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|Index||17 reviews in total|
Actually, most film portrayals of sex and drug use before the Hayes Commission were not timid, and then afterwards (circa 1930) they had to have some sort of moral equation showing the results of such behavior. This film, post 1930, would have fallen under Hayes guidelines, and consequently meets those guidelines, and yet the depiction of immoral behavior, for the time, and the consequences of such are fairly progressive. The whole idea of sex education for young persons, and of exposing the public to the reality of sexual diseases, is something still being tossed around in today's society. This film is on the progressive side of this debate, albeit dated, and those snide commenters who decry this film as being too prudish or preachy have little idea of what was really prudish and preachy in the 1930s. The grand images of that past time as presented by Hollywood are merely that, images. The reality is much less wonderful, and each new generation feels that it is the generation that is the most sophisticated of all. I have no fear that the young generation of 2070 will have a great laugh at our current ways.
A movie like this has to be judged fairly - and that means being judged
by the standards of its era. It tackles a subject that in 1938 would
have been taboo to pretty much everyone - the scourge of syphilis, and
the associated sexual "looseness" that was seen as its cause. Yes, I
know that this is considered an "exploitation" film - one dressed up as
an educational film in order to get past censors who would have
objected to some of the sexual innuendo contained within it. Still,
there is no doubt that at one time syphilis was a major health issue,
and so this also comes across as something of a "scare tactic" - a way
of warning people to avoid sexual immorality lest they contract the
terrible disease. Thus, the words "they must be told!" in the opening
credits. The first 20-30 minutes or so jump around a little bit. We see
a fair bit of a burlesque show attended by a lot of people, some hints
of lesbianism as one girl tries to convince another to spend the night
with her, "wild" house parties with couples going off together and
assorted shots of those wanting to do battle with the disease and the
loose morals at the root of it. It then settles down largely to the
story of Millicent - a small town girl who went to New York and caught
the disease, then returns home and spreads it to her new husband and
their child. The tragic results of the disease are portrayed, and the
movie then tries to end on a hopeful note.
This isn't a particularly good movie. It drags at times, but I thought the subject matter was worthwhile, and looked at from the perspective of 1938 it was courageous. One can only go so far with courage alone, though. Eventually, you have to judge whether a movie has quality or not. This one fails on that count.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Early sex education film out of Hollywood about the ravages of social
diseases that's afflicting America's youth Syphilis & Gonorrher. It's
well respected philanthropist Paul Lorenz who's out to educated the
youth of America about the dangers of both sex out of marriage as well
as unprotected sex. He may have succeeded in getting the word out but
his son Tom didn't hear it. Tom with a number of his friends went out
to paint the town read at a sleazy strip joint and ended up catching
Syphilis with one of the dancers Shelia Wayne. Tom was lucky in getting
the treatment he needed on time to prevent him from going both blind as
well as mad from his experience. As for poor country girl in the big
city Millicent Hamilton and her fiancée Wenndle Hope that was another
Poor and alone in the big city Millicent was forced to work as a dancer at the same strip joint that Tom and his friends visited and ended up catching VD from one of the costumers who paid for both her food and lodging. Now back home in small town USA Millicent hooks up with her fiancée Wendell Hope and gets married only to find out nine months later that her and Wendell's baby boy is suffering from the same illness that she has. It was Millicent going to get treated by this local quack doctor Hampton who assured her, after taking her for every dime she had, that she was Syphilis free! Now with her new born child dead and her husband on his death bed Millicent feels that she has nothing to live for and plans to end it all for her and Wendell with a cocktail of rat poison and and bottle of Dranio. It's then when a miracle happens in Millicent getting a call from the past that give her the will and confidence to go one despite the mess that she finds herself in.
The film shows just what social diseases are without overdoing it like the movie "Reefer Maddnes" that was released the same year-1938-did with the subject of smoking pot. It is a bit uneven in it's editing and no where as entertaining as "Reefer Madness" in how unintentionally funny it was but in the end does get its massage across to the audience which is what really counts.
Sure there are camp moments in Sex Madness, a film which somehow tries
to gain the notoriety that 'Reefer Madness' has but fails despite
having tons of elements that should point in it's favor.
In the beginning it starts off strongly, with all sorts of people going to a burlesque show (and jamming the auditorium up!). This show is probably the highlight of the movie, plenty of silly dancing, no nudity, and clunky choreography. I liked the personalities that showed up for this. A group of randy boys looking to party, a lesbian couple who can't stop pawing each other, and a man who gets all worked up he rapes the first girl he sees. Funny, but ALL of these plot lines get dropped for Millicent (!!), a dancer in the chorus, who finds out she has VD from her doctor. After taking a tour which she's all chipper about seeing icky cases of VD, she goes into treatment, carefully hiding it away from her fiancée. After going home and seeing another doctor who gives her a quack cure, she marries and.. well you can guess the rest. Rest assured that as foul as it sounds, it drags somewhat, and is nowhere as memorable as 'Reefer', (admittedly, I thought It was going to be of the same looniness). It's okay for some laughs, but doesn't hold up.
At first it was good, but then it got boring. I really loved the burlesque
show. It was so great. I wish there were still shows like this now. Men
getting turned on by girls in big feathered hats and sequin leotards jumping
around with big grins on their faces seem a little less threatening than
those who want genitals of women they've never met before shoved in their
faces. Sorry to be so graphic, but the movie makes you realize how
drastically sex shows have changed.
That is really the main part of the movie that caught my attention. The film does have valid points about how you shouldn't have a kid if you have syphilis. And you shouldn't have sex if you have it either. However, the whole idea of someone with this disease being forbid by their doctor to get married seemed a little strange to me. Plus the main woman was in cloud nine the whole as if the whole world was either completely wonderful or completely horrible.
I also thought the point about the "quacks" was interesting because it's harder today to figure out if a doctor is a quack since we have such a high rate of suing for malpractice. A doctor today might push some unnecessary pills on you so that s/he will get some money from the drug company, but they would never go so far as to guarantee you are cured of syphilis and can now freely have sex with people when you actually weren't cured at all. That's just bogus. I'm glad that doesn't happen anymore.
Watch this movie to see how drastically times have changed but also to educate yourself about this disease. It's the only thing that hasn't changed.
This is another one of those scare tactic movies from the 30's that's more
hokey than fact. I laughed throughout the whole movie watching the antics
of "normal" people in the 30's. It's supposed to teach you about the
dangers of syphillis, but is more entertaining than informative.
This movie ranks up there with "Reefer Madness" and "Cocaine Fiends"......entertaining and nothing more.
I highly recommend it to anyone that wants a night of belly laughs.
Sex Madness (1938)
BOMB (out of 4)
Sister film to REEFER MADNESS tells the dangers of pre-marital sex and how it can lead to syphilis. The story deals with a young, innocent girl who goes to NY and comes down with the disease. This is an extremely poorly made film from director Dwain Esper who is best known for his 1934 film MANIAC. Everything from the acting to the direction is horrid and the story is so all over the place that it's hard to keep things straight but it's remains bad enough to keep you entertained throughout. Like most of these message films, the overly dramatic B.S. gets plenty of laughs.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The severely dated production values and stiff performances by the
actors immediately calls to mind another 'educational' gem of the era -
"Reefer Madness". In the name of sex education and the eradication of
the evils of socially transmitted disease, the film begins with the
earnest entreaty that "Ignorance Must Be Abolished". But actually, if
the presentation wasn't so corny and outmoded, one would be hard
pressed to consider whether anything's been learned since the film was
made, as the toll in human lives to STD's worldwide is at epidemic
I guess you'd really have to be a viewer back in the 1930's to get the full impact of how titillating a lot of the film was. The burlesque sequence offered a lot more tease than the actual dance show, with a lesbian pursuing a hot conquest and a dirty old man type getting worked up enough to attack the first young lady he sees after the show. The main story involves a would be actress falling victim to an unscrupulous director only to find herself at the mercy of the dreaded syphilis, ultimately infecting her new husband and baby. Not entirely unimaginable, but confounded by the unsavory practices of medical quacks who take advantage of the uneducated and uninformed.
As a period piece, this is another example of sensationalist film making and worth a look to see how far we've come as a society and a nation. It's unlikely that anyone reading this was even alive seventy years ago when the film was made, and that in itself is a remarkable testament to the staying power of a cult classic from a bygone era.
It's an old scratchy movie about the danger of syphilis. It seems proud
of itself for dealing with the disease, although the treatment, so to
speak, was better done in Warner's "Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet." It's
preceded by one of those announcements trumpeting the seriousness of
the subject. You've probably seen them before. If it's not syphilis,
it's some other lethal threat. It's the mad empire of Japan, the
jack-booted threat of Naziism, the crepuscular shenanigans of
"organized crime," the lure of dope, the tentacular charm of Margaret
Groin, the girl who refused my invitation to the senior prom because I
insisted on wearing Bermuda shorts.
The acting is terrible. Let's get that out of the way first. There has been better acting in a high school production of "Our Town" in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. Story-wise, it seems that the new District Attorney or somebody is raiding girlie shows. His last drag netted eleven girls who were seen removing their hampering garments on the public stage.
I found myself wondering about the agents of social control who were assigned the loathsome task of watching the shows until the crime was committed. I kept thinking of Anthony Comstock, the postal inspector of the 1800s and sworn foe of Margaret Sanger, who couldn't tear himself away from the perusal of salacious material. He even blocked some medical texts from reaching medical schools. A lifetime devoted to reading dirty stuff so he could condemn it, a job to kill for.
This movie runs along similar lines, rather like Cecile B. DeMille's showing us Claudette Colbert taking a nude bath in ass's milk. Terrible stuff. We see a burlesque show with two dozen girls dressed in bathing suits too modest for today's tastes. In the audience, a mustachioed young man is trying to talk his girl friend into spending the night with him. "You can tell your mother you're staying with friends." Nearby a sinister and horny lesbian (in dark clothes) is seducing an innocent young virgin (in white clothes). There are cuts to the maniacal grins of drooling males in the audience. Afterwards, the boys take some of the girls to a house party, where everyone flirts and boozes it up.
Around this point it occurred to me that some viewers might be thinking, "What's WRONG with these people?" It occurred to me that maybe there was nothing at all "wrong" with them, that they were just doing what the situation demanded, that the problem (if there was one) was systemic. As individuals we tend to imitate the behavior of those around us. That's called "culture" and it's why we're doing this in English instead of Urdu, and it's why none of us will wear a toga to work tomorrow. It's why there is no such thing as "The Society For the Advancement of Ugly People." There are of course subcultures into which we may find ourselves swept up because of constitutional quirks as much as culture. There IS a Flat Earth Society and there are presidential elections.
You want a movie about syphilis? Watch "Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet." You want a movie with lots of sex? Just go to a movie.
This time it's syphilis, gonorrhea, VD, etc. OH BOY! I bet the teens
really learned something from this piece of tripe! Listen, I know how
serious these diseases are just like the next person but a film like
this to "teach the dangers of it" is a no go. All their anti-drugs and
anti-alcohol and anti-wild sex films like these apparently didn't do
any good... all this is still around today and even worse than ever
before. All a film like this does is put the viewer to sleep.
I guess they stuck all these into a 50-pack together so one can either fall asleep faster or teach us something - which ever comes first and I'm banking on the falling asleep. Zero entertainment value and a waste of disc space.
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