From the very beginning, filmmakers have struggled to free themselves from censorship and manipulation by special-interest groups, and this struggle is clearly evident in the history of drug films. Cocaine Fiends and Reefer Madness is an exhaustive exploration of the history of the depiction of psychoactive drugs in motion pictures from Thomas Edison’s Opium Smoker (1894) to Cocaine Cowboys (1978), Included are over 400 silent and 1,000 sound films as well as nearly 500 drug-abuse films, 85 experimental films, and 135 television programs. More than 150 stills, most never before published and many extremely rare, illustrate the text. Arranged chronologically as well as by drug type and often by country, this book shows that, far from being a recent phenomenon, drug films were made in nearly every country and period that produced a significant body of films.
Visit Edison’s first film studio, reflect on the filmic consequences of Cocteau’s opium addiction with Kenneth Anger’s early experiences with magic mushrooms, see Charles Laughton smuggling cocaine inside a statute of the Buddha, and watch Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., consuming vast quantities of opium and cocaine in a World War I Sherlock Holmes parody.