Reefer Madness

Reefer Madness

Director: Louis J. Gasnier

Cast: Joe Forte, Carleton Young, Dorothy Short

     
 

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This unabashed propaganda film (also known by the title Tell Your Children, a dead giveaway) has become a cult classic of comically bad cinema due to its dated, alarmist views on the dangers of "marijuana addiction" and the exaggerated symptoms thereof. After the onscreen prologue that declares "Something must be done to wipe out this ghastly menace," ReeferSee more details below

Overview

This unabashed propaganda film (also known by the title Tell Your Children, a dead giveaway) has become a cult classic of comically bad cinema due to its dated, alarmist views on the dangers of "marijuana addiction" and the exaggerated symptoms thereof. After the onscreen prologue that declares "Something must be done to wipe out this ghastly menace," Reefer Madness launches into a case study of clean-cut WASP couple Bill (Kenneth Craig) and Mary (Dorothy Short), high schoolers who play tennis and drink tea on the back porch. Their friend Jimmy (Warren McCollum) introduces them to a pot dealer named Jack (Carleton Young), who invites Bill up to his den of inequity, where stoned ne'er-do-wells laugh fiendishly, dance, and play the piano. After one joint, Bill is hooked, and his life begins to plummet down the tubes -- he starts flunking school and becomes a promiscuous regular in Jack's apartment. When a worried Mary tracks Bill down, she too is given a joint and begins giggling uncontrollably while being aggressively fondled by the bizarre addict Ralph (Dave "Tex" O'Brien). When Bill bursts out of the bedroom to tangle with Ralph, hallucinating and blacking out, Mary is accidentally shot. This prompts a string of guilt and calamitous occurrences, including several more deaths and courtroom sentences to mental institutions, all because of the devil weed. The film ends with the ominous warning, "The dread marijuana may be reaching forth next for your son or daughter...or yours...or YOURS!" ~ Derek Armstrong

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Hans J. Wollstein
Since its rediscovery on the cult movie circuits of the early '70s, Reefer Madness has been the subject of not only ridicule (which is well-deserved), but widespread misunderstanding as to its purpose. Acid-dropping flower children could of course marvel at the misinformation regarding "the devil weed," which according to Reefer Madness would unquestionably lead to violence, insanity, and suicide. But this reception of the more overtly ludicrous aspects of the film presupposes that Tell Your Children (as it was originally called) was truly intended as a heartfelt if clumsy warning against drug addiction. At least three sequences, barely registering with a modern viewer, demonstrate that it was not: the least subtle of the three is a lovemaking scene between the young leads that includes what appears to be French kissing, a strict taboo under the Production Code that regulated mainstream Hollywood fare; then a girl under the influence wantonly removes her sweater to reveal a brassiere; and, most subtly of all, but perhaps also the most indicative of the film's true intent, the character of Mae Coleman's seemingly superfluous changing of wardrobe. The sequence, during which Mae (Thelma White) lovingly rolls up her sheer stockings, may be explained to further establish the character as an unscrupulous despoiler of young innocents. But apart from parents, educators, and law officials, Mae is the only adult present with misgivings about the drug-induced orgies taking place in her apartment. Granted, the character is as ill-defined as everyone else in the film, but her presence still goes a long way to demonstrate Reefer Madness' true mission: sexual titillation. Stereotypical dope fiends were common enough in mainstream Hollywood films of the 1930s -- Lewis Howard does a hilarious imitation of Reefer Madness' Dave O'Brien in Deanna Durbin's It's a Date (1940) -- but the kind of sexual innuendo permitted in exploitation films like Reefer Madness was not seen anywhere else on the public screen until the 1960s.

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Product Details

Release Date:
09/19/1997
UPC:
0056775608330
Original Release:
1936
Rating:
NR
Source:
Madacy Records
Presentation:
[B&W]

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Joe Forte Dr. Carroll
Carleton Young Jack Perry
Dorothy Short Mary
Kenneth Craig Bill
Lillian Miles Blanche
Dave "Tex" O'Brien Ralph
Thelma White Mae
Warren McCollum Jimmy Lane
Pat Royale Agnes
Harry Harvey Junior
Josef Forte Actor

Technical Credits
Louis J. Gasnier Director
Dwain Esper Producer
Paul Franklin Screenwriter
John H. Greenhalgh Cinematographer
George A. Hirliman Producer
Arthur Hoerl Screenwriter
Jane Huizenga Production Designer
Lawrence Meade Original Story
Abe Meyer Musical Direction/Supervision
Carl Pierson Editor
Robert Priestley Art Director

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