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William A. Wellman
As the opening scroll tells us, Narcotic was "presented in the hope that the public may become aware of the terrific struggle to rid the world of drug addiction." The movie itself is a salacious plunge into a world of sordid pleasures. It tells us the story of Dr. William G. Davies, an infamous snake-oil salesman who started his career as a promising medical student. In the opening sequence he saves an unborn baby by performing a cesarean operation after the mother was killed in an automobile accident. Stock medical footage shows a woman's stomach being sliced open like a ripe watermelon and the baby popping out like a jack-in-a-box. But the allure of opium proves too strong for the doctor to resist. After a single night of relaxation in a Chinatown opium den, Davies becomes a slave to drugs. As his medical practice deteriorates, he shifts his attention to "selling medicine by demonstration." He says to his nurse/fiancee, "I can't see anything wrong if my preparation has merit." ... Written by
Sujit R. Varma
Throughout Davies' confrontation with the man at his wrecked home, the boom mic is unmistakable following them as they move about through the room. The shadow is constantly visible on the wall. See more »
Although this movie is supposedly based on actual events, the production values of the film betray that it is yet another old exploitation film--the sort that were produced by fly-by-night production companies to prey upon the public's fear AND fascination with sex and drugs. But, since such topics could not generally get past the censor boards of each state, they were marketed as "educational" and shown to adults-only audiences. Some of the obvious problems with the film are the use of silent film footage (when shown on a normal projector, it runs too fast and looks odd), clips of a baby being delivered by c-section (for little apparent reason other than they happened to have the film and decided to shove it into the movie) as well as choppy editing and poor acting. It's obvious th was NOT a large budget production, but made 'on the cheap', so to speak.
After showing a lot of seemingly irrelevant stock footage, the story begins. A Chinese man who looks about as Chinese as Eddie Murphy is talking with a couple American men. Later, one of them approaches this 'Asian' and requests that they do some opium together. So, they go to an opium den and hit the pipe. While this is pretty cheesy since the Chinese guy obviously ISN'T, the way they demonstrate opium and the paraphernalia is surprisingly accurate compared to the information you usually get in such films. Soon you see the two drift into a blissful stupor. Later, the American guy goes back for more and he's obviously hooked. How this turns him into a man who sells patent medicines is beyond me.
The rest of the film is jam-packed full irrelevant film footage--including odd clips of sideshow freaks, speeding cars and, cats staring at snakes--once again, whatever they seemed to have on hand--slapping it all together and hoping to make a semi-coherent film. And, unlike the segment on opium, the drug information is, to put it charitably, histrionic! Supposedly wild parties and a guy ripping the dress off his wife when he ran out of drugs are among the more outlandish scenes in this film--that, by this point, has become an almost plot less mess. By then end, the opium addict is a complete and total mess and he begins quoting Bible verses about the danger of alcohol--as he calls out to God and then kills himself. Believe it or not, this scene actually is well done--with some dandy acting by the addict. But, sadly, it's about the only well made portion of the film! Some of the problems with the film were probably not originally in the film. Many times, the film appears to have little bits and pieces missing and as a result, the film is pretty choppy. Considering this was a Kino DVD, I assume this is simply the best copy they have as this company usually does a good job in producing excellent quality disks.
It's obvious from my review that this is a terrible film. But, is it worth seeing--after all, some bad films are so stupid and clumsily made that they are fun to see and laugh at--especially with friends. Well, this film is stupid and you will laugh a bit at its horribleness--but it never quite reaches the same level of histrionics and stupidity of such cult classic bad films as "Reefer Madness". Still, it's good for a laugh or two and probably did little to educate anyone--especially with such lines as "Ladies, ladies...let's not get vulgar...YET!".
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