Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Reefer Madness (1936) *

NR, 66 min.
Director: Louis J. Gasnier
Writers: Lawrence Meade, Arthur Hoerl, Paul Franklin
Starring: Dorothy Short, Kenneth Craig, Lillian Miles, Dave O’Brien, Thelma White, Carleton Young, Warren McCullom, Pat Royale, Joseph Forte

The fact that I had never seen the cult classic “Reefer Madness” until just recently speaks volumes as to its lack of necessity. I had friends that were totally obsessed with this movie. It has a huge cult following, especially among the drug culture, because of its ridiculously extreme stance against “marihuana” and its depiction of marijuana as a gateway drug. Stoners have adopted the film, originally intended to warn against the use of marijuana, as some sort of holy cinematic tome. It’s just not bad enough to be considered that good, even in an ironic sort of way.

Yes, its depiction of the effects of marijuana is ridiculously exaggerated to the point of becoming humorous, but the movie as a whole is just so dreadfully dull. I’ve seen fun b-movies from this era. I’ve seen many that were intended to have quite the opposite effect that they do, but there’s usually some spark of interest in the material. Here, it’s like the teachers are so intent on the lesson, they’ve forgotten to tell their students to emote when they cold read. I spent almost the entirety of the movie waiting for something, anything, to happen. Finally at the end there is a spree of violence that leaves a couple of women dead, one man insane, another psychologically scarred for life, and a third surprisingly unpunished for the story’s greatest criminal act.

Movies that have a true power, whatever their intention, have this way of drawing an audience. I suppose “Reefer Madness” certainly can claim that it has drawn an audience; a draw that never compelled me to watch it until I had to get a new movie reviewed for my daily blog and didn’t really want to spend more than an hour watching one. Perhaps had I toked up ahead of time, I would’ve seen the movie that I’d heard about all these years. I think it really would’ve just increased the chance that I might’ve fallen asleep before it was over, though.

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