DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
REEFER MADNESS (director: Louis Gasnier; screenwriters: story by Lawrence Meade/Arthur Hoerl/Paul Franklin; cinematographer: Jack Greenhalgh; editor: Carl Pierson; music: Abe Meyer; cast: Dorothy Short (Mary Lane), Warren McCollum (Jimmy Lane), Kenneth Craig (Bill Harper), Lillian Miles (Blanche), Dave O'Brien (Ralph Wiley), Joseph Forte (Dr. Carroll), Thelma White (Mae Colman), Carleton Young (Jack Perry); Runtime: 67; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: George A. Hirliman/Dwain Esper; Sinister Cinema; 1936)

 
"The film is so idiotic that it almost demands being seen to confirm how bad it is."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Under the guise of being a public service film, the sleazy producers put forth this exploitative piece of trash for no other reason but to profit from it. By doing it this way it allows them to get around the Hays Office's censoring of sex scenes by showing the perils of drugs. The shameless director is Louis Gasnier ("The Perils of Pauline"); it's based on a dumb story by Lawrence Meade and an even dumber script by Arthur Hoerl and Paul Franklin. The vintage camp film has become a popular cult favorite ever since the 1960s, as the film's followers found the absurd anti-drug propaganda a hoot. Marijuana is hysterically viewed as "public enemy number one," responsible for upsetting the moral fiber of society and ruining our fine youth. The innocent are corrupted in this film by well-dressed business-like type adults; it shows that even one puff can lead to bizarre and dangerous behavior by the youths. The humorless film (surprisingly it's laugh free, the viewer must come with their own reasons for finding things funny) is one long lecture with an overbaked story used to support its crazed arguments against the weed. It's a shoddily made film that is so outrageous in its anti-dope message that it can only be viewed as a film made by idiots, which is the reason it caught on with certain film buffs as a classic film that is so bad it's good. 

It opens with self-righteous high school principal Dr. Carroll sternly lecturing a PTA meeting that marijuana is more dangerous than any other drug, including heroin and opium. What follows via flashback is a bogus cautionary tale about adults who lure high school students into their home to smoke reefer, make out and dance the jitterbug. It follows the tale of all-American boy Bill Harper who begins to smoke reefer and immediately his tennis game and school grades go downhill. His life reaches tragic proportions when he's framed by drug dealer Jack Perry for murdering his nice girlfriend Mary Lane, who only came to the druggie house to rescue her brother from such undesirable behavior. Mary smokes a cigarette offered by fellow student Ralph, not knowing it's a reefer. Then the stoned Ralph tries to sexually attack her. Bill is shown to be such a basket case he can't remember what happened, as he's revived with the drug dealer placing the murder weapon in his hand. Also Mary's brother Jim, after smoking one reefer, is so stoned he drives out-of-control and in a hit-and-run incident injures a pedestrian. 

After telling the law what really happened the guilt-ridden lady host, Mae, is led off to jail and charged with "fostering moral delinquency." Another guilt-ridden adult who lured the teens to the drug house, Blanche,  jumps out a window. The weed smoking high school student Ralph, who looks as if he's 30, is placed in an insane asylum. The story ends with the gang put out of business after Mae's confession and the return to the didactic lecture by Dr. Carroll. He is carrying forth his paranoid anti-drug message, as he tells the adults gathered to keep the youth from the "vicious pitfalls of marihuana." The earnest educator wants you to believe that the country is facing its greatest danger from those who smoke reefers, never mind that whatever he said is so much fiction.

The film is so idiotic that it almost demands being seen to confirm how bad it is. It must be pointed out that the public is still so uninformed about marijuana that it's still a banned substance. 

REVIEWED ON 3/1/2006        GRADE: D

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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