- Text by Adam White
“They’ve found a girl’s body in the woods.” “Murder?” “Sex fiend!”
Pages of Death is a Reefer Madness-style ‘anti-pornography’ short film warning ’60s parents of the dangers of adult magazines. It has just been rescued from oblivion by the Oregon Historical Society. The film was produced by the Hour of St. Francis radio program in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1962, and distributed by the Citizens for Decent Literature group – a pro-censorship league affiliated with the infamous Roman Catholic anti-pornography campaigner Charles Keating.
Pages of Death tells the story of two hard-boiled noir detectives investigating the disappearance of poor little 12-year-old Karen Fleming, who has failed to come home from school. Her parents, glitzy upper-middle-class WASPs, are understandably panicked. Their investigation leads them to the local corner shop, where its sleazy proprietor (played by Kelsey Grammer’s deformed twin) has been peddling smut rags to impressionable young men.
One such youngster is dead-eyed wet rag Paul Halliday, who has been spending a little too much time in his, ahem, recreation room out back. Faster than you can say “sick masturbatory sex den”, the detectives raid Paul’s bachelor pad and think they’ve pegged their prime suspect. Hidden in his drawers are such serial-killer-in-training titles as Scorching Sex Stories, Night of Horrors, and Gals!
“But no!” Paul’s appalled parents protest, pornographic magazines are the kinds of things found on “skid row”, not in leafy white bread suburbia. Wrong, one of the cops insists. This kind of trash is being sold at your friendly, local neighbourhood store.
Pages of Death is a must-watch – an eye-opening time capsule of a period in culture where the female orgasm didn’t exist, Rock Hudson was straight, and rampant censorship was the only way to tackle murderous violence. Sit enraptured as it builds to the wholesome, family-friendly message that it’s all Penthouse‘s fault that the preppy weirdo horribly murdered the little girl and tossed her body in a dumpster.