A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

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.

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August 19, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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