Reefer Madness (1936) Poster

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1/10
It's 10 o'clock. Do you know why your children are cackling insanely?
JoshSpurling15 March 2007
"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!
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10/10
The Gone with the Wind of 30's Exploitation Films
collinsm28 August 1999
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.
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10/10
No wonder people like drugs so much! This movie makes them look fun!
Lee Eisenberg15 November 2005
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?!
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10/10
1930's potheads become hopelessly and incurably insane?
Doug Galecawitz10 March 1999
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.
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Fun fun fun till daddy takes your ganja away.....
Joe Blow17 November 1998
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
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The madness...the madness!
perni31 December 2003
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
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6/10
Highly Entertaining For The Wrong Reasons And As Propaganda It Becomes Ironic
Theo Robertson29 July 2010
Warning: 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
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Low-Budget but Good Work!
PrincessAnanka8 September 2004
Thelma White is the actress who really makes this anti-drug flick memorable. She portrays "Mae", who runs a drug den out of her late 30s apartment. Most of her scenes are shallow and brief but at the end she redeems herself in a memorable confession scene. The camera moves up close to catch her emotions and she really delivers when she says she didn't mean to hurt anybody to the DA. I don't know what happened to Thelma White before or after but she and the rest of the cast try valiantly to make this low-budget exploitation film work. "Reefer Madness" has become a joke movie--one everyone is expected to howl at and parody. That's unfortunate but understandable. I love to watch these roadshow exploitation movies from the 30s and early 40s and wonder about the fate of the cast and the crew, wonder about where they got their wardrobes and how were they hired? Was their a "Want Ad" in the Hollywood Reporter or did the film makers use their own friends, neighbors?
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3/10
That's pretty swell...
saugoof25 January 2002
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.
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5/10
A Hilarious Cult Classic
xphile6321 July 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Originally released in 1936 as an independent propaganda film, Reefer Madness (aka Tell Your Children) is in a more modern light extremely funny. Its over-the-top and completely unrealistic portrayal of the potentially life threatening consequences of even limited marijuana use are enough to send the viewer into hysterics.

*Spoiler Alert*

Of the four or five wholesome and innocent all-American teens who are exposed to the evil wrath of marijuana, one gets shot and two more end up accidentally killing people. There's also lots of premarital sex, which at the time of this film's original release was a huge no-no. Not to be missed.
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laughed my ass off
kilyth_at_beer_dot_com12 December 2004
Well last night my friend and I smoked some of the demon weed and watched Reefer Madness. It was so obvious that it was made by people who had not only never been stoned, but had never even seen someone who was stoned. For a start the dancing in the apartment; Impossible! I couldn't move my legs. My friend and I figured out that the only way someone smoking dope could rob somewhere would be to go into a shop to buy munchies, pick up a banana and absent mindedly hold it like it was a gun, then get distracted by the sweets at the counter. When the cashier asked if they wanted anything else they stared at the sweets and said "Give me everything".

While I know from my own research that Cannabis has been linked, however tenuously, to certain mental problems so has sugar, coffee alcohol and television. But what I do know for certain is that while on dope you are incapable of hurting anybody else, even if they are hogging all the munchies.
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10/10
This is a bit of history
durangojane26 May 2003
You cannot judge this film on film making merits alone. It is a piece of history and shows how hysteria can brainwash people. This is still prevelent in today's society. Look how the media transform our thinking with lies and innuendos. Although it's a bit campy, look inside the story line.
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1/10
Simply poor, nothing more
mstomaso25 May 2005
Cindy Collins Smith's review (see above) explains the context of this film very well. I strongly recommend reading it before you read any of the other reviews (including my own - below).

'Epically awful' 'full of misinformation' 'a propaganda film which was so ineptly made that it had the opposite of its intended effect.' Much has been written about Reefer Madness and its importance in the history of film-making, so I won't bother to reiterate any of these opinions. Instead, I would like to look at Reefer Madness as a film.

How does it rate as a film?

Poorly.

It has a predictable, uninteresting plot, cardboard cut-out characters, racial stereotypes presented as obvious facts, a stiff script, an unrelentingly plodding pace, and it is very poorly shot. The dramatic points in the plot are so badly acted, scripted and filmed that the film fails to produce any real drama, and the only likable characters in the film are, sadly, the ultimate villains. The editing isn't too bad.

IMO, the fact that it was shot with very little budget over a very brief period and was not intended to be taken very seriously does not really help matters much. The low budget shows. Some competent acting talent was squandered. And the film really isn't funny unless you're high!

The plot is simple - a clean cut American Boy is given a joint in place of a cigarette and is, from that point forward, spun out of control down the path to lunacy, addiction, and violence. Saying any more would lead to a spoiler, and, just in case any of you are seriously considering watching this film, I wouldn't want to ruin what little entertainment value there is in it. Having stopped experimenting with drugs twenty years ago, I can not imagine anybody even being amused by this film unless they themselves were on drugs. It's simply poor. And poor does not necessarily = funny.

Unless a film is particularly artful, I will rate it according to its entertainment value, not necessarily its technique, theory or method. This, for me, is one of those films which does more harm than good - it is neither an effective propaganda piece nor a parody of one, and therefore deserves a single star.
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7/10
"May.........May.......get me some reefers."
niibu_yaa14 February 2003
All the comments of about this movie being bad and poorly produced are true. But I still find it one of the most entertaining movies in the genre. Some of the lines are classic, and have been imprinted in my mind forever. Perhaps it's just me or does the piano player look a little like "Kramer" from the Seinfeld series? Perhaps a long lost relative.
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Stoned
tedg19 April 2004
I make a hobby out of finding films whose underlying philosophy contradicts the philosophy, moral or point of the story. This is a great example.

The evil here is of course THCannibis. Regardless of whether you think confusing neurons is a good idea, you mind find it interesting to notice the narrative structure of this film. Now remember this is well before 'Citizen Kane' reinvented the narrative in film and slightly before 'Sullivan's Travels' started the trend.

The story is a story within a story within a dream within a vision, with multiple side stories dreams and visions along the way. Try to diagram this to see where you really are and you'll be shocked at how close it comes to the pathology of being stoned.

Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
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4/10
"Tell your children."
classicsoncall26 October 2004
Warning: 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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5/10
The Best of the Bad Films of the 1930s?
theowinthrop22 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Misinforming, pompous, self-righteous (in the figure of the school official played by Joseph Forte), TELL YOUR CHILDREN (better known as REEFER MADNESS) is usually pushed as one of the worst films ever made. It made the Medved Brothers FIFTY WORST FILMS book, along with such dreck as ROBOT MONSTER, but is revived and revivable more than most of the titles in that list/book. Why?

My guess is that it is more than the idiotic view of marijuana cigarettes and drug addiction. Or the sometimes ridiculous dialog (why would some teenager state that he never drinks that stuff, meaning he never drinks sodas?). I think it is the fascination this film brings to us because it has things working for it, and it is unique for it's time and place, and it does give us a view of what the public of the 1930s would accept or reject for discussion.

I mentioned a few days ago that the movie FLESH AND THE DEVIL (from the 1920s) had a bad script which should have built up on a theme of homosexual love between Lars Hanson and John Gilbert, the close friends competing for Greta Garbo. But, as I said, the America of Calvin Coolidge would not tolerate open discussion of homosexuality. So the two male stars had to use their all to show their friendship was deeper than a friendship.

Similarly drug addiction was not a topic of deep discussion in the 1920s or 1930s or earlier. Yet it existed. Mark Twain, in his AUTOBIOGRAPHY, mentions Charles Webster, his business partner whose mistakes caused the failure of their publishing house, as addicted to over-the-counter drugs, and states that in America (in the 1890s) it was easy to become a self-poisoner this way. That comment is the sole one I have ever found in 19th Century literature regarding drug addiction, and Twain's Autobiography was not completely published until the 1960s, edited by Charles Neider.

The movie record is tricky. I have seen only two films that mention drugs at all. One is Charlie Chaplin's EASY STREET, where the tramp (here a policeman confronting Eric Campbell and his gang in a slum) accidentally sits on a needle with some drug (cocaine, I suspect) and it gives his adrenalin a lift. The other is another Chaplin film (whose title I unfortunately can't recall) wherein somebody is shown using the "notorious nose powders". Leave it to America's greatest writer and the English-born film giant to be the only two who had the guts to discuss the matter.

But aside from them there was nothing. No film of stature was made of the trafficking in drugs until TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH...IN THE 1940s! Hard to believe isn't it? Yet we know, if studying the history of organized crime and earlier criminals, that gangs did deal in drugs. It was even then a big business. Capone had a whole section of his empire in Chicago devoted to drug sales, along with prostitution, with illegal booze, and with union racketeering. But it rarely was talked about. Can anyone recall a film with Robinson or Cagney or Raft or Bogart dealing with drugs?

The Chinese opium trade was an exception: but it was basically seen as involving Chinese addicts only, not most Americans (a very naive view, but one clung to by most Americans).

Now into this hole comes this two-bit film which tries to tackle the threat of drugs to American Youth. It would not be until Samuel Fuller's UNDERWORLD USA in the 1950s that the subject is tackled again so forcefully (Fuller, being a better director, and having Cliff Robertson and Robert Emhart in his cast, does better with the subject).

So from want of any alternative, REEFER MADNESS is in a unique position to be notable from the start. It also is lucky to have at least two notable actors. Dave O'Brien is better recalled for the many Pete Smith comedy shorts he did, but his "Ralph" driven crazy to kill another character by reefers is his best remembered performance. Actually, while we realize today that reefers don't do that kind of damage to most people as this film suggests, O'Brien shows by his skittishness and twisting precisely what drug addiction to say cocaine or morphine would do to people - particularly when he is forced into hiding and is somewhat going cold turkey at times. He had done his homework, if the screenwriters did not.

The other was Carleton Young. Young would become among the last actors adopted in the John Ford circle in the late 1950s and early 1960s, most notably in THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALENCE and SERGEANT RUTLEDGE. Under that master's hands he gave wonderful performances. His performance as the drug dealer Jack Perry is a fair one, given the lesser director he has here.

So the film does have some things going for it, even if it over the top in condemning reefers over stronger drugs. I know it is no masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it is not the worst film in the world - it's the best bad film of the 1930s.
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5/10
Rrrrroll another fatty for this review, daddy!
clurge-231 January 2001
How can you not love this film? A piece so wonderfully outdated, even young children could get a laugh out of it. Shows how programmed society is to issues such as the use of "marihuana cigarettes".

The film makes sense of the whole issue of narcotics, as much sense as anyone could have had on the topic back in the 1930s. The film puts special emphasis on marihuana, the "deadliest of all drugs". This is especially laughable now that people have wised up, and found out that marihuana isn't screwing them up half as good as heroin, crack, blow, or acid can. "Reefer Madness" wants us to tell our children some important facts. Marihuana can make you laugh too much. Sure, according to the film you could also turn into a closet rapist and/or a violent murderer, but the laughing is where the emphasis is put. That's the last thing grown-ups would want teenagers to do back in the 30s is to have a good time.

Which brings me to my next point. This whole film looks like one-sided propaganda from the government or some incredibly concerned non-profit organization. In no way am I condoning the use of rec drugs, but the way it's presented gives me my suspicions. Seeing as this film only targeted our good friend cheeba, I'm waiting for sequels! CRACK-COCAINE CRAZY, 'SHROOM PSYCHOSIS, ACID INSANITY, and HEROIN HOE-DOWN! Tell your children!

Bottom line here? "Reefer Madness" will bring about more laughs than concerns in this day and age. If you've got a thing for campy classic exposés, or you just really like smokin' the trees, you can't beat this one.
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10/10
It is not a PROPAGANDA FILM.
xerxes-2328 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Many of the reviews that here comment on Reefer Madness, including the highlighted review, seem to be written by people under the mistaken impression that this movie was made as a "propaganda film," produced by a church or the government. Neither is true. This is a specimen of the "exploitation film" variety--a movie framed in such a way that it ostensibly denounces marijuana as a serious evil, but actually exploits this faux-moralizing frame for its dramatic potential.

While watching this supposed moral propaganda movie, one must wonder why he is subjected to an extended scene of a woman putting on stockings and a dress? Why we are shown how to harvest marijuana and roll a joint? Why, in god's name, is marijuana directly linked with musical skill? The arc of the story itself disproves the contention that this could be any sort of "propaganda" film. The moral is essentially unrelated to marijuana use.

William Harper is actually innocent--the court almost prosecuted him for a murder he did not commit. Ralph, one of the witnesses, is being kept from testifying by the true murderer, Jack. Ralph resolves to tell the truth (after smoking, and realizing the evil of remaining silent any longer). When Jack attempts to murder Ralph to keep the latter from testifying, Ralph kills Jack and is arrested. This incident is instrumental in proving the innocence of William. Because Ralph is forced to murder, and is then apprehended by the police, he goes (at least temporarily) insane.

William and Jack are flawed characters. Both of them are compelled to licentious ends, partially by marijuana--but NOT to violent ones. Each is ultimately innocent. Jack, the drug dealer--who is never once even seen smoking marijuana in the movie--is the real villain. While William gets off the hook (though he loses his love), Ralph is not recognized as the true hero of the film. It is he who is responsible for killing the villain, and to him William owes his freedom. He is instead condemned by a biased judge to a mental institution.

If one can get passed the false image of this movie, and actually WATCH it, he will be rewarded with a strikingly rewarding film. Part of its humor does derive from the strange light in which marijuana is portrayed. Rather than flatly "uneducated" or "unrealistic," it is rather sensational and--yes--intentionally and creatively funny.

The titles of the smaller articles on the newspapers shown throughout the film should be enough to convince anyone that the makers of this film were not entirely serious. "Dick Tracy, G-Man, In Sensational Raid -- 'Stark' Trigger Killed"--"Earth Forces Laid to Cosmic Impulse"--"New Living Buddha Reported Discovered." Yet the plot is crafted with considerate care. It is true, certain characters are exaggerated--but -consciously so-. Every now and then the voice of reason steps in to remind the audience that maybe they shouldn't take everything that is passing on the screen at face value. A typical example is the jury deliberation scene: one juror, unconvinced of the guilt of William, is bullied against his good conscience into voting "guilty" by the other jurors! Yes, it is a story involving marijuana. However, it is far from a propaganda piece--marijuana is not even condemned by the resolution of the film. The only person who harms anyone because of marijuana is Mary's brother, who, after being duped by Jack (the villain) into smoking--for the first time, thinking it is a cigarette--a joint, accidentally side-swipes a pedestrian. Unrealistic? Not really.

The acting is uneven, but has its moments; the characters are not unlikeable, the story not unbelievable. (Hey, it could happen to you!) It was made to be an enjoyable film, and I'm glad to say it still is today. The recent colorized version released on DVD is a great job. The humor added through colorization techniques is so subtle and bizarre, it's even more likely to go unnoticed by the casual viewer, than the humor of the original is. It is a true disgrace that more respect is afforded the terrible "movie-musical" based on this masterpiece. I think it is a symptom of how unsophisticated a generic audience is, that unapologetically campy, obviously over-the-top, uninspired garbage is set above a movie of this calibre. If Reefer Madness were made today it would still be a better movie than that "movie musical"--but it was made 70 years ago!
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1/10
over-hyped
vlad191724 August 1999
with all the hype this movie has gotten over the years, you'd expect it to be a zany laugh riot...but it's not THAT funny (except the finale.) i think there may be an emperors-new-clothes syndrome with this flick, everybody expects it to be so utterly wacky that i'll be worth watching...but it's boring.

oh yeah...interesting...this movie was made when marijuana was legal in the usa.
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1/10
Reefer Badness
Jonny_Numb26 January 2006
Is there anyone in the world who doesn't know of the reputation "Reefer Madness" has? For the longest time, I'd heard of this 'film''s supposedly hilarious side effects, but had never seen it for myself. Being a connoisseur of the weird and offbeat, I decided that it was my solemn duty to give this allegedly historical artifact a look. And what a waste of 67 minutes it was. Imagine an anti-'marihuana' scare film released in the 1930s, complete with horrendous acting and a completely inaccurate portrayal of the drug's effects, and you have "Reefer Madness." Only it isn't funny, even in a so-bad-it's-good way...it's just a slow, stupid, intolerable mass of celluloid garbage that's best left forgotten.
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5/10
Faster!! FASTER!!!
Spuzzlightyear7 November 2005
Fairly mindblowing (excuse the expression!!) expose about the EVIL SCOURGE that is marihuana! Bill is a clean cut kid, with a nice family and girlfriend and what not, but after he hangs around with the wrong crowd and smoking the devil's weed, why he's a menace 2 society!! Pretty soon he's at every doper's party causing all kinds of bedlam, unknowingly bringing his kid sister into the world as well! All of this of course, id played absolutely seriously, and this doubles the laughs on this one. The fact that marihuana is played up to be even more dangerous then Opium is rather curious, and the fact that it can make you laugh deliriously and giggle to no end is another thing I didn't know. Also, apropos of nothing, beware of courts located high in office buildings that have convenient open windows.

Nutty and crazy, this is not THE funniest worst movie you'll see, but it's still quite amazing to watch.
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3/10
Faster... play it faster... faster,faster!
mister_pig17 June 2003
Ya gotta love old Reefer Madness. The outrageous claims they make in this movie about the way people are effected by Marihuana, should be reason enough to see this one.

If you've never seen it, then don't consider yourself well rounded.

3 out of 10 (that's a 'must see' 3 thank you)
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6/10
The Burning Question?
sol12184 February 2004
******SPOILERS****** Originally titled "Tell Your Children: The Burning Question" the movie "Reefer Madness" was released as an educational film for Americas youth back in 1938 ironically a year after Marihuana, as it's spelled and pronounced in the movie, was made illegal in the United States. It didn't take that long for us to find out just how dangerous it was after it being legal since the days of the Revolutionary War. George Washington himself, the father of our country, is said to have grown it.

The movie over the years turned out to be one of the biggest reason for Americas youth getting hooked on drugs via Marijuana then were hooked on drugs by all the Columbian Drug Cartels put together. The fact that the movie was so inaccurate as well as ridicules about "pot" it actually made it seem "cool" for the rebellious youth of the 1960's and 1970's that it became a "Cult Classic". Where people watching it in the movies back then would be encouraged to be stoned out of their heads instead of being repulsed and revolted from smoking it like the movie intended them to be. In fact the movie "Reefer Madness" did it's part in creating the "Drug Generation" thats still with us today.

If the movie was more accurate about Marijuana and how it's use can lead to more dangerous drugs it would have been more effective in warning Americas youths as well as adults about the risks of smoking it. But the movie "Reefer Madness" message was just the opposite by telling those who watched it that Marijuana was more dangerous then Opium, Morphine and Heroin combined.

The movie starts out with a forward on the dangers of "Marihuana" a violent narcotic and unspeakable scourge. Were then introduced to Dr. Carroll, Joe Forte, who's speaking to us on how the forces of law and order are risking life and limb to put an end to this scourge. Were also told that we the American people must do our part in eradicating that scourge by educating our children about the terrible dangers of "Marihuana".

Dr. Carroll tells the theater audience as well as the PTA group that he's addressing in the film about an event involving "Marihuana" that happened not too long ago in the town which they all live in. But this time, from Dr. Carroll, their going to get the real story of what happened. Dr. Carroll tells us about a local group of young people who got caught up with smoking reefers which led to death insanity and suicide.

In some of the most outrageous and funniest scenes ever put on film were shown drug parties with a stoned out piano player looking like an escapee from the movie "One Flew Over of the Cuckoo's Nest" and simulated sex among people with their clothes on that went as far as the censors back in those days would allow them to go.

One of the young people in the story Bill, Kenneth Craig, accidentally kills his girlfriend Mary, Dorothy Short, when he gets into a fight with one of his friends Ralph, Dave O'Brien, who he catches fondling her as all three of them are stoned on pot.

Another young man Jimmy, Warren McCllum, Mary's brother runs down someone in the street with his car while he's smoking a joint. We also see Ralph go insane and attack and kill Jack, Carleton Young, the local drug pusher who tries to kill Ralph because he's afraid that he'll crack and spill the beans on him and his drug suppliers to the police.

Finally we get to witness the last tragedy in the movie with Mea, Thelma White, the woman who with Jack threw the drug parties for the youths in her apartment. Mea after confessing everything to the police which gets Bill off from being charged with murdering his girlfriend Mary, who Jack accidentally killed, she jumps to her death out of the window of the courthouse as she's being led away to jail.

Bill who was found innocent of killing his girlfriend is made to stay over in the court to see just how dangerous "Marihuana" is and how lucky he was to get off the stuff. Bill is cured of his addiction to pot just by seeing his hopelessly drug addicted friend Ralph,in handcuffs with his eyes bulging out of his skull. Ralph is then sentenced to life in a mental hospital for the criminally insane due to his addiction to "Marihuana".

The movie ends with Dr. Carroll warning us that only through the knowledge about the scourge of "Marihuana" can we safely protect our children from the ravages that we just saw in this movie. Then in the final and most emotionally packed scene of the film Dr. Carroll tells us that the very next victim of "Marihuana" may very well be your son or your daughter or yours or yours and then he points his finger straight at the audience and says threateningly OR YOURS!

The movie "Reefer Madness" by trying to be serious about the uses of Marijuana back in 1938 turned out to be one of the most funniest and unintentional comedies ever made.
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