Reading through some blogs this morning and came across a reference to a 1938 movie called Sex Madness, which like the perhaps more familiar, Reefer Madness, is a quasi-documentary film pointing out the dangers of unbridled sexual activity and the dangers of STDs particularly Syphillis. Its a moral prescriptive story about new values, or lack of values and morality around sexual activity and the young, and features a 'concerned citizen,' Paul Lorenz, who is on a one-person crusade against immorality. Of course the protagonists are up for any kind of sexual activity regardless of the cost and consequences--'wild' parties, lesbianism and premarital sex all follow.
The form of the film, which was 'educational' allowed things to be shown that were forbidden by the Motion Picture Production Code of 1930. It's less than an hour long, but it is an insightful peak into a period in history where new moralities were challenging old ways--it's after the giddy and dizzying heights of the Jazz Age, when new attitudes to gender, class, sex and sexuality and social norms were pushing the world into directions many felt uncomfortable with the direction things were going and reduced everything down to a simple moral equation rather than wrestling with the complexities of new social relations and finding ways to address both the opportunities and challenges of such shifts. Funny how not much has changed in that regard. One of my favourite 'pick-up lines in the film comes courtsey of a suave 'cowboy/flamenco' guy who is preying on a naive young girl swept up in the idea of an independent life and career, "lets seal our friendship with wine-sparkling, bright...it rids the mind of worry, fills the soul with hope..." very smooth--this first drink leads to champagne a wild party and then... it happened, a life ruined. Unfortunately, of course, nasty things can and do happen to people when their minds are blurred and their eyes are blinded by things they desire, but the films heavy-handed and one-sided treatment of the issues is what makes it worth watching.
Morality and moral choices are so simple for some people, it's just a case of always knowing right from wrong--I find it usually much more complex, especially in times of change, when we find ourselves at the frontier of new human orderings and what is emerging has yet to be named and defined. You can watch the whole film here.