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Sex Madness (1938)

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Sex Madness (1938)
Sex Madness (1938)

Philanthropist Paul Lorenz is one of the more public faces in the fight against behavior that spreads the many “social diseases”, such as syphilis and gonorrhea. An example of such behavior is going to or performing in burlesque shows, which promotes casual sex. Indeed, many in the audience at one burlesque show in New York have only sex on their mind, including young unmarried couple James and Jane, office colleagues Peggy and Betty (Peggy who is trying to seduce Betty), and Paul Lorenz’s son himself, Tom Lorenz, who is looking forward to an after show group sex party, which will include some of the girls from the show, such as Sheila Wayne, who has syphilis but treats it as casually as her sex. One of the show girls who won’t be attending the party is Millicent Hamilton. From a small town, good girl Millicent’s pre-engagement to her boyfriend Wendel Hope was interrupted when she won a beauty contest with a trip to New York. She found life in New York more difficult than she expected and a sexual encounter associated with trying to advance her show business career resulted in her also contracting syphilis. But Millicent is going to respected Dr. Hampton, who informs her that she can fully recover and eventually marry Wendel if she takes the slow, intensive but proven therapy. But when she leaves New York for home which means therapy with another doctor, Dr. Hampton warns her to beware of quacks who may promise a full, expensive miracle cure. When Millicent heads home, will she heed Dr. Hampton’s advice, or will she fall prey to the hope of a quick cure so that she can marry Wendel sooner?

A film ahead of its time when it was released in 1938, Sex Madness is a cautionary tale about mindless sex and its permanent consequences, as told through the experience of a woman who gives in to her carnal urges and later finds out that her one night of irresponsibility has given her a lasting “gift”: syphilis. The sexually transmitted disease is depicted as a horrible monster — incurable, disastrous and too high a price to pay for pleasure.

Director: Dwain Esper
Starring: Vivian McGill, Rose Tapley, Al Rigali

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