|Directed by||Dwain Esper|
|Produced by||Dwain Esper|
|Written by||Joseph Seiden
Linda Lee Hill
|Running time||57 mins.|
Sex Madness (1938) is an exploitation film directed by Dwain Esper, along the lines of Reefer Madness, supposedly to warn teenagers and young adults of the dangers of venereal diseases, specifically syphilis.
This exploitation film belongs to the social guidance genre of quasi-documentary narratives, which exhort young adults to follow particular moral and social prescriptions related to sexuality and drug use.
The film centres on Paul Lorenz, a "concerned citizen" alarmed at the spread of venereal diseases such as syphilis and gonorrhea. However, at a New York burlesque show, several protagonists are more intent on engagement in sexual pleasure, regardless of the subsequent costs. They include Paul's own son Tom, burlesque dancer Sheila Wayne (who has syphilis), and two secretaries, lesbian Peggy and Betty, whom she is trying to seduce. However, one figure is not amongst them- Millicent Hamilton, a reformed former burlesque dancer. Millicent won a beauty contest in her hometown, which led her to New York, but a "casting couch" sexual encounter led her to contract syphilis. Millicent is told by her physician, Dr. Hamilton, that her condition can be cured, but only after slow, and painstaking treatment, and she should reject quack pseudo-cures. Millicent consents to this, eager to return to her home town and marry her boyfriend, Wendell- but will she heed the doctor's warnings? And what will the consequences be if she does not?
Wild parties, lesbianism, and premarital sex are some of the forms of 'madness' portrayed. The educational aspect of the film allowed it to portray a taboo subject which was otherwise forbidden by the Motion Picture Production Code of 1930, and its stricter version imposed by Hollywood studios in July 1934.
It has been reissued under many titles, including Human Wreckage, They Must Be Told, and Trial Marriage, since many distributors frowned upon the appearance of the word "sex" in the film's title. The title changes may have also been a way of tricking audience members into paying to see the same film more than once.
- "Sex Madness film review". April 18, 2010.
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