The Awesome YouTube Gems Series – Sex Madness!

This is the second instalment a 10-part series showcasing the best long-form videos from über-popular video-sharing website, YouTube.

In the years leading up to WWII in America, money was scarce as the effects of the Great Depression were still being felt. As a result people did whatever they could to have a good time — cheaply and with vigour. The board game Monopoly was introduced, baseball became popular and fashion focused on the affordable (it’s no coincidence the zipper became widespread).

It’s no surprise then that two of the least costly forms of “entertainment” — sex and intoxication — fed the need for inexpensive escapism. And naturally a puritanical backlash appeared. In cinema, two exploitation films captured this contradictory period of divergent social mores. The first, cult favourite Reefer Madness, was released in 1936 as the beginning of the war on drugs, specifically marijuana. Less known but equally cultish was the release of another moralistic film two years later, Sex Madness. Shot in New York City, Sex Madness tells the cautionary tale of an evil “relentless enemy” attacking family values at the time, venereal disease — specifically syphilis. While the film shows the kind of low-budget, crude editing from that era, the storyline is compelling from a historical viewpoint. This is an America where the divergent paths between liberal and conservative clearly emerges. Sex Madness is intriguing in its references to lesbianism, wild sex parties and the infamous “casting couch” against a foundation of high moral values.

While the anachronistic nature of this film provides adds a comedic backdrop to any house party, a closer look reveals a fascinating time in modern US history just before the start of WWII and its eventual rise as a global superpower. Running 57 minutes, Sex Madness is a YouTube gem worth watching if you enjoy film history.