On a recent podcast episode I mentioned that I watched the gloriously trashy Crack House immediately after returning home from Paul Thomas Anderson's rich, dense masterpiece The Master. Roger and I then discussed this attraction of ours toward the extremes of cinema: trash and art. For me, seeing these movies back-to-back wasn't the jarring experience most would assume it to be. Yes, the intentions of these films are miles apart, but the result was the same: both movies reinforced my love of film—The Master for expanding the limits of the cinematic vocabulary, and Crack House...for being Crack House. And for Jammer ("G for life").
In retrospect, though, it's a shame I didn't watched Dwain Esper's exploitation masterpiece Sex Madness on the same day I watched Anderson's picture, because I think it would've proved a more apt second feature for an art/trash double bill. Just as many people were confounded by Anderson's seemingly inscrutable intentions, they would similarly scratch their heads over Esper's sexually-themed foray into the avant-garde. The difference being, of course, that with The Master, ambiguity and experimentation were intentional.
Actually, now that I think about it, Crack House and Sex Madness would make an interesting double feature as well. They both, after all, hail from the same school of finger-wagging exploitation. Of course, in the early days of exploitation (the thirties), the era that most would now refer to as exploitation proper, the majority of these films were marketed under the guise of education. Sure they reveled in the seamier side of life, exploring topics the respectable Hollywood establishment was forbidden by the Production Code to touch; but it was only because the noble exploitation film-makers were attempting to elucidate the public on the dangers their kids faced. No, you don't have to see Dwain Esper's previous masterpiece Marihuana (it's about marihuana), and learn its lessons on the dangers of marihuana, but is that a risk your kids can afford? What kind of parent are you? Asshole.
And so with Sex Madness....I honestly have no idea what the fuck this movie is about. Yes, it frowns on premarital sex, and yes it taught me that syphilis is bad; but aside from that I really have no idea what was going on here. To wit:
A couple laments the depraved nature of today's youth. Enter one of said youth, who laments the stodgy ways of his elders. Now, a tame non-nude burlesque show. Backstage at the burlesque show: a dancer invites other dancers to party with members of the hygiene department. New scene: A different dancer talks to her doctor about her status as a human petri-dish. Cut to: flashback scene of said girl attempting some oral hygiene. Except instead of a toothbrush it's five dicks. And instead toothpaste, cum. Also, five men ejaculate in her mouth.
Which means, harlot. Also, syphilis. But she wants to get married. Now, she and husband have syphilis-ridden baby. Different town: another guy talking to his doc about the like tons of syphilis he now has. He's just got so much syphilis. His dad takes him on a syphilis tour. Director Esper then says, "This is as good a place as any to end it." [ed. note: Dave was nodding off during this picture, which he watched immediately after watching the "Roast of Roseanne." Also, don't trust anything Dave writes about movies. Ever.]
So, yeah, syphilis bad; Sex Madness good.