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Dwain Esper (1894-1982)

Related: American exploitation - early exploitation film


Marihuana, Motherhood & Madness features the complete shooting scripts of three Depression-era films directed by independent filmmaker Dwain Esper. A topic of growing interest among cinema aficionados and scholars, the lowbrow exploitation genre was the means by which small-scale entrepreneurs could compete with the major studios. Exploitation films addressed such controversial topics as drug use, prostitution, abortion, child marriage, and even bestiality--topics the major studios were forbidden to address by the Production Code Administration--salaciously exploiting the profitability of such taboo issues, while justifying their prurience by posing as educational tracts.

Dwain Esper (1894-1982) was the exploitation industry's most audacious figure. Without any formal training in filmmaking, he operated his own film lab and studio (which he acquired when a debtor defaulted on a loan) and in 1932 began tapping into Depression America's appetites for iniquity. As technically crude as his films are, they possess a savage beauty and are highlighted by moments of sublime tenderness and startling horror, proving that Esper had a natural gift for the medium, even if he was only involved for the money.

The screenplays included are: Modern Motherhood (1934), a social commentary on liberal marriages, abortion, and face-lifts; Maniac (1934), a treatise on mental illness delivered in the low-budget horror-movie format; and Marihuana: Weed with Roots in Hell (1936), a "drug scare" film in which a few puffs set an innocent high-school girl on a downward spiral to become a heroin-addicted, drug-pushing kidnapper. --http://www.scarecrowpress.com/Catalog/SingleBook.shtml?command=Search&db=%5EDB/CATALOG.db&eqSKUdata=0810833751 [Nov 2005]

Maniac (1934) - Dwain Esper

Maniac (1934) - Dwain Esper [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Maniac (1934 film)

Maniac (alternative title Sex Maniac) is a 1934 black and white exploitation/horror film written by Hildegarde Stadie and directed by Dwain Esper. The film, a loose adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe story "The Black Cat", tells the tell of a former vaudeville actor working with a mad scientest who attempts to bring life to the dead. The actor kills the doctor, and, in an effort to hide his crime, "becomes" the doctor, taking over his work, dressed like him, and wearing his beard, slowly going insane.

The film is in the public domain. A restored version was made avalible in 1999, as part of a double feature with another Dwain Esper film, Narcotic (1933). --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maniac_%281934_film%29 [Jan 2006]

Dwain Esper (October 7, 1892—October 18, 1982) is a director and producer of exploitation films (some of which were written by Esper's wife, Hildegarde Stadie). He is considered to be one of the worst directors of all time, and his films have become cult classics for being so notoriously bad. Some view his work as being unintentionally funny. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dwain_Esper [Jan 2006]

See also: Dwain Esper - maniac - exploitation film - 1934 - American exploitation

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