The Cocaine Fiends (1935)

In the film The Cocaine Fiends (AKA The Pace That Kills) Jane Bradford (Lois January) is working in her family’s roadside cafe when she meets hardened narcotics dealer, Nick the pusher (Noel Madison). A few easy words of flattery, and she’s willing to hide him from the police, so it comes as no surprise when Nick persuades Jane to leave her family and run off to the city with him. Nick begins addicting Jane to narcotics when he provides her with a mysterious ‘headache powder’ that makes her feel instantly better. Soon, Jane has become “Lil”, the tough gangster’s moll.

To make matters worse, Jane’s brother, Eddie (Dean Benton) decides to go to the big, bad city, and look for his sister. He’s working as a carhop when he meets pretty fellow employee, Fanny (Sheila Bromley) who offers him a mysterious ‘pick-me-up’ powder to help prepare him for a night on the town.

Jane and Eddie’s mother is the only person in the Bradford family who isn’t addicted to narcotics, and she waits every day for the postman, but there’s never any news from her errant children.

The Cocaine Fiends tracks the decline of Jane/Lil and Eddie as their lives spiral out-of-control. Weaved into the plot is beautiful socialite, Dorothy Farley (Lois Lindsay) who’s dangerously attracted to riff-raff. She’s continually warned about the moral hazards of various lowlifes, and particularly warned about staying away from the Dead Rat Cafe–a notorious hangout.

The Cocaine Fiends is a companion piece to the classics Reefer Madness and Sex Madness, and film aficionados will want to watch all three. Cocaine Fiends isn’t particularly funny–however, it truly is a tragic tale. The most creative part of the film was the Dead Rat Cafe with its deceased rodent decorating theme. The B&W film quality is sadly poor (I have the Alpha DVD). In some scenes, the white is so bright, facial features are bleached out. The film crackles and skips, chopping off entire words. What a shame. But in spite of the film’s age and quality, I was still entertained. The DVD has no extras–just the option of scene selection. From director William A. O’Connor.


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