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"Reefer Madness" (originally "Tell Your Children") was created to teach
parents that it's never too early to scare the holy crap out of your
kids. Through this film we learn that the soul-destroying effects of
Marihuana (Mike Nelson explains in the commentary that this film was
made before the invention of the letter J) far surpass those of cocaine
or heroin. We see firsthand that even teens who can quote Shakespeare
like nobody's business cannot escape its evils.
Here are some of the symptoms of casual Marihuana use:
- laughing maniacally while running people down in the street
- playing the piano too fast
- having sexual relations with people you don't really like that much
- accidentally shooting people you do like pretty well
- having no recollection of being framed for murder
If your child has experienced any of these symptoms, he or she is a Marihuana addict. The solution is simple: force them to watch "Reefer Madness" because if we don't heed its warning, "Reefer Madness 2" will be coming to a theater near you or you... OR YOU!
Because of 70's NORML propaganda falsely claiming that the FBI sponsored
Reefer Madness, most viewers believe that this Exploitation classic was
meant to be taken seriously. Not so! Thelma White (Mae) has noted in
interviews that the producers and director Louis Gasnier asked the cast to
"hoke it up." The famous "Faster, Faster" scene is, in fact, a direct
parody of a similar scene in the classic musical 42nd Street (a scene in
which Dave O'Brien--Ralph in Reefer Madness--played a chorus boy).
So why make a cautionary tale, but do so tongue-in-cheek? Simple. To get around the Hays Code and show more skin than the Code allowed...but also to capitalize on the public's fear of drugs. Either way, the producers made a ton of money on the Exploitation circuit--more than covering their costs for this relatively expensive sub-Poverty Row production.
Made over the course of 3 weeks (most Exploitation films were shot in a few days), using an experienced director and a couple of talented actors who went on to have respectable careers in Hollywood, Reefer Madness is quite simply the finest Exploitation film to come out of the 30's.
The film's funny, is it? Well, the folks who made it thought so too. And they laughed all the way to the bank.
Believe the hype. This is one of the most hilariously over-the-top
pieces of propaganda ever committed to celluloid. It's constantly
unintentionally hilarious, especially Dave O'Brein's performance as
So, what happens when a bunch of clean-cut teenagers (who strangely look like they're in their thirties) take one of puff of the evil vile devil's weed? They become homicidal perverted rapist dope-head fiends! There is so much useful information to be obtained from this film. For instance, did you know that marijuana is worse than cocaine? Or did you know how to hide your joints in your high heel shoes? Or that marijuana causes lifetime insanity? It's all here in this underground cult classic. (5/10)
This movie is funny. Not just regular funny but inexplicably funny. I wish public schools all over the country would show this movie in classes. This cult classic gives what is supposed to be a serious warning of the dangers of marijuana. Instead the over exaggeration of the side effects of weed become un-intentionally and absurdly funny. I smoked grass in my day but I sure haven't killed anyone yet. This movie is legendary. Anyone who has ever smoked should view this. Just if only to see how this whole silly "war on drugs" thing got started. Is pot ever to be legalized? Probably not so long as there are people who take this movie seriously. As for the rest of us laugh yourself into hopeless and incurible insanity for 67 minutes.
My 10/10 rating is of course because "Reefer Madness" is so bad that it's good. And boy is it! Meant as an anti-marijuana propaganda film, the whole thing basically makes marijuana look fun. The plot has some wholesome teenagers getting duped into smoking marijuana and turning into lunatics (thereby idiotically implying "One puff and you're hooked!"). The first mistake that the movie makes is calling marijuana a narcotic; anyone should know that marijuana is a weed. Obviously, the law-and-order types have always used this type of propaganda to arrest anyone whom they don't like. But anyway, "Reefer Madness" is unintentionally hilarious. "That '70s Show" once did a spoof of it, portraying Red imagining Eric getting addicted. For the record, there's no such thing as marijuana addiction; people just like smoking it. And who wouldn't want to try some after watching this movie?!
Of the many scholastic films Ive seen in my time, this has to be the most hilarious piece of tripe ive ever seen. The setting is a small urban town, in the mid thirties. Everyones all happy, and everyone seems normal, that is, everyone BUT the shifty, shady, marijuana dealers who look just like *Gasp* you and me! They look so normal, lure your children into their home, and sell them exotic herbs from far away places! All whilst turning your children into sex maniacs, one puff hookers, and violent terrorists high on life (and that's not all!) Fun for the whole family (well...it all depends on your family...), this is a great flick, worth the watch! - "Two Green Thumbs Up!" Joe & Jay
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
I doubt that anyone still takes this movie seriously these days but it's
funny seeing how people went paranoid about pot in the 30's. There are lots
of wildly exaggerated or plain wrong comments and accusations in it. Best
among them are that pot is more dangerous than Heroin, it will make you
violent and eventually incurably insane.
The film details how smoking pot changes the lives of a couple of all-american teenagers. In fact, they're so clean cut, nice to their parents and just plain perfect that you're actually happy when their lives turn bad. On the way there we see some really funny overacting and the way that middle America thought people behaved after smoking pot. A single puff immediately has you in hysterics, after a couple of minutes it's down to pre-marital sex (hey, that's enough to get me hooked!), followed by a violent paranoia and finally of course, insanity.
The film is fairly standard propaganda stuff and follows the three important propaganda ingredients to a T. It's badly acted, exaggerated in hammering home a couple of points and frightening the uninformed about the fact that no one is safe from this great danger. It is however fairly lengthy for a propaganda movie and it's not as ridiculous as I expected. Although there are some really funny scenes that rightly make this a classic.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a film often thought of as propaganda at its most blatant .
Some comments here indicate that it might have been produced as some
kind of parody . Watching it you're certainly struck by the lack of
both internal continuity and internal logic of REEFER MADNESS and you
often become confused as to what point the film is trying to make
Take the opening foreword that claims marijuana is destroying the youth of America in increasingly large numbers because of its effects where time slows down and becomes fixed ... the loss of all power to resist physical emotions . It's interesting that there's very little in American culture of the 1930s that suggests youth was being affected by marijuana . Apart from this one can anyone name any other (in)famous films featuring marijuana ? Even the opening tirade by Dr Carroll shoots itself in the foot by stating there's many drug traffickers bringing the substance in to the country only to have the film point out later that it's a naturally growing substance in every American state so why the need for traffickers ? Probably because the film needs villains
On the subject of villainy ask yourself this - how well regarded a movie would this be if it had been set in the 1920s and the mobsters were peddling not dope but booze ? We're treated to a laughable scene where an erstwhile bootlegger tells his boss that he has qualms about giving weed to schoolkids only for his boss to state that if he doesn't do as he's told he'll be got rid off permanently . So when alcohol was legalised again the bootleggers stood outside school gates giving kids weed ? One can't help thinking there's a certain amount of artistic license going on . Certainly the mobsters aren't too bright as one tough guy allows himself to be driven around by someone who's just had a spliff to smoke . Be honest would you get in to a car with someone who's seriously toked up ? And if it's such a menace to society why not legalise it the same with alcohol ?
The story proper revolves around sweet couple Billy and Mary who are obviously so pious and virginal it's almost sickening . I actually felt happy for them when they were introduced to the joys of jazz and marijuana and why shouldn't I ? Is quoting Romeo And Juliet and tennis practice a satisfying substitute for premarital sex ? Surely if you're buying a car you should take it for a test drive ? There does seem to be more problems with the continuity and that is everyone seems to be hyperactive on every level at the drugs den . Maybe the drugs crowd are also snorting massive amounts of cocaine in the flat ? Certainly it can't be the marijuana because everyone seems to be smoking their spliffs like cigars - without inhaling . This all eventually leads to the death of Mary who accidentally gets shot after Billy saves her from getting raped . No matter how much dope they've ingested I'm sure if anyone was able to stop a rape they'd be able to remember the events . Strangely according to this film not only does weed stop you remembering being a hero it also affects the hearing . A bunch of stoners are in a flat where a woman screams but no one hears anything ? I think the Nazis used the same excuse at Nuremberg but they didn't claim to be on anything
Being a Hollywood movie from this period where The Hays Code was strictly enforced the innocent must be saved while the guilty must be punished no matter how contrived it may be and boy does REEFER MADNESS have a contrived ending . Wiley , the man who tried to rape Mary is to be gotten rid off by the mob but apparently drugs now make him telepathic so batters a mobster to death , is arrested and his fancy woman turns stoolie thereby letting Billy off the hook
As I said if the story had revolved around bootleggers in the prohibition era then this would have been a totally forgotten B movie . But since it has a hysterical tone against marijuana it has developed a cult following for entirely ironic reasons . There is scientific evidence that marijuana is linked to mental health problems depending on how young the user started taking the drug but to bombard people with propaganda that is obviously exaggerated and risible does more harm than good
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If the producers of "Reefer Madness" had intended to produce a campy,
neurotic cult film, they could not have succeeded better. Of course,
the film had a different intent, to portray the "frightful toll of the
new drug menace - Marihuana is that drug - a violent narcotic - the
real Public Enemy Number One"!
The film does have it's seedy moments in capturing the smoky atmosphere of the local drug hangout, where dope pushers bring their unwary teenage victims to turn them on to marijuana's excesses. But it takes a huge leap to make the connection between it's casual use and the resulting consequences of hit and run driving, rape, and even murder.
There are some memorable scenes - the frenetic piano player reminiscent of Seinfeld's Kramer, the attempted seduction scene of high schooler Mary witnessed by her boyfriend Bill, the aforementioned car accident involving Mary's brother Jimmy, and the jury room scene deciding Bill's fate where the light pull resembles a hangman's noose.
The film today is an incredible period piece that makes one think about how society perceived drug use and how the government attempted to influence behavior. For that it's worth viewing, if only once to experience it's cultish appeal.
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