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The Pace That Kills
IMDB Rating: 3.9/10 from N/A votes
Release: 01 Dec 1935 /

The Pace That Kills

Genre: Drama
Director: William A. O'Connor,
Synopsis: Drug dealer on the run from the law meets an innocent young girl and her brother, and turns them into cocaine fiends.

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Critic Reviews

This film, better known by its alternate title of "Cocaine Fiends," is a good example (not a good movie, mind you; just a good example) of the ultra-cheap "exploitation" market that existed in the '30s and '40s. Independent producers like Willis Kent--who made this--specialized in sensationalistic, "taboo" subjects that the major studios, and even the minor ones, wouldn't dare to touch. Titles like "Cocaine Fiends," "Reefer Madness," "Sex Madness," "Confessions of a Vice Baron", "Escort Girls", etc., were guaranteed to draw crowds into the rural grindhouses and third-rate urban theaters for which they were designed. Since these films were outside (WAY outside) the mainstream Hollywood system, they didn't adhere to the rigid censorship that existed in America at that time, and consequently were able to tackle subjects (usually badly) and show material (usually nudity, though mostly partial) that patrons would otherwise be unable to see. I actually enjoy these films more than a lot of the "mainstream" product of the time. While MGM was churning out the bland, inoffensive Andy Hardy series, Dwain Esper was making "Reefer Madness," Willis Kent was putting out "Confessions of a Vice Baron" and J.D. Kendis was coming out with "The Vice Racket"--pictures that explored, however ineptly, a darker, seamier side of American life that most people didn't know, or didn't want to know, existed.

As for this picture, it's terrible, of course. Inept at virtually every conceivable level, it's nonetheless entertaining as an insight into the attitudes of American society of that time towards unpleasant subjects--which was, of course, to either ignore them, deny they existed or punish anyone unwise enough to bring them up. And lest anybody think that the "epidemic" of cocaine use is a recent phenomenon, they should know that this picture is itself a remake (by the same producer and director) of a 1928 film of the same name on the same subject, which shows that there was an apparently substantial problem in this country with hard drugs as far back as at least the 1920s--although you'd never know there was a problem with ANYTHING, judging by the "mainstream" films that came out of Hollywood. Alcoholism was treated as an amusing diversion, personified by the genial drunks of Arthur Housman and Jack Norton, and drug abuse (and, especially, sexual abuse) were such taboo subjects that the studios wouldn't even MENTION them in films, let alone make films about them. Although a few serious pictures in the '50s tackled some of these subjects, it wasn't until the '60s and '70s, when these problems couldn't be ignored any longer, that truly serious films about drug abuse, alcoholism and other societal afflictions began to be made.

Movies like "Cocaine Fiends" served their purpose--they made their producers money (they were shot so cheaply and quickly it was difficult NOT to make money off them) and gave the "renegade" movie audiences (as they were called at the time) a cheap thrill they wouldn't have gotten otherwise. They also had an unintended result--although somewhat exaggerated, they left an historical record of some of the problems that affected American society of the time, problems that subsequent generations would very likely have had little or no knowledge about if it wasn't for pictures like "Cocaine Fiends" and its brethren. If these films provided any public service at all, it was that.

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