Dwain Esper

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Dwain Esper
Dwain Atkins Esper

(1894-10-07)October 7, 1894
DiedOctober 18, 1982(1982-10-18) (aged 88)
OccupationFilmmaker, producer
Hildagarde Stadie (m. 1920)

Dwain Atkins Esper (October 7, 1894 – October 18, 1982) was an American director and producer of exploitation films.


A veteran of World War I, Esper worked as a building contractor before switching to the film business in the mid-'20s. He produced and directed inexpensive pictures with eye-catching titles like Sex Maniac, Marihuana, and How to Undress in Front of Your Husband. To enhance the appeal of these low-budget features, he included scenes containing gratuitous nudity and violence that led some to label him the "father of modern exploitation."[1]

Esper's wife, Hildagarde Stadie, wrote many of the scripts for his films.[2] Together they employed extravagant promotional techniques that included exhibiting the mummified body of notorious Oklahoma outlaw Elmer McCurdy, before it was acquired by Dan Sonney.[3]

Esper died in San Diego, California, at the age of 88.[4] He and Hildagarde had two children, Dwain Jr. and Millicent.


Director credits[edit]

Marijuana: The Devil's Weed, 1936 opening title
a.k.a. Sins of Love (US: reissue title)
a.k.a. The 7th Commandment (US: poster title)
a.k.a. Narcotic Racket (US: reissue title)
a.k.a. Narcotic! (US: promotional title)
a.k.a. Narcotic: As Interpreted by Dwain Esper (US: closing credits title)
a.k.a. Sex Maniac
a.k.a. Marihuana, the Devil's Weed
a.k.a. Marihuana, the Weed with Roots in Hell!
a.k.a. Human Wreckage (US: reissue title)
a.k.a. They Must Be Told (US: reissue title)
a.k.a. Love Life of Adolph Hitler (US: reissue title)
a.k.a. The Strange Love Life of Adolf Hitler (US: reissue title)
a.k.a. The Strange Loves of Adolf Hitler (US: reissue title)

Producer credits[edit]

Excluding films Esper directed.
a.k.a. Beyond Shanghai (UK)
a.k.a. Forbidden Adventure (US: informal reissue title)
a.k.a. Forbidden Adventure in Angkor (US: reissue title, 1937)


a.k.a. Hell-O-Vision (US)
a.k.a. Cain


  1. ^ Senn, Bryan (2006). Golden Horrors: An Illustrated Critical Filmography of Terror Cinema, 1931-1939. McFarland & Company. p. 263. ISBN 978-0786427246.
  2. ^ Cline, John; Weiner, Robert G., eds. (2010). From the Arthouse to the Grindhouse: Highbrow and Lowbrow Transgression in Cinema's First Century. Scarecrow Press. p. 42. ISBN 978-0810876545.
  3. ^ Schaefer, Eric (1999). Bold! Daring! Shocking! True: A History of Exploitation Films, 1919-1959. Duke University Press. p. 122. ISBN 978-0822323747.
  4. ^ "Dwain Esper Obituary". Variety. 27 October 1982. ISSN 0042-2738.

External links[edit]