“Most teenagers start off with marijuana then decide to see if heroin has any kick. It does.”
The Terrible Truth is a 1951 educational film directed by Sid Davis that tries to deal with the dangers of teenage drug abuse and its consequences. The film, which was produced by the Los Angeles-based Coronet Films was part of a series of educational films aimed at young people during the 1950s and 1960s.
The film opens with a group of juvenile delinquents sneaking into the hills of Mulholland in their car to smoke joints. After being suspiciously received by her parents when she returns home, Phyllis soon finds herself embroiled in a passionate affair with the local drug dealer who has now turned her on to heroin.
The rest of the film focuses on the aftermath of her addiction, derelict lifestyle, and subsequent withdrawal hell in a jail cell. The film also highlights the fallacious gateway drug theory where smoking cannabis will directly and inevitably lead to harder drug use.
The Terrible Truth is a product of its time, and its style and messaging are distinctly 1950s with the message being if you smoke marijuana, you are destined to become a heroin addict. It’s characterized by its melodramatic acting, heavy-handed narration, and simplistic moralizing. However, it is also an important historical artifact, providing a window into the cultural attitudes and anxieties of the time.
Sid Davis, the director of The Terrible Truth, was a prolific filmmaker who specialized in educational and safety films. His work was notable for its directness and simplicity, and he was highly regarded in his field. The Terrible Truth is one of his best-known films and had been widely used in schools and other educational settings over the years.
A valuable historical document, it provides insight into the social and cultural issues of the 1950s.