20 user 17 critic

Sex Madness (1938)

Not Rated | | Drama | 28 April 1938 (USA)
Philanthropist Paul Lorenz is one of the more public faces in the fight against behavior that spreads the many "social diseases", such as syphilis and gonorrhea. An example of such behavior... See full summary »


Dwain Esper




Cast overview, first billed only:
Vivian McGill Vivian McGill ... Millicent Hamilton
Rose Tapley ... Mrs. Hamilton
Al Rigali Al Rigali ... Mr. Hamilton
Mark Daniels ... Wendel Hope (as Stanley Barton)
Linda Lee Hill Linda Lee Hill ... Sheila Wayne
Ruth Edell Ruth Edell ... Mrs. Fay
Charles Olcott Charles Olcott ... Paul Lorenz
Ed Redding Ed Redding ... Dr. Hampton
Pat Lawrence Pat Lawrence ... Tom Lorenz
Allen Tower Allen Tower ... Dr. Harris (as Allan Tower)
Richard Bengali Richard Bengali ... Mr. Maynard
William Blake William Blake ... Dr. Grenoble
Frank Howsen Frank Howsen ... Dr. Bayard
Allan Lee Allan Lee ... Mr. Winthrop
Jean Temple Jean Temple ... Mrs. Winthrop


Philanthropist Paul Lorenz is one of the more public faces in the fight against behavior that spreads the many "social diseases", such as syphilis and gonorrhea. An example of such behavior is performing in or attending burlesque shows, which promote casual sex. Indeed, many in the audience at one burlesque show in New York have only sex on their minds, including young unmarried couple James and Jane, office colleagues Peggy and Betty (Peggy is trying to seduce Betty), and Paul Lorenz's own son Tom, who is anticipating an aftershow group-sex party that will include some of the girls from the show, such as Sheila Wayne, who has syphilis but treats it as casually as her sexual encounters. Her fellow showgirl Millicent Hamilton will not be at the party. Millicent was once a small-town girl who was planning to marry her beau, Wendel Hope, until she won a beauty contest. Her prize was a trip to New York, but she found life there more difficult than she expected, and a sexual encounter ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Protect your daughters!




Not Rated

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Rejected by the state film censor boards in New York, Pennsylvania and Kansas on its initial release. See more »


When Millicent is talking to her landlady, the window in the background falls shut. This distracts the actress, who nearly flubs her line. See more »


Millicent Hamilton: I'm tired. Me for bed.
Sheila Wayne: Bed? Did you say bed?
Sheila Wayne: That's not for relaxin', that's for action!
See more »

Crazy Credits

In versions titled "They Must Be Told" all the opening credits, even the title, are preceded by the following explanation: "FOREWORD: Down through the ages has rushed a menace more dangerous than the worst criminal. Syphilis. Let us seize this monster and stamp out forever its horrible influence. Syphilis must no longer play its deadly part in our lives preventing marriages ... breaking up families ... and resulting in innocent offspring born blind, diseased and maimed ... doomed to a life of misery. The subject of syphilis must no longer remain hushed, but must be fought in the open like any other dangerous contagious disease ... humanity must be enlightened! Ignorance must be abolished! Young and old ... rich and poor ... " See more »


Referenced in Playboy: The Story of X (1998) See more »


Wedding March
Music by Felix Mendelssohn
See more »

User Reviews

Syphilis can drive you insane. So can the boredom created by movies like this.
17 July 2011 | by zetesSee all my reviews

I dipped into my Mill Creek Cult Classics DVD set this weekend because I was bored. Really, I could have found something better to do (honestly, I was too tired to give anything real my attention). These movies should not really be labeled Cult Classics, but rather "Goofy Old Propaganda Films That Are Mostly Terrible and Which You Don't Really Need to See - Knowing That They Existed Is More Than Enough." I suppose that'd be a bit wordy, though. And it really doesn't help that the quality is abysmal. Obviously, nobody cared enough to preserve these films, but I really wonder what Reefer Madness would look like in high definition. Sex Madness is a pure propaganda film which wants to warn its audience about the dangers of syphilis and other "social diseases." You have to wonder if anyone in 1938 actually plunked down a nickel to see films like this. The film basically consists of a doctor telling a skank that she has contracted syphilis, and what that entails. The authority figures of the film declare that people need to be more honest about sex, but what their honesty amounts to is shouting "keep your damn legs shut or you'll get sores! This is what they look like. Aren't they gross?" Its second piece of advice is probably more helpful: people with syphilis or other VDs need to see a real doctor, and not some quack. I'll bet that, in their embarrassment, the syphilitic would often turn to more discreet, illegal doctors (there's probably some implied abortion there, too). The film is, of course, a total bore, and it looks like crud.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 20 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »






Release Date:

28 April 1938 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Human Wreckage See more »

Filming Locations:

New York City, New York, USA

Company Credits

Production Co:

Cinema Service Corp. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (Turner Classic Movies)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

We've Got Your Streaming Picks Covered

Looking for some great streaming picks? Check out some of the IMDb editors' favorites movies and shows to round out your Watchlist.

Visit our What to Watch page

Recently Viewed