Saturday, December 22, 2007

12th January 2007: Thirties Drug Scare triple!

Assassin Of Youth

USA 1937 b&w

Director Elmer Clifton Writers Charles A. Browne, Elmer Clifton, Leo J. McCarthy

Cast Luana Walters (Joan Barry), Arthur Gardner (Art Brighton), Fay McKenzie (Linda Clayton), Michael Owen (Jack Howard)

Greetings teetotallers to a special Schlock Treatment triple bill of Thirties Drug Scare or “Drugsploitation” anti-classics. SEE Drug orgies! SEE Sex-crazed maniacs! SEE what your great grandparents were doing while your great great grandparents were too hopped up on Prohibition gin to even notice!

All three films were made in the mid to late Thirties, at the same time as the textile and pharmaceutical companies wanted hemp and medicinal marihuana off the market. Conspiracy? No. But yes. They would have banned jazz too if they could, and beatniks would have been listening to Perry Como. The horror...

From a sociological point of view (and we at Schlock Treatment will always take the academic high road), Assassin Of Youth (1935) is an interesting look at the seedy underbelly of small-town Americana. A young girl inherits her grandmother’s wealth, and before long the local dope fiends are introducing her to the Devil’s Weed: the reefer is torched, the skirtlines go up, and as logic dictates, they’re soon doing the Horizontal Watusi.

Director Elmer Clifton specialized in these kinds of sordid cheapies (Slaves In Bondage, Paroled From The Big House...). All true stories? No. But yes. And with so many unintentional laughs it’s criminal, I hurl at you kicking and screaming, 1935’s Assassin Of Youth.

Marihuana, The Weed With Roots In Hell!

USA 1936 b&w

aka Marihuana, Marihuana The Devil's Weed

Director Dwain Esper Writer Hildegarde Stadie

Cast Harley Wood (Burma Roberts), Hugh McArthur (Dick Collier), Pat Carlyle (Tony Sentello), Paul Ellis (Nickolas 'Nicki' Romero)

We continue our dizzying downward moral spiral with Drug Scare classic #2, Marihuana The Weed With Roots In Hell (1936), springing from the demented imaginings of Dwayne Esper, who did a similarly deranged treatise on schizophrenia in Maniac (1934) and on the effects of venereal disease in Sex Madness (1938).

In Marihuana..., we have four young girls, a beach party, skinny-dipping - what could lead these girls even further down the path to depravity than (cue stern voice) “a certain narcotic”. Burma our heroine (no pun intended) goes from proto-hippy to smack dealer in just under an hour. Yes, I say, it’s all because of the weed with its roots all the way to hell, and we will prove it with Marihuana The Weed With Roots In Hell. What’s in a title? Everything!

Reefer Madness

USA 1936 b&w

aka Tell Your Children

Director Louis J. Gasnier Writers Lawrence Meade, Arthur Hoerl, Paul Franklin

Cast Dorothy Short (Mary Lane), Kenneth Craig (Bill Harper), Lillian Miles (Blanche), Dave O'Brien (Ralph Wiley)

Do we dare one more in our Thirties psychedelic triple header? As the blonde hussy in Assassin Of Youth declares, “One more puff and we’ll all be floating!” And what have we learnt so far? For one, everyone involved in these films is either dead or close to dying. Coincidence? I think not.

And with that thought, I leave you with the greatest, most insane and best known drugsploitation film of all, originally billed on Australian video with Cocaine Fiends (1936) and which should be shown in fast forward for maximum effect (“Play faster! Play faster!”) - the 1938 Reefer Madness. Adios, and stay clean.

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