Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|The Cocaine Fiends|
Actors: Dean Benton, Lois January, Noel Madison, Sheila Manners, Edward Phillips
Directors: W.A. Conner, William O'Connor
Genres: Classics, Drama
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The endless War on Drugs
Johny Bottom | Jacksonville, NC | 08/02/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are certain people who love and collect these government sponsored movies from the 1930's. 'Reefer Madness' is the most famous of these ridiculous pictires, but there are other very good ones, Cocaine Fiends is one of them. All the plots in these movies are the same. A good person (usually a young female) is steered off the wayward path by a slick talking hustler with drugs to sell.
In Cocaine Fiends a young girl who runs a restaurant with her mother makes the mistake of hiding a 'dope peddler' from federal agents after a car chase. He offers her some 'headache powder' after the coast is clear. Next thing you know he's telling her she needs to be in the big city and can be in a show. Well her life goes pretty much downhill from there after she becomes a full blown cokehead.
These films are enjoyable for me. I find it odd how the 'Good ol' days' and 'Those Simple Times of Yesteryear', were as dangerous and decadant as today."
Just What Mom Told You Would Happen...
Bindy Sue Frřnkünschtein | under the rubble | 03/02/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"COCAINE FIENDS concerns a guy named Eddie and his hopeless search for his "drugged-out" sister Jane (Lois January). Jane became a shriveled up sleaze-bucket after being introduced to cocaine by a dope-peddler named Nick (Noel Madison). Along the way, Eddie himself is given cocaine by a girl he meets, sending him deep into the bowels of depravity! Watch and shudder! Extra points for spotting the rodent wallpaper in the notorious "Dead Rat Cafe"! Thankfully, it's only about an hour long..."
"I've got the grandest headache medicine in the world."
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 08/17/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Producer Willis Kent, who specialized in westerners back in the day, switched gears late in his career focusing on the release of exploitive cautionary features, the stated intent being to warn an unsuspecting public of the evils of various illicit activities (I suspect his real goal was to capitalize on the public's fascination with luridness) as depicted in melodramatic features like Smashing the Vice Trust (1937), The Wages of Sin (1938), Mad Youth (1940), and this early entry titled The Cocaine Fiends (1935) aka The Pace That Kills. Directed by William A. O'Connor (Playthings of Hollywood, Confessions of a Vice Baron), the film includes Lois January (Society Fever), Noel Madison ('G' Men), Sheila Bromley (Playthings of Hollywood), Dean Benton (The Return of Chandu), Eddie Phillips (Death Valley Manhunt), Frank Shannon (Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe), and Lois Lindsay (Men Are Such Fools), a one time dance instructor who once taught Shirley Temple.
As the film begins we see a couple of mooks in a car trying to avoid capture by the police (seems the men are involved in peddling smack). The driver drops Nick (Madison) off at a roadside diner where he meets Jane (January), who runs the place with her mother. The police show up, Jane hides Nick (he feeds her a bit about being chased by highwaymen), and afterwards Nick comments on her agitated state, offering her some `headache' powder. Jane becomes enchanted with Nick and his big city ways, enough so to follow him to the asphalt jungle, the thought being the pair would get married. Time passes and Jane comes to the realization big city life isn't all its cracked up to be, as not only is she hooked on `headache' powders, but also a gangster's moll. During Nick's rounds, Jane sees her brother Eddie (Benton), working at a local drive-in, along with a woman named Fanny (Bromley), the latter a customer of Nick's. Fanny takes a fancy to Eddie, who has come to the city in search of Jane, and gets him hooked on Nick's fabulous `headache' powders. More time passes and we see Jane, discarded by Nick, has changed her name to Lil, and hophead Eddie and Fancy are shacking up in a flophouse on skid row, having both been fired from their jobs due to ugly rumors floating around about their personal lives. At some point a rich, young socialite named Dorothy (Lindsay) with a taste for the seedy side of things gets thrown into the mix (Nick's taken a real shine to her). Things between Eddie and Fanny sour seriously (she's been walking the streets to earn money to support his ever growing habit), Fanny's life takes a serious turn for the worse, and Eddie ends up in an opium den where he's found by his sister Jane aka Lil, who tries to convince him to kick the junk and go home. There's some goings on at a hoodlum hangout called The Dead Rat Café (seriously), including a couple of musical numbers followed by Dorothy being abducted (seems Nick is going to use her in a curious, i.e. lame-brained, scheme to take over the dope rackets), and things eventually come to a head as Jane tries to score some dough from Nick to help her hophead brother.
While The Cocaine Fiends doesn't have the frantic energy and dubious delights displayed in Reefer Madness (1936), probably the most well known of these early `cautionary' exploitation films, it does have its seedy, little, melodramatic charms. The performances are fairly goofy, and the dialog laughable, enough so to entertain most who take on the venture of watching tale of woe. There is some oddness here as producer Kent made a film in 1928 titled The Pace That Kills and used some of the footage in this 1935 version, which I guess is something of a remake. It's pretty obvious when the footage is used, as the story skews slightly, and said footage has a very different look than that which was shot in 1935. I did learn a number of things while watching this film, including the following...
1. If someone offers you `headache' medicine, especially the kind taken up the schnoz, you should probably pass.
2. Jane's about as gullible as the day is long, that is if there were fifty hours in a day.
3. Dames, unlike men, tip in smiles.
4. Making whoopee had a different meaning back in the day than it does now.
5. If Eddie was any greener he'd be broccoli.
6. The life of a dicarded gangster's moll is about as unglamourous as it sounds.
7. Apparently working at a drive-in diner back in the day was a real plum job.
8. Jane and Eddie's mother is optimistic to a fault, waiting for letters that never come.
9. Hopheads are unlikely to engage in correspondence (or personal hygiene, for that matter).
10. The Dead Rat Café, despite its repellant name and décor (including rodent themed wallpaper), seems to be doing a heck of a business.
11. Someone out there, at some point, made and sold wallpaper featuring abnormally large rats.
12. Eddie sure likes to say the word hophead.
13. An opium den isn't the best place to grab a little sack time.
One aspect missing was the actual usage of any cocaine. Whenever someone would use it, we'd be looking somewhere else. Heck, I don't think we even saw any cocaine in the film, other than that which was supposed to be concealed in small packets. There's a number of fairly entertaining sequences, but I think my favorite is when Nick, driving about town with Jane, pulls up to a school telling Jane some of his customers will be getting out soon. We don't see any transactions, but it does well to magnify the character's unmitigated rottenness, just in case anyone was unclear on the matter up until that point. As far as the actual story, things kind of bounce around between a number of characters as we witness the ruination wrought upon their lives by the vile, addictive devil powder, leading up to some interesting, albeit far-fetched, twists at the end. All in all not a bad film for its kind, and a decent complement to Reefer Madness, if you're the sort who enjoys these little exploitative nuggets of joy.
The fullscreen picture on this Alpha Video DVD release is very rough at times, as a good portion of the film is washed out, marked with signs of age, and missing numerous frames. As far as the audio, it starts off well, but deteriorates into various states of crumminess as the film progresses. While the video and audio are lacking, it's probably unfair to be overly critical as the film wasn't really the kind of feature someone would go through a lot of effort to preserve for some seventy odd years, so this is probably as good as it's going to get, without someone making a monumental investment in any restorative activities of which I'd doubt they'd see a suitable return. There are no extras on this disc, other than a video display showing the covers of other Alpha releases. One thing's for sure, the cover of the DVD here is certainly interesting and entertaining...