Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Exploitation Movies: Assassin of Youth (1937)

The 1930s produced a cornucopia of grindhouse exploitation films (aka "sexploitation" movies), usually disguised as "educational" movies that were ostensible cautionary tales about one social problem or another.

Today's feature is the over-the-top exposé of the evils of marijuana, Assassin of Youth from 1937.

Full movie:

This is one of the classics of anti-marijuana propaganda. Sweet girl Joan Barrie is left her grandmother's fortune, but with an odd morals clause. She has to remain "pure" or she doesn't get the money. This doesn't sit well with her blonde(!) scheming cousin, Linda, who sets out to ruin Joan's reputation so that she can get the money. Odd that the "morals" clause applies only to Joan, but never mind that.

Crusading cub reporter Art Brighton goes undercover to expose the danger of marijuana "right here in River City". We learn that marijuana is the worst drug ever, we are treated to a film-within-the-film lecture by a "noted expert" who lectures us pedantically that the word "assassin" comes from "hashish" (here's the Straight Dope on that) and was applied to a group of paid killers in "Syria and Persia"(?) who smoke the dreaded weed and become robotlike murderers. We are also treated to an overwrought recreation of an insane man's confession that he killed five people -- including his uncle! -- while he was under the influence of the "narcotic weed".

In the festive party atmosphere that surrounds the "kids" in this movie (as usual, a bunch of 25-year-old teenagers), Joan falls in the lake and has to take off her clothes to dry them, Linda "accidentally" sets the clothes on fire, and when they return to town Linda and her boyfriend/secret husband make sure that the town busybody sees Joan wearing nothing. Nothing, that is, but a long trench coat that covers everything.

Along the way Joan's little sister takes a few tokes off of some "reefer", goes into a psychotic breakdown, is subjected to some tsk-tsk-clucking by a narcotics-expert doctor, and lingers on in a semi-vegetative state. The reporter enlists Joan's help in exposing the local dope racket, a comedy scene occurs at the court when the judge is trying to render the will, and everything works out in the end: Art rushes in with his stop-the-presses exposé, Linda is exposed, Joan gets the money, and at the end of the movie she and Art are going to get married.

In short, take away all the drug references and it's just another soap opera.

Also notable, for comic effect: The stoned-out party guy, the town busybody Miss Frisbee and her scooter, and Pop Brady who owns the soda fountain where everyone hangs out when they are not partying. (Even though these are all supposed to be high school kids, we never see the school, never see them in class.)

For what it's worth, the innocent girl/lead character is referred to as "Joan Barry" in all the writeups on this movie, but she is listed as "Joan Barrie" in the credits.

The money shot: When she takes off her wet clothes at the lake we see Joan's white skivvies, and then we see her naked, more or less, in a profile silhoutte. There's also some dancing where the girls raise their skirts to mid-thigh and show some -- gasp -- stocking tops.

Lessons learned: Don't dare take that first reefer. And, since all the reefers presented in these movies look like ordinary cigarettes (nobody hand-rolled joints in those days, it appears), better not to smoke at all. And of course, it goes without saying, don't trust blondes.

Directed by: Elmer Clifton, who also gave us Gambling With Souls and Slaves in Bondage

Taglines: Puff--Party--Tragedy! MARIHUANA - a Puff - a Party - a Tragedy!

Also known as Marihuana and The Marijuana Menace

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