Sex Madness

September 27, 2010 at 12:33 am (3 Heads, Sex Madness) (, , , )

Sex Madness – 1938 – United States

Many moralizing “educational” films were means to slip violence and perversion past censors. Maniac (1934) directed by Dwain Esper is an excellent example. An apparent mental illness expose, it’s a weak excuse for nudity and mad science shenanigans. With lesbians and a (lousy) burlesque show within 15 minutes, I expected Sex Madness (also from Dwain Esper) to follow the trend, more so considering the provocative title. Sadly, Sex Madness is a relatively sincere piece of propaganda.

After a rallying title card “They must be told!”, Sex Madness details an earnest bubbly small town blonde’s descent in despair as she struggles at a New York theater career. Desperately falling in with sleazy producer-types, she contracts syphilis in an inebriated moment. Shelling out exorbitant fees to a “quack” doctor, she believes herself to be cured. But after marrying/birthing, the truth comes out and the family suffers from illness. As she and her husband prepare for double suicide, the phone rings. It’s an old New York friend, a fast chick (last heard saying: “Bed? That’s not for relaxin’—that’s for action!”) who also swung into syphilis, but was cured after years of treatment from honest physicians. Inspired, the blonde sets down her glass of poison and cries with relief. Roll credits.

Sex Madness isn’t terribly exciting. Straight-faced with few extreme elements compared to similar flicks—check out the numerous drug cautionaries for maximum sex/murder/suicide depravity—Sex Madness is somewhat interesting as a glimpse into the repressed 1930s. White-haired authoritative men tenderly but sternly coach the reckless youth back to righteousness. The moral (Don’t have sex!) is patronizingly spoon fed to the viewer. These films are fun time capsules. Plus, dig the seedy New York locations and evocative cheapie effects: a girl supposedly ravaged by disease has grimy fingernails and painted-on spots.

Those watching Sex Madness for Dwain Esper’s unique insanity may disappointedly discover its strangeness pales before Maniac or Marihauna. Fans of public-domain obscurities may enjoy themselves anyway.

Rating: 3/10 Shrunken Heads. Neither entertaining nor informative—there’s a small chance you might enjoy it regardless.

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