Of rather mysterious origins, this exploitation melodrama features Millicent Hamilton (Vivian McGill), a small-town beauty queen who gets infected with syphilis while trying to obtain a career in Big City show business. Reduced to working in a burlesque show, Millicent is told by Dr. Harris (Allan Tower) that her condition is curable but that she must abstain from sexual contact with hometown boyfriend Wendel Hope, at least for the foreseeable future. With a warning against unscrupulous hacks that pry on girls in her condition, Millicent returns to home and hearth and resumes her romance with Wendel (Stanley Barton). A year later, Dr. Grenoble (W. Blake) assures her that she is now ready to become a wife and mother but her child is born unhealthy and Wendel dies. Dr. Grenoble is arrested for quackery and Millicent learns from her pediatrician, Dr. Bayard (Frank Howsen), that she still carries the disease. On the brink of suicide, Millicent hears of a new and effective cure for syphilis. Filmed on the East Coast around 1937, Sex Madness was originally released as Human Wreckage and is also known as They Must Be Told. Although the cast was completely unknown to most moviegoers, Vivian McGill, Linda Lee Hill, Ruth Edell, Charles Olcott, Richard Bengali, Jean Temple, Harry Antrim, and Allan Tower were all veteran Broadway performers while Rose Tapley, who plays the heroine’s mother, had been an early silent screen star. Young male lead Stanley Barton later changed his name to Mark Daniels and was under contract to MGM in the early to mid-’40s.
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Cast and Crew:
Date Release: 1938
Joseph Seiden, Vincent Valentini
Vivian McGill, Rose Tapley and Al Rigali
Action Movies – Drama Movies
Additional details in:
Sex Madness in IMDB
They Must Be Told!
Author: sddavis63 (firstname.lastname@example.org) from Niagara Region, Ontario, Canada
A movie like this has to be judged fairly – and that means being judged by the standards of its era. It tackles a subject that in 1938 would have been taboo to pretty much everyone – the scourge of syphilis, and the associated sexual “looseness” that was seen as its cause. Yes, I know that this is considered an “exploitation” film – one dressed up as an educational film in order to get past censors who would have objected to some of the sexual innuendo contained within it. Still, there is no doubt that at one time syphilis was a major health issue, and so this also comes across as something of a “scare tactic” – a way of warning people to avoid sexual immorality lest they contract the terrible disease. Thus, the words “they must be told!” in the opening credits. The first 20-30 minutes or so jump around a little bit. We see a fair bit of a burlesque show attended by a lot of people, some hints of lesbianism as one girl tries to convince another to spend the night with her, “wild” house parties with couples going off together and assorted shots of those wanting to do battle with the disease and the loose morals at the root of it. It then settles down largely to the story of Millicent – a small town girl who went to New York and caught the disease, then returns home and spreads it to her new husband and their child. The tragic results of the disease are portrayed, and the movie then tries to end on a hopeful note.
This isn’t a particularly good movie. It drags at times, but I thought the subject matter was worthwhile, and looked at from the perspective of 1938 it was courageous. One can only go so far with courage alone, though. Eventually, you have to judge whether a movie has quality or not. This one fails on that count.
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Filed Under: Drama