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COCAINE FIENDS, THE (aka: THE PACE THAT KILLS) (director/writer: William A O’Connor; cinematographer: Jack Greenhalgh; editor: Holbrook N. Todd; cast: Lois January (Jane Bradford aka Lil), Noel Madison (Nick, the pusher), Sheila Manners (Fanny), Dean Benton (Eddie Bradford), Lois Lindsay (Dorothy Farley), Eddie Phillips (Manager of Dead Rat Club), Chas. Delaney (Dan – the Detective – Dorothy’s Boyfriend), Frank Shannon (Mr. Farley); Runtime: 68; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Willis Kent; Alpha Video; 1935)
“Unlike Reefer Madness, its drug of choice really does present dangers to society and its unfortunate an inept film like this is just something to be laughed at or ignored.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This one is a remake of Willis Kent’s silent The Pace That Kills (1928), using much of the same footage throughout. It’s also a companion piece to the campy classic Reefer Madness. This low-budget anti-drug exploitation film must have had as much of an effect in curbing drugs as the recent ‘just say no to drugs’ campaign. If the ragged pace of this amateur-like film won’t kill you, then its weak melodrama might. It dishes out an insipid warning message over a real drug problem that is more suited for modern times than when it was made in the 1930s. Unlike Reefer Madness, its drug of choice really does present dangers to society and its unfortunate an inept film like this is just something to be laughed at or ignored. William A O’Connor (“The Primrose Path”) is the director who received a paycheck for this film, or was it a few snorts?

Jane Bradford (Lois January), who calls herself Lil, is a small-town roadside coffee-shop waitress who is slipped “headache powder” and falls in love with smooth-talking city hoodlum for the mob, Nick Brogan (Noel Madison), who while on the run from the cops takes Jane away from her nice but clueless mom to the big bad city. Once there, he gets her hooked on cocaine and marries her and then, in character, abuses her. The mysterious big boss of the rackets, Mr. Farley (Frank Shannon), orders Jane to work as a singer and hoofer at his Dead Rat Cafe, a dive infamous for its hophead clientele. Jane’s naive brother Eddie (Dean Benton) quits school and comes to the city in search of her, and finds work at a drive-in. There he meets fellow carhop Fanny (Sheila Manners), who introduces him to drugs and he becomes an addict. At the Dead Rat, Fanny and Eddie meet the “questing” blonde cutie Dorothy (Lois Lindsay), who doesn’t realize that her father is the Man behind the ‘girl and dope’ rackets, and her friendly boyfriend Dan (Chas. Delaney). He’s an undercover detective from the Vice Squad, trying to get the goods on her old man through her but has actually fallen in love with the innocent Dorothy. Also at the nightclub is Nick, who comes on to Dorothy in a thuggish manner. Dan informs his crew that Nick’s a mobster, who sells drugs to teens and should be avoided. To Eddie’s surprise Jane is also at the nightclub, but ignores him. When a scene is made, Nick has Fanny and Eddie bounced from the club. Later Fanny and Eddie get fired as carhops because of their cocaine habit. The doomed couple move in together and Fanny becomes pregnant, but the couple can’t find bliss and have a tough time kicking their habits and making a go of it. It all leads in a banal way to an unconvincing moral lesson about how drugs can ruin your life, as we witness a kidnapping, a daring rescue and a happy ending only for Dorothy and Dan.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”