married and have children. Millicent laughs hysterically and hangs up the phone. While embracing her deathly ill husband, she exclaims "If there's hope for Sheila, then there's hope for us!!!". Good ol' syphilitic showgirl Sheila shall lead the way! The end. This is probably one of, if not the cheapest movies ever made. There's a hilarious goof in it that completely boggles my mind. During a speech from Millicent to her landlady, a window set slams shut and makes the actress playing Millicent totally mess up her lines... and they left it in! I think even Ed Wood would have trashed that botched of a scene. It's topic is a bit more dismal that it's companion films, but it's still filled with all the hilarity of a cheap pile of vintage propaganda crap.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
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.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
This movie is one of a group of about five or six drug related propaganda films released between 1932 and 1938. The most commonly known of this group is the classic "Reefer Madness", which has been restored, colorized, and re-released on it's own special edition DVD. Few people know about the other companion films, such as "Cocaine Fiends", "The Marijuana Menace AKA Assassin of Youth", "Sex Madness" and "Marihuana". In fact, most of these films have many of the same actors. This particular group of movies are hard to find, but if you really wanna know where to find these long lost classics, please feel free to contact me, the one and only Cultfiend, right here on Cultarama. We'll get to all of them, but today we are gonna discuss Assassin of Youth AKA The Marijuana Menace. Much like Reefer Madness, this cheap ass film was made with honest intentions about warning kids about "the dreaded devil weed call Marijuana!". Also like Reefer Madness, it's "true facts" of marijuana consumption are completely absent and are replaced with an unbelievable scenario including total insanity and extremely violent behavior. Anyone who has ever smoked pot or knows someone who smokes pot can agree that it doesn't cause violent behavior... Well, I guess with the exception of being mugged and robbed of your Visine and cookie dough. Anyway, like Reefer Madness, this movie begins with a written message against that terrible scourge that is annihilating Americas youth... the dreaded Marijuana!!! A young girl named Joan Barry stands to inherit the family fortune, much to the dismay of her cousin Linda and younger sister Marjorie. This inheritance has an unfortunate clause in it. Joan must prove herself to be a proper respectable person in order to receive her inheritance. Linda is a reefer dealer and supplies almost everyone in town. Marjorie is a regular customer of Linda's. Linda and her accomplice Jack decide that they are gonna make Joan look like shit so that the inheritance will go to Linda instead of Joan. Their plan begins at an innocent beach party where everyone but Joan is getting stoned and going swimming. Linda pushes Joan into the water and tries to dry her clothes over a fire and burns them, leaving poor Joan with no clothes. This doesn't settle well when she arrives home in just an overcoat. Rumors begin to fly and all sorts of stories are spread all over town. My favorite was that she got naked and danced to hula!" It was 1937, today that would be the same as if she screwed the entire attendance of the party in front of small children. A funny side note is that whenever you see any of these people driving, it's beyond crazy. The worst of drunks would be considered outstanding drivers in comparison. A new bartender named Art shows up in town and becomes employed at an after school hangout. He's also a reporter, doing research on dope dealing and the insanity that follows. It's soon made obvious that Linda and Jack are conspiring to make Joan look as scandalous as possible so that Linda can have the inheritance. When getting her to smoke some reefer fails, they drug her drink. She passes out in the bedroom and some weirdo from the party crawls in bed with her. Nothing happened, but the incident has made Joan look like an absolute whore. Talk is all over town about how despicable Joan is and how inheriting money would be like giving money to a total delinquent. Meanwhile, Joan's younger sister Marjorie has become a total dope fiend and has to be treated by a doctor who gives a diagnosis of insanity by self intoxication. It's so funny, she's just coming down off being stoned and they make her look like she's dying of Bubonic Plague! The doctor actually requests putting her in a mental hospital. Linda tries again once again to drug Joan. Once drugged, Joan acts totally spaced. Acid head aren't this spacey. Jack decides to take advantage of Joan in her drunken state and takes her to the nearest motel. Linda sees this and follows with a less than happy look on her face. From the motel lounge, Linda calls the police and pretends to be Joan's mother and requests that they come and pick up her daughter at the motel. Jack and Joan are henceforth arrested on a morals charge (!!!). Linda bails Jack out of jail and leaves Joan there. Now it's all over town that Joan Barry is in jail, this pretty much finishes off the goody two shoes image that she had before all this inheritance crap. At her trial, Joan is painted as a dirty floozie that has the morals of an alley cat. And even though her mother stands up for her daughter in the most heartfelt way, the court still thinks she's disgraceful and is about to award the inheritance to Linda. Soon, the bartender/reporter bursts into the courtroom with today's newspaper (featuring his article on reefer delinquents) declaring that Joan was only helping him in uncovering this scourge of the menacing marijuana. He also exposes Linda as a dope dealer, she is there forth taken away in handcuffs. The next scene is of a very rich Joan sharing an ice cream with Art (reporter/bartender). An announcement of their engagement can be heard outside by the old town gossip queen who has been loving making Joan look like a whore, but is now joyfully on her side now that she's rich.
This little gem of a movie is actually quite thought provoking for a cheap piece of crap made circa 1974. It starts out in London, 1957, a man is found with half his head missing. Edmund and his wife Dorothy are arrested, convicted and sentenced to 25 years in a mental hospital for the crime. Edmund and Dorothy have two daughters, Jackie and Debbie. Jackie is the older sister and remembers her parents and what they did. Debbie on the other hand was too young to remember them and grew up with foster parents. Jackie and Debbie now live together as adults, yet have quite a tumultuous relationship. It's been 25 years and Edmund and Dorothy are released. Debbie is not yet aware of her parent's true history, but Jackie visits them at night, bringing them supplies and suspicious bloody packages. Edmund seems rather normal, but Dorothy still obviously has some issues. Dorothy gives Tarot readings on the side, even though Edmund highly disapproves of it. I dunno, maybe it's because Dorothy has a nasty habit of sometimes killing her clients with a power drill. If someone doesn't quite like what Dorothy's Tarot cards say, Dorothy shuts 'em up with a hot fireplace poker to the gut... sssssssss. By now they have a few corpses piling up, and coincidentally they happen to be a little hungry. What better way to cover a crime and have a feast to celebrate the fact... eat the evidence. Through cannibalism they devour all the people Dorothy has flipped out on and killed. Edmund confesses that Dorothy was the killer 25 years ago (duh) and that he pleaded insanity just so that they could stay together (now that's love). Debbie eventually learns of her parents and confronts them. Debbie has her boyfriend with her, which Dorothy soon kills while Debbie watches. They hide the body in the hay baler with... the others. Obviously, Debbie gets her bitchy, homicidal attitude from her mother. They kill together and bond as mother and daughter (can you feel the love?). Jackie eventually notices that her mother is killing again and realizes that her suspicious bloody packages are not working. You see, Jackie has been pretending to be killing people in order to satisfy her mother's craving for murder. The mysterious bloody packages are supposed to be guts from the murder victim, proving that a murder did actually take place... and to give mom a little something to snack on. But the guts are actually butcher's leftovers that she has been getting from the local supermarket (what a weirdo they must think she is). Jackie's bizarre form of therapy has obviously been a total failure, therefore she contacts a real doctor to come and evaluate Dorothy. He disguises himself as a person wanting a Tarot card reading. Dorothy can see through the cards that he is not who he seems to be and realizes that he's a doctor that's come to take her back to the mental hospital. She kills him of course. It's funny, rather than be shocked that her mom just killed someone, she's more upset with the fact that Dorothy has bonded with Debbie. Edmund confesses that he's tired of covering up Dorothy's crimes. The job is then turned over to Debbie, who is more than willing to take over in her dad's place. With Edmund out of the way, Dorothy decides that she prefers Debbie as her daughter much more than Jackie. The corner Jackie and kill her. The end. Not terribly original, I must admit. But this film has an air of comedy to it that is just barely out of reach. There are many situations in this movie where you're really not sure whether to laugh or gasp. I'm not even sure if the film makers intended there to be comedy involved. Nonetheless, it's a good effort and well worth 90 minutes of your life.