HOOKED: ANTI-DRUG FILMS FROM THE 30'S TO THE 70'S (Rocket/Triton DVD): Marijuana to murder in 15 minutes

 |   |  1 min read

The Mystery Trend: Johnny Was a Good Boy
HOOKED: ANTI-DRUG FILMS FROM THE 30'S TO THE 70'S (Rocket/Triton DVD): Marijuana to murder in 15 minutes

Every generation thinks it invents the same two things: swearing and sex. Equally, in the Western world at least, for the past century or so every generation gets the soundtrack it needs. And the drugs.

Drug education is a fraught area (more so than movies about junkies or drugs) and the tendency has been to go for scare scenarios. No one in their right mind doubts the dangers of methamphetamine, and while most sensible thinkers would concede that there are also dangers with marijuana at the other end of the spectrum for some people, pot would still be at the lower end of the scale.

Unless you lived in the US in the Thirties, Forties or Fifties if these films were coming up at your drive-in or local picture theatre.

drug1This three-disc collection of anti-drug films (from Cocaine Fiends of '35 through Narcotics Pit of Despair in '67 to Drugs Are Like That in '79) doesn't give contemporary audiences any new information (other than confirming that opium dens still look really cool) but does show you how earnest and well-meaning citizens and film-makers tried to educate young people about the scourge ravaging high schools and communities.

The odd thing is that in those decades drug abusers were remarkably easy to identify: they were the ones in leather jackets with spots who weren't drinking sodas down at the malt shop. They were the thuggish guys in suits and their slutty girlfriends, the ones who listened to jive and jazz, and who would bash anyone on the head after just two puffs of reefer because they needed money for their next fix of heroin.

Ah, simpler times. And better cars too.

As with the similarly conceived juvenile delinquency collection, there is something simplistic and quaint about these films: drugged up kids come from bad families or poor backgrounds, they are failures at high school, good kids runs with the wrong set (but after love and attention can get back to mom and pop and study), and middle class life looks painfully dull.

drugs2_1The interesting thing you took away at the time was that there seemed to be a direct equation between smoking a joint and then stealing, killing and hanging out with creepy people or low level gangsters. In short, a joint allowed you entry into a far more colourful world than suburbia.

Stupid, unintentionally funny and tragic too. There are a lot of very beautiful opium pipes burned by narcotics officers in a silent sequence from 1914. Bastards!

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Film at Elsewhere articles index

BASEBALL, a film by F. THEODORE ELLIOTT

BASEBALL, a film by F. THEODORE ELLIOTT

From the flickering typed-out titles, this strangely compelling 80 minute debut feature by Auckland filmmaker Elliott warns you of its lo-fi and homemade quality, and that it is a labour of love... > Read more

OCCUPIED, SERIES 1: A series by ERIK SKJOLDBJAERG and KARIANNE LUND (Madman DVD/Blu-ray)

OCCUPIED, SERIES 1: A series by ERIK SKJOLDBJAERG and KARIANNE LUND (Madman DVD/Blu-ray)

So this is how the end of your freedom begins, not with a zombie invasion or some future described in that cliché “dystopian”. It begins with the suddenness of an invasion, or... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . SKIP SPENCE: Oar in dark water

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . SKIP SPENCE: Oar in dark water

Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd and Roky Erickson of Thirteenth Floor Elevators don't own the category of "mad Sixties acid casualty" exclusively. Alexander Spence -- aka Skip Spence... > Read more

Alan Brown: Between the Spaces (Ode)

Alan Brown: Between the Spaces (Ode)

New Zealand keyboard player Alan Brown -- who has previously been in Blue Train and is currently in the Grand Central Band -- is on record saying that rather than writing a jazz album he wanted all... > Read more