ADDICTED TO DRUG MOVIES
As long as cinema needs a truly despicable villain, something exotic to spice up its moralistic melodramas, an excuse for visionary celluloid effects, or quite simply as long as it sells, drugs will always be a part of the movies. A persistent taboo guaranteed to tantalize and terrify, the drug experience and the drug culture around it have been common grist for filmmakers since the early days of motion pictures, when Thomas Edison released Opium Joint in 1894.
With a number of encyclopedic guides an the subject already out, underground film historian Jack Steuenson isn't so concerned with being a completist in Rddicted: The Mpth and Menace of Drugs in Film [Creation
Books], R collection of 13 essays, a full third written by Steuenson himself, Rddicted begins with a historical oueruiew and then shifts focus from genres to foreign-language films to specific films. Regarding drug films as inherently reactionary, these essays don’t measure the relatiue ment of the films according to their accuracy or politics, but consider them for their aesthetic ualue and sociological implications. From the preachy and intolerant hysteria of Dwain Esper [director of 193E's Narcotic, who four years later purchased and retitled a Los Angeles church group's mouie Reefer Madness] to the recasting of drugs as social allegory in contemporary films like Trainspotting, Fear and Loathing m Las Uegas and Rids, Steuenson himself seems most concerned with how these pictures are cultural byproducts of their times. Describing the book as an "exploration of the cumulatiue phenomenon of drug cinema, the people, the issues, the trends and the technical styles," Steuenson allows perhaps a little too much of the academic into his pop suruey. But with extensiue couerage of some of the more neglected areas of drug cinema, including underground and non-commercial films, and the contributions made by Denmark, Germany, Italy, Sweden and other countries to the euer-expandmg narco-filmography, Rddicted prouides information and ideas that extend this controuersial subject well beyond the campy cult-mouie ghetto to which it's usually banished. —Carlo McCormick