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“What’s the matter, got a headache? Say, I can fix that right up! I’ve got the grandest headache medicine in the world,” boasts slimy drug pusher Nick (NOEL MADISON) as he sprinkles some “headache powder” on the hand of innocent waitress Jane Bradford (LOIS JANUARY) who takes a sniff and is instantly transformed: “Why, that’s marvelous! I feel better already!”
Nick has just given the cops the slip by ducking into a roadside diner, and he quickly puts the moves on Jane: “You belong in the city!” And, like many a good girl who goes bad, she leaves her mother and the clean country life to take up with Nick in the Big Bad City and become one of The Cocaine Fiends! Though Nick promises to marry her, he instead drops Jane off at a whorehouse where the madame tells Jane the truth: “Those headache powders are dope! Cocaine! The ‘Kid Catcher’!”
It gets even more complicated when Nick sells coke to pretty carhop Fannie whose boyfriend is Jane’s brother, Eddie. Sure enough, Fannie gives Eddie a sniff of the white stuff and the two go to a fancy nightclub where – gasp! – Eddie runs smack into Jane: “Ah, go back to the country, farmer, and don’t ‘Jane’ me!” Remaining in the city, Eddie also descends into addiction, shacking up with Fanny who sells herself to support their habit: “I’ve got to have dope! I’m a hophead! I’d sell my soul for just one shot!” Eddie and Jane are eventually reunited at the local opium den. By that time Jane is no longer Jane but “Lil, a gangster’s discarded moll….”
And then there’s cute little Dorothy, a rich socialite looking for thrills. Nick thinks she’s so pretty that he kidnaps her, takes her to the whorehouse he set Jane up in, and arranges a date between Dorothy and the Big Boss of all the rackets… and the film’s best punchline.
Though The Cocaine Fiends
came before the “marijuana movies” (Marihuana
, 1936, Reefer Madness
, 1936, and Assassin of Youth
, 1937) it also warns that cocaine will not only lead to drug addiction, but a life of crime and sexual excess. In fact, while drugs may be the topic du jour, it’s the sexual excess that provides these films with their gutter-level fuel.
Producer WILLIS KENT specialized in low-budget westerns and roadshow taboo-busters including The Wages of Sin
(1938), Souls in Pawn
(1940), and Confessions of a Vice Baron
(1943). His first film was the 1928 silent version of The Cocaine Fiends
, entitled The Pace That Kills
. In fact, this 1935 version is not only a scene-by-scene remake of the original, but like its silent predecessor, was originally titled The Pace That Kills
. Over the years it also acquired the titles Girls of the Street
, What Price Ignorance?
, and Cocaine Madness
And remember, kids, “What Happens to Jane Bradford may happen to anyone. There will always be ‘Jane Bradfords’ until you, Mr. Citizen, cooperate with the forces now fighting the Dope Evil to forever stamp it out in our land!”
From a 16mm “snowbird” print.
-- Mr. Daddy-O
Noel MadisonOther cast:
Sheila Bromley, Dean Benton, Lois LindsayDirected by:
William A. O'Connor