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Reefer Madness
1936 - NR - 67 Mins.
Director: Louis Gasnier
Producer: George A. Hirliman
Written By: Arthur Hoerl
Starring: Dorothy Short, Kenneth Craig, Lillian Miles, David O'Brien, Thelma White
Review by: Jake Cremins
   

See! The Ravaging Effects Of The Most Heinous Movie Known To Man!
It was inevitable. I love bad movies, and I love writing about bad movies, so someday I was going to have to get to 'Reefer Madness.' This is not merely a bad movie. This is The Bad Movie. It is as important to the history of the American cinema as 'Citizen Kane,' in its own way, and I say that in all seriousness. 'Reefer Madness' is one of those brave few that showed the viewing public that some movies are so awful, so incompetently written and directed, so atrociously acted, that they may not only be worth seeing, but may end up holding a treasured place in their viewers' hearts.

The movie is one of many civic-minded turkeys made in the 1930s to warn the unsuspecting public of the dangers of drugs (I also recommend 'Marihuana' and 'The Cocaine Fiends'). The credibility of this film evaporates in about three seconds, when we learn through scrolling text that marijuana is the most violently dangerous narcotic known to man and will cause you to hallucinate, become insatiably lustful, and maybe chop up your entire family with an axe. That would come as a surprise to most pot smokers I know, who in order to do such things would have to clear the hurdle of hearing how funny the word "axe" sounds when you say it out loud.

After an endless introduction in which we're shown enough about marijuana smuggling and production to start our own profitable drug operation, we finally arrive at the story proper (when a movie runs for 65 whole minutes, you can be expansive about these things). We meet two mean-spirited drug pushers who lure innocent teenagers to their apartment so that they can dance and smoke all of the free weed they can get their hands on. That these drug dealers apparently operate by never charging money is but one of the film's intriguing mysteries. Anyhoo, their talons of evil are soon sunk into Bill and Mary, the two most naïve kids ever to grace God's green earth, and Mary's brother Jimmy, who jitterbugs very badly but with boundless enthusiasm.

'Reefer Madness' radiates with a glow of pure, unsullied ineptitude. The acting is overripe and phony, the symbolism is groaningly obvious, and the action so badly staged that it's often physically impossible as displayed. My favorite scene is the one where a character leaps through a window in despair. She runs down the hallway, the camera looks bashfully away, we hear the glass smash--and then we cut to the girl crouched on the windowsill, and *then* she jumps! Did she break the window by head-butting it, or what?

As you can guess, 'Reefer Madness' also gets the effects of marijuana use incredibly wrong, over and over, in scenes so hilarious that describing them in advance would be a disservice. The idea that a movie this ludicrous could actually help anti-marijuana legislation get passed is so depressing it's funny, or maybe I have that backwards.

Either way, it serves as mute proof that no matter what you think, movie audiences really have been growing more sophisticated over the years. Sophisticated enough, anyway, for this to be one of the funniest comedies of all time. There's a neat poetic justice in the fact that 'Reefer Madness' has long since passed into the public domain, and has more than once been screened during fundraisers to overthrow the very laws it begs for.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Unwatchable.  One of the worst of the year.  Skip it.
  0.5 out of 5 stars

 
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