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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
THE PACE THAT KILLS is your typical anti-drug film from the 20's, it shows
the evils of the big city that are always insidiously corrupting good old
rural farmboys in all ways imaginable. The story consists of a good 'ol
farmboy (Eddie) who moves to the big city and meets a co-worker at his new
found job (named Fanny), Fanny gives him some of that wowee zowee white
powder to cure his headache. Eddie and Fanny get fired for being higher
than a kite on a clear Kansas sky. Soon Cocaine is not enough for Eddie
Fanny so they start doing morphine, opium, and if that's not enough
So, Eddie then finds his long lost sister in a opium den, tries to take
home, narrowly gets busted by the fuzz, then finds out Fanny killed
because she was pregnant with his kid, so what does he do...he kills
himself, and then a final title card says "how many mothers-how many
sweethearts are waiting for the boys who will never come home?" well since
urban centers are always shown to be evil in these anti-drug films, the
answer is simple KEEP HIM AT HOME!
It is interesting to see that this film portrayed Cocaine as a stepping stone for more harsher drugs, (instead of showing Marijuana being the classical beginner drug) since cocaine is already pretty high up there on the harshness scale for narcotics. Also interesting enough Willis Kent the movie maker re-made this exact film in the 30's as a talkie (Cocaine Fiends 1935).
It's a fairly typical Willis Kent film: innocent farm boy goes to the
city and falls prey to them evil slickers and their recreational drugs.
This was the year when SUNRISE came out, with much same story, so it
was a dependable theme. Kent split his productions between this sort of
exploitation film and B westerns well into the 1950s.
It's well handled here and the photography is quite lovely. That's hardly surprising, given that this is the first time that Ernest Laszlo was credited as director of photography. His career would stretch into the 1970s with some great movies to his credit and even here, in a cheaply made feature for small town audiences, his work is excellent.
What is most remarkable about this picture is its sure-handed competence in every department. The biggest name in the cast at the time of production was Florence Turner. In the last year that Hollywood would struggle to save silent movies, minor works like this show how commonplace excellence was.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Worth seeing for Virginia Roye, who (admittedly aided by skillful make-up) gives a marvelously shattering performance as the shopgirl who introduces our innocent hero, Eddie Bradley (well played by Owen Gorin), to drugs. Miss Roye made only four films. She had inconsequential roles in two shorts and then played the second female lead in "The Road to Ruin". In this one, she is most certainly the female lead, even though Thelma Daniels (in a small role as the rustic hero's backwoods love) is billed second to Owen Gorin's farm boy who is led astray by Virginia Roye's city-smart Fanny O'Reilly. Then comes Florence Turner in a now-you-see-her-now-you-don't part as Eddie's anxious but not over-bright mum. Florence Dudley is listed next. She plays the hero's sister. We catch exactly two glimpses of her, and that's that! Harry Todd, whom I don't remember at all, his part is so small, is next in the billing. Then comes Arnold Dallas in a nothing role as Handsome Nick, king of the underworld. The actor who plays the part of the streetwise dope peddler is not billed at all, even though he is not only most convincing in the role but adds little touches of business which I'm sure were his own inventions. Except for Virginia Roye, nobody else adds anything extra to their roles! And then finally, Virginia Roye, who has actually more screen time than any other character except maybe our brainless, easily-led-astray hero, played by Owen Gorin. (I'm talking, of course, of the Kodascope version of the film, not of the original seven-reel theatrical release. The 16mm five-reel Kodascope cutdown runs 64 minutes and is now available on a very good DVD from Grapevine Video).
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