A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 172 – Reefer Madness

Reefer Madness – August 19th, 2010

Make no mistake, this is a laughable movie. It is ridiculous. Watching it, I can’t help but make fun of it. That would be why the Rifftrax crew are doing it live tonight. And we were going to be in a theater near us with a good friend, enjoying the show. The problem this posed to us was what to watch tonight and how to fit it in. After all, movies seen in theaters don’t count. But we own this! And it’s only 65 minutes long! Perfect!

This is, simply put, a movie meant to scare the shit out of people about the so-called dangers of pot. It’s sort of the Go Ask Alice of the 30s. Or so it was intended to be. It’s the story of Bill and Mary and Jimmy and how these three innocent and happy-go-lucky teens are lured into a den of sin, addicted to “Marihuana” and eventually involved in murder. All thanks to a well-dressed mob made up of Jack, Ralph, Mae and Blanche. It’s all over the top and exaggerated. And that’s the point. It does strike me as funny, however, that despite all the scare tactics used through the movie, the opening text that introduces the theme of the movie presents these horrible things in the curliest and sweetest of fonts.

I wish I could think up things to say about this movie that weren’t just mocking. But it’s just so ridiculous. You don’t even need to know anything about marijuana to know it’s bad. There’s the weak attempts at character development, the 30 year old high school students, the horrible dancing, the preachy speeches. And then there’s the movie’s bizarre look at consequences. I mean, Mary gets mildly stoned once and she gets molested and shot. Jimmy gets stoned a bunch of times, kills a guy while driving high, and nothing happens to him aside from mild threats from a guy who ends up dying anyhow. Bill gets stoned a bunch of times, gets framed for Mary’s murder and then… gets off with a lecture and has to watch the guy who molested Mary get sentenced to an institution for life. That’s all a bit odd. Sure, Ralph ends up in an institution and Jack and Blanche end up dead, but what happened to Mae? And why does Mary have to die when the two boys, total pot-heads, get off relatively scott free? It’s bizarre and certainly doesn’t lead one to think actually smoking pot means consequences. Peddling it, maybe. Being an accessory to murder, yes. But smoking pot? Yeah, no big.

And that’s the other thing. Now, I’m one of the most boring people in the world when it comes to intoxicating substances. Chocolate and black tea are pretty much as far as I go. But I’ve known stoners. The movie gets the laughing mostly right, and Jack sure does seem to always have the munchies. But let’s face it. You do not go drag racing when you’re high. The movie is billing marijuana as cocaine cut with speed. I’m certain people do incredibly asinine things while stoned, but axe murdering isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Spending an hour contemplating the profundity of the Teletubbies does.

So the movie is laughable on two fronts. It doesn’t at all present actual marijuana use, and the consequences seem to be more for the hardened criminals and innocent bystanders than the casual smoker. And that’s not even touching the dialogue, or the fact that there was a conspicuous Philip Morris sign in the window of the shop Jack goes into to get his stash of pot (seriously, it was likely a coincidence, but it made me snicker). It’s just bad all around. If you’re going to watch it, make sure you get the Rifftrax guys to riff you through the pain.

August 19, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Reefer Madness

August 19, 2010

Reefer Madness

We’re off tonight to see a Rifftrax presentation of Reefer Madness live in theaters. So in a fit of masochism we decided to watch the movie in un-Misted version tonight for our project before going to the theater. We own the Off Color Films special edition with the option of a Mike Nelson commentary track, but we’ve never actually watched it in this form, without the benefit of commentary to lighten the blow.

You know, as a fan of bad movies I have seen an awful lot of cautionary tales from the nineteen fifties. I do understand that this particular one has achieved cult status through its strange depiction of the frightening effects of the dreaded Marijuana, What I don’t understand is what is about this movie that has raised it to cult status. There are so many others of its ilk which are of comparable quality. Why was it this one in particular that captured the fascination of generations of college students? It could just as well have been the dreadfully depressing High School Big Shot or I Blame My Parents or Ed Wood’s tale of a gang of delinquent teenage girls The Violent Years. My favorite of these movies is yet another Ed Wood film: The Sinister Urge, wherein it is posited that smutty photography is the root of all evil.

I suppose that this film pre-dates many of those others. I was shocked when I checked IMDB and found that this was made way back in the thirties. As such it must be the inspiration for many of these other tales of woe that came afterwards. And of course it is directly referenced in Amazon Women on the Moon in the sketch at the end about Mary and the “social disease.”

The sad tale of this movie is that of a different Mary. A couple drug dealers work out of an apartment in her town and one of them, Jack, likes to lure high school kids to his lair to get them hooked on Marijuana. First he gets Mary’s brother (who in a drug addled haze hits a guy with Mary’s car… an action that causes him some guilt, but ultimately has no consequences.) Then Mary’s steadfast boyfriend and study partner gets sucked into the “parties” at this dope lair. Finally, when Mary goes to find her brother one day, she is sexually assaulted by a skeevy guy. Her boyfriend walks in on this scene and starts a fight with the would-be rapist. When the drug dealer Jack tries to break up the fight using his gun as a sap (a poorly thought out plan) Mary gets shot in the back and dies. Then the whole rest of the movie is a series of courtroom scenes as Mary’s boyfriend is tried for her murder.

It’s a pretty short movie, so I guess it has that going for it. Especially since we set ourselves up to watch it twice tonight. However I have to admit that I don’t particularly like this movie. Of course you’re not actually meant to like it – that’s not the point of these stories. They’re meant to illustrate a point in the most heavy-handed way possible. But in the absence of a witty riff track they’re almost unwatchably horrible.

I suppose there’s some amusement to be had in Reefer Madness with the strange depictions of the reaction people have to smoking pot. The over the top manic acting and spastic dancing. Contrast it to the glassy-eyed and blissed out writing of the people dancing in the crowd in the Woodstock film. It’s an altogether different vibe. But a few chuckles at the wide-eyed dope fiend piano player at the local malt shop don’t really qualify this movie as a classic in my book.

I suppose the problem is that I’m not stoned when I’m watching it.

August 19, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment