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Reefer Madness (1936)
"Tell Your Children" (original title)

PG  |   |  Drama  |  1938 (USA)
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Ratings: 3.7/10 from 5,928 users  
Reviews: 103 user | 64 critic

Cautionary tale features a fictionalized and highly exaggerated take on the use of marijuana. A trio of drug dealers lead innocent teenagers to become addicted to "reefer" cigarettes by holding wild parties with jazz music.


(as Louis Gasnier)


(original story), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Complete credited cast:
Dorothy Short ...
Lillian Miles ...
Thelma White ...
Warren McCollum ...
Jimmy (as Warren McCullom)
Patricia Royale ...
Agnes (as Pat Royale)
Joseph Forte ...
Dr. Carroll (as Josef Forte)
Harry Harvey Jr. ...


Propaganda film that relates the story, as told by high school principal Dr. Carroll to parents at a PTA meeting, of the scourge of marijuana. The tale revolves around Mae and Jack, accomplices in the distribution of marijuana, who manage to entice the local high school kids to stop by Mae's apartment to smoke reefer. The lives of all who are involved with this menace are inevitably shattered. One man becomes so addicted to the killer weed that the guilt over framing a teen for murder causes a judge to order him to be committed for life to a mental hospital! Dr. Carroll closes by advising us to not incur the same tragedy. Written by Rick Gregory <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


SEE youthful marijuana victims - what actually happens! See more »




PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

1938 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Dope Addict  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Inspired by the case of Victor Licata, who killed his father, mother, two brothers, and a sister with an ax in Tampa, Florida on October 16, 1933, allegedly while under the influence of marijuana. Declared unfit to stand trial for reasons of insanity, subsequent psychiatric examination at the Florida State Mental Hospital determined that Licata suffered from schizophrenia with homicidal tendencies. The Licata case was used to propagandize for the passage of the federal Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 that effectively outlawed legal sales of the "demon weed". See more »


The same art deco ashtray that Mae Coleman has on top her piano (as well as the piano) also appear in the famous "Play Faster!" scene (where Ralph is in hiding from the cops and the girl plays piano for him while he's high). See more »


Bill: Ya know after that session we had yesterday, I went home and told mother that the trouble with her pot roast gravy was that she hadn't added three heaping teaspoonfuls of olive oil.
Mary: What did she say?
Bill: She didn't say anything; she just threw me out of the kitchen.
Mary: Why, no wonder.
See more »

Crazy Credits

FOREWORD: The motion picture you are about to witness may startle you. It would not have been possible, otherwise, to sufficiently emphasize the frightful toll of the new drug menace which is destroying the youth of America in alarmingly-increasing numbers. Marihuana is that drug - a violent narcotic - an unspeakable scourge - The Real Public Enemy Number One! Its first effect is sudden, violent, uncontrollable laughter; then come dangerous hallucinations - space expands - time slows down, almost stands still ....fixed ideas come next, conjuring up monstrous extravagances - followed by emotional disturbances, the total inability to direct thoughts, the loss of all power to resist physical emotions... leading finally to acts of shocking violence... ending often in incurable insanity. In picturing its soul-destroying effects no attempt was made to equivocate. The scenes and incidents, while fictionized for the purposes of this story, are based upon actual research into the results of Marihuana addiction. If their stark reality will make you think, will make you aware that something must be done to wipe out this ghastly menace, then the picture will not have failed in its purpose.... Because the dread Marihuana may be reaching forth next for your son or daughter....or yours....or YOURS! See more »


Referenced in Dead Like Me: Reaper Madness (2003) See more »

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User Reviews

The madness...the madness!
31 December 2003 | by (Owensboro, KY) – See all my reviews

Believe it or not, but I just bought this a couple of days ago on DVD for a little over six bucks! And trust me, Reefer Madness is worth the money, since it is one of the funnier propaganda films to come out of the 1930s. While the DVD doesn't contain a lot of extras, you do get a short biography on the star of the film, along with a look at the original poster for Reefer Madness and trivia questions! If you want to check this movie out some time, I would advise waiting until the Special Edition comes out in April. Why? Because MST3k host Mike Nelson will provide audio commentary for the film! I'll definitely have to get the new DVD if Nelson himself is involved. And really, this film is rife for commentary. Right from the start we got a pre-Star Wars crawl which basically states while the film's characters and plot are entirely fictional, they are based on a true story which could happen to you...or you...or YOU! It is here where I laughed the hardest, as later on things get pretty grim in a Days of Our Lives sort of way. I especially liked how the word "marijuana" was spelled "marihuana" in the film. I have no idea when or why the spelling of this word changed, but it was still amusing. Also, the DVD's scene index lists one of the scenes as "principle's office." They couldn't even spell the word "principal" right! I mean, you can't actually go to the office of a principle, can you? Darn right ya can't! Anyway, back to the movie. As I said, it's a very enthusiastic propaganda film which lies back and forth about the effects of "marihuana" so as to scare parents into discussing the drug with their children (hence the original title, Tell Your Children...think of them, please!!!). What are some of the effects of the deadly, demonic, and just plain EVIL marihuana? Well, first you laugh (gasp!), then hallucinate (double gasp!), and then you begin committing acts of random violence (triple gasp!). The teens are all portrayed by men and women with receding hairlines and wrinkles, making me quite confused. I literally sat there wondering, "Why would adults be hanging out with these younger kids? Oh...they're all supposed to be kids? Um, okay, sure. What the heck." The principal (principle?) in the movie is equally funny, as during the murder trial of a kid who smoked dope and supposedly shot his girlfriend he lists many instances when he thought the kid was high. His testimony: Bill started laughing during a very serious discussion on Shakespeare (blasphemy!), and also missed the ball by a good 3-4 feet during a tennis match (good holy gravy!). How would this kind of testimony hold up in court? Maybe the kid just remembered a good joke during class and isn't any good at tennis? Did anyone think of that, huh? Huh? As for the murder itself, it's also completely moronic and unbelievable. First off, the gun is aimed at the floor but somehow manages to shoot the girl in the back. Then when we see the wound it's about the size of a mosquito bite with no blood whatsoever. Ah, the wonders of 1930s Hollywood makeup! Much more awaits the viewer of Reefer Madness, including a crazed piano player who's "hot" on the "dope" and about to "crack" (these kids with their drug lingo!) and an odd scene where the main character's little brother pines about his model airplane for what seems like an eternity. Seeing as how this story is supposedly being related to us by the principal, why would he have bothered to include the aforementioned scene? And how did he know about it in the first place? Did he interrogate the little brother? Hoo boy, so many questions about continuity. Oh well, I guess I'll leave them to be answered by you good folks. Enjoy! 1/4 stars

27 of 40 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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