Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

HOME VIDEO | VCR Viewing

The Lessons Are Lost, but Not the Laughs

May 27, 1999|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

If you love truly trashy movies, Kino on Video's newest release, "Forbidden Fruit: The Golden Age of the Exploitation Film" features three incredibly bad flicks from the 1930s: "Narcotic," "Maniac" and the cult classic "Reefer Madness" ($20 each).

These movies were made by independents working outside the Hollywood system on skeletal budgets. They cover such then-taboo subjects as drug addiction, prostitution, suicide and childbirth and were far more violent and sexually explicit than any of the fare seen in mainstream theaters. These movies were strictly "adults only," and it was even reported that women would faint in the aisle because the films were so raw and disturbing.

That's by 1930s standards. Today the films are comical.

"Narcotic," which was directed in 1933 by Dwain Esper, was advertised as an educational treatise on drug addiction. It is loosely based on the life of William Davies, the opium-addicted uncle of producer Hildagarde Esper. The crudely made drama chronicles his downward spiral from a brilliant medical student to a frequenter of opium dens. As he becomes more and more addicted, he ends up working in a carnival freak show and visits brothels and drug parties. Along the way there are scenes of a caesarean birth, a snake fight and car wrecks. The Kino edition was digitally mastered from a 35-millimeter print from the Library of Congress.

"Maniac," a real gross-out from 1934, is also from the team of Dwain and Esper. This perverse drama--in reality a Depression-era version of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Black Cat"--features such grotesque moments as the maniac ripping out a victim's eyeball and eating it and a madman who thinks he is an orangutan raping a reanimated corpse. Presented in cooperation with the UCLA Film and Television Archive, this edition has been digitally mastered from a 35-millimeter print.

Rounding out the series is the 1936 hoot "Reefer Madness," a silly drama in which an anti-drug lecturer tells a group of concerned citizens the tale of how some wholesome kids got hooked on marijuana and ruined their lives.

To order: (800) 562-3330.

*

For those who are looking for something classier, there's Milestone's new "Sweetheart: The Films of Mary Pickford Collection," six classic films starring the first American movie star ($30 each). These silent films, which have not been seen in several years, have been newly mastered, color tinted and given new scores. Several of the films also include extra goodies, from early Pickford shorts to newsreel footage of Pickford marrying her third hubby, Charles "Buddy" Rogers.

The set features the charming 1918 comedy "Amarilly of Clothes-line Alley"; the delightful 1919 comedy "Daddy-Long-Legs"; 1927's "My Best Girl," an engaging romantic comedy that co-stars Rogers and was her last silent film; 1918's drama "Stella Maris," in which Pickford plays a beautiful but sheltered heiress and a homely servant; 1922's "Tess of the Storm Country," a remake of her 1914 hit about a young woman struggling to survive; and 1926's "Sparrows," a Gothic thriller about the horrors of baby farms.

*

Kids and their baby boomer parents will enjoy the 50th anniversary edition of the Walt Disney animated classic "The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad" ($23). Disney's 11th animated film consists of the two beloved children's tales, "The Wind in the Willows" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." Bing Crosby and Basil Rathbone are among the vocal talents featured.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|