Story: A burlesque show has attracted a lot of attention and big crowds, though some worry the scandalous performances could lead to a moral decline. After all, the bare skin and gyrating dance moves, it could prove to be too much for gentler souls to handle. Even so, the shows remain popular and the audiences tend to be somewhat diverse, with folks of varied ages and backgrounds interested to see what burlesque can offer. The irresistible allure of the stage show sparks some buried passions, as attendees begin to grope each other right at their seats, some young men wind up in a night of romance with some of the dancers, and one man is driven to murder by the lustful rage within, or at least that is what some would like to claim. Is there any hope for society or will this kind of rampant lust overtake the streets and flood the world with passion?
Entertainment Value: As someone who loves all the anti-drug propaganda movies from around this period, I might have expected too much of Sex Madness. The narrative centers on a genuine concern, sexually transmitted diseases and that kind of grounds the movie somewhat, since the claims of weed psychosis in films like Reefer Madness was outlandish. Of course, Sex Madness isn’t content to just warn of that health related risk involved, instead it paints sexual desire as an out of control freight train that even leads to murder. And there again, we sadly know some people do act out in violence when they’re denied or rejected, so that kind of deflates the exploitation value somewhat. To be fair however, there are some over the top elements here as well, especially how burlesque is painting as some kind of pure evil that brainwashes all the audience. The production values are pretty awful, with poor editing and a drifting and sometimes random narrative, so in the end, the best part of Sex Madness winds up being the title itself, which is a disappointment.
The cast here is not much to talk about, as the performances are rather bland, as opposed to the wild, over the top efforts seen in similar productions. Vivian McGill has the lead and she is passable, doing her best to navigate an awful script and from what we see on screen, lackluster direction from the infamous Dwain Esper. McGill’s situation is likely shared by most of her costars, as we can’t tell how skilled the performers are, when the movie itself fails to give them much to do. The real star of the show is boredom and while that has the most screen time, the dull nature of the material, especially with such salacious subject matter, ties the hands of the cast. I wouldn’t have minded at all if everyone just went off the deep end, but perhaps Esper believed he was making a new dramatic classic. The cast also includes Mark Daniels, Rose Tapley, and Al Rigali.
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