There’s no way to describe this recently rediscovered, early 1960s anti-pornography film except to say that it is fucking wild.
The Register-Guard reports that the Oregon Historical Society recently uncovered a copy of the hysterically named “Pages of Death” in their archives. Previously presumed lost, it’s a 27-minute attempt by the “Citizens for Decent Literature” to suggest that the inexpensive, dirty magazines and paperbacks flooding the market at the time were a public safety threat, as they could turn regular American boys into sex-crazed maniacs who brutalize and murder little girls. That is not hyperbole! That is literally what happens in this movie!
It’s essentially an episode of Dragnet: Special Victims Unit. A schoolgirl goes missing; her frantic parents call the cops; the cops find out she stopped off at popular local variety store just two blocks from school. The square-jawed detectives know it well because it sells the kind of cheap, filthy, dangerous reading material they see as a public menace. “These kids can pick up these girly magazines and sex/violence stuff all over town,” says one of these disgusted public servants. “Now any kid with a quarter and a four-cent stamp can even order them through the mail,” his partner adds.
The square-jawed detectives start looking into Paul, a city councilman’s son—the same city councilman who opposed a ban on the kind of nasty stuff sold at that local variety store. They poke around his room and discover magazines, paperbacks, movies, even slides—“strictly hardcore stuff.” Confronted by the detectives, Paul quickly confesses: “I didn’t mean to do it! I didn’t mean to!” the kid says. “I don’t know why I did it. I don’t know why.”
“I think we do, Paul,” says one of the stern-faced detectives, furiously throwing a dirty magazine onto a pile with the others. All of this heartbreak could have been avoided—if only there’d been a city ordinance against girly mags!!!!
The parallels to the 1936 you-gotta-be-kidding-me camp classic Reefer Madness are unmistakable. (It’s also worth bearing in mind when weighing any claims about the havoc surely wrought by Internet pornography.) But the way it shifts responsibility off the privileged perpetrator and onto “smut” magazines is frankly unnerving, especially when you considered the 1950s’ relentless obsession with what was “normal” and what was “deviant” and the repercussions for anybody who didn’t fit the mold.
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