Monday, April 9, 2018

2018 Blind Spot Series: Reefer Madness

If you somehow don't know the history of The Blind Spot Challenge, it was initially laid down by Ryan at The Matinee. Since he's decided to ride off into the sunset...sorta...he's still blogging...go visit his blog...the challenge is being managed by Sofia at Returning Videotapes. Go visit her blog, When you get back, you can read my Blind Spot entry for this month. It's from 1936, and it's called...

Why did I pick it? The movies that stick with me most reside in the narrow portions of the Cinematic bell curve - the very best and the very worst. I embrace both types because, ultimately, I'm looking for something memorable. Reefer Madness has the reputation of being just that, even if it is on the terrible side of things.

From what I've heard of it before now the thing that makes Reefer Madness unforgettable is that it's not just a bad movie, but a U.S. government funded, feature-length public service announcement that goes over the top and then some. I'm from the era of commercial length PSA's. The most famous, of course, featured a nicely shaped egg represent your brain and that egg frying in a pan to show your brain on drugs. There was some 30-minute PSA's around, all trying to similarly scare you off some behavior or another. Was I ready for over an hour of this? Yes, I was.

A bit more research into the history of this now cult classic revealed my initial information to be erroneous. It wasn't funded by the government at all. Instead, it was a church group that footed the bill. Oh my, it's just got so much better/worse. Now, I'm really ready. Play.

Right off the bat, some narration and exposition lets us know the damages of smoking marijuana. Basically, we're told that it will turn users into lecherous, hallucination suffering, sexually aggressive, hyper-violent psychopaths. My first thought was that weed in the 1930s was strong as hell. Then I snapped back into my senses and remembered Reefer Madness was commissioned by a church, science be damned. With that in mind, let's move on to the actual plot.

We meet Mae (Thelma White) and Jack (Carleton Young). They're an unmarried couple that lives together. This is a very important detail meant to tip us off about their lack of morality. The bigger deal, however, is that they also work together as dealers of, you guessed it the wacky tobaccy. Even bigger than that Jack, likes to corrupt the youth by selling to teenagers. We meet said teenagers, along with an even more unscrupulous dealer named Ralph (Dave O'Brien). Eventually there's a party that gets out of hand, someone ends up dead and I still can't help but laughing.

There is no denying Reefer Madness is a terrible film. Much of the blame should fall squarely at the feet of writers Lawrence Mead (story) and Arthur Hoerl (screenplay). The dialogue is laughable, and every bit of exposition and narration is beyond heavy-handed. However, that's not this movie's biggest offense. The most egregious thing, the one that really makes us howl, is that neither of them, nor anyone else involved in this production has any clue how marijuana works. Granted, this is unabashed propaganda and therefore can be expected to take some liberties with the truth. Still, there doesn't seem to be a shred of it, anywhere. In its place are relentless and ridiculous attempt at scaring the audience straight. I'm not sure how this worked in the 1930s, when it was released, but now it just seems silly, at best. At worse, in a world that appears to be on the verge of legalizing marijuana, the assertions made here could be seen as dangerously irresponsible.

The technical aspects of Reefer Madness don't do it any favors, either. Not being an expert on film preservation means I can't tell how much of what I saw and heard, or rather didn't see or hear, was due to poor production values and how much to the passage of time. In any event, the audio was horrible, and the video was not much better. It all adds to the feeling that you truly are watching something that is among the worst films ever made. It is. Yet, the ridiculousness of it all catapults it into the so bad it's awesome stratosphere. More than that, Reefer Madness manages to be the one thing I needed it to be memorable.

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  1. I've only seen bits of that film as it's obvious that it was an exaggeration of what pot could do. I'll check it out in its entirety one of these days.

  2. I've never seen this, but I enjoy "so bad it's good" every now and then. Maybe I'll eventually check this out!

  3. Yes this is one stinkeroo! But once seen not one easily forgotten even with all the faults you mentioned. Funny how this developed such infamy.

    Perhaps it's the Madness in its title that's drawn attention. It was hardly the first extolling the dangers of drugs. There was a film made in 1923 called Human Wreckage made by the widow of matinee idol Wallace Reid who died from morphine withdrawal after becoming addicted following an onset accident that offered a heavy handed warning about drug addiction. Of course that was a silent but there was a picture that proceeded this by a year called Cocaine Fiends that is equally terrible but forgotten. Others followed as well including one called "She Shoulda Said No!" that was pure exploitation also about the perils of marijuana in fact starring the somewhat notorious Lila Leeds a young actress who was busted for pot possession along with Robert Mitchum in what could have been a career ending scandal for him. However it fit into his laid back persona and his studio RKO stood behind him, Lila wasn't so lucky and outside of this low budget mess her career was over. It's on YouTube in its entirety.

    These promotional films are almost always a hoot. The situations they present are so heightened, usually beyond all realistic recognition. Slightly off topic I just saw the craziest promo film from 1940 sponsored by the meat industry called "Meat and Romance" that spent 40 minutes exalting the glories of every kind of artery clogging substance known to man. It actually had a plot! The reason I stuck with it was because one of the (uncredited) stars of the thing was Alan Ladd (yea the same one who a couple years later became a star as the killer in This Gun for Hire). He actually loved meat so much that he carried a pamphlet about it around in his pocket!!! At the end it switches over to color for what are supposed to be glamour shots of some of the most repulsive looking meat dishes you ever saw. Oy!

    1. Meat and Romance! How have I never heard of this? That sounds absolutely insane. I must find this.

    2. Dell I meant to put this up for you earlier and forget. Here's a link to the oddity that is Meat and Romance.

  4. So bad it's good?

    1. Yup. It's just so terrible you can't but laughing at it and enjoying it for being so ridiculous.

  5. My hubby has said that the pot he had from the 70s was much cleaner and much stronger than it is today. Today, the stuff off the street has a lot of chemical crap in it so I could see that the pot back then was stronger but from the clips I saw not even pot laced with LSD, laced with Cocaine laid with Opium could cause this much crap. I still have to see this film but I am certain it is very bad but funny

    1. Yes, the people in this movie must have been on some super-duper-alien strain of weed.

  6. Oh its about the movie. I was thinking that its a Hollywood TV series. Actually I heard about Blind spot series a Hollywood TV series. But right now I read your blog post and that confirm me it was an old classic movie. Well do you heard about another Hollywood TV series Westworld Season 2 which is currently premiere on the television. You can Watch Westworld Season 2 Episode 2 online trailer to know more about the series.

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    تعرف على معلومات وتفاصيل اكثر عن طريق زيارة الخدمات الاتية بالضغط عليها وسوف يقوم بتحويلك على الخدمة مباشرة :

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