Assassin of Youth

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Assassin of Youth (1937) is an exploitation film directed by Elmer Clifton. It is a pre-WWII movie about the supposed ill effects of cannabis. The movie is often considered a clone of the much more famous Reefer Madness (sharing cast member Dorothy Short). The thriller reflects perfectly the anti-drug propaganda of its time.

Movie poster for Assassin of Youth


The journalist Art Brighton goes undercover to investigate the granddaughter of a recently deceased rich woman, killed in a drug-related car crash. The girl, Joan Barrie, will inherit the fortune of her grandmother if she is able to fulfill a morals clause in the will. Joan's cousin Linda Clayton and her husband Jack will try to frame Joan to acquire the fortune themselves.

The journalist tries to save Joan and dismantle the criminal gang of marijuana-dealing youths to which Linda belongs. While the newspaper tries to show the horrible dangers of marijuana to the general public, violence scales in the town in the form of obscene all-night drug parties where anything can happen.

A key concluding scene in a courtroom involves the prosecution of Joan. Just as the judge is about to pass sentence the journalist Art Brighton rushes in with evidence exposing Linda's involvement in the drug distribution. The film ends announcing Joan's engagement to Art.

Reference to article by Harry J. Anslinger

The film's title refers to an article of the same year by U.S. "drug czar" Harry J. Anslinger that appeared in The American Magazine and was reprinted in Reader's Digest in 1938. That article briefly mentions several stories from his "Gore file" of tragedies allegedly caused by marijuana. The movie's tone echoes those of Anslinger's cautionary tales.


  • Luana Walters as Joan Barry
  • Arthur Gardner as Art Brighton
  • Dorothy Short as Marjorie 'Marge' Barry
  • Earl Dwire as Henry 'Pop' Brady
  • Fern Emmett as Henrietta Frisbee
  • Henry Roquemore as Judge George Herbert
  • Fay McKenzie as Linda Clayton
  • Michael Owen as Jack Howard


The film contained some mild nudity scenes, which were subject to censorship in some cases. The movie is nowadays considered anti-marijuana propaganda, and often viewed in B movie marathons.

See also