Jump to content

"Reefer Madness" (1937), Directed by Louis J. Gasnier, Produced By George Hurliman and Dwain Esper


Recommended Posts

I'd never seen the entire film "Reefer Madness," a propaganda, "˜Tell Your Children'-type film about the evils of Marihuana [sic], originally written as a moralistic, over-the-top piece financed by a church group.

Most people here, I suspect, have seen clips of people toking on reefers, and instantly breaking out into maniacal laughter (which eventually leads to madness and its various forms of depravity), but I suspect many have never watched it "as a film," certainly not at the midnight movies.

Well, I tried to do it, and while there are *some* bright moments, as a whole, it fails miserably, and is a long, challenging 68 minutes to get through. Yes, there is a plot, but the acting is horrible (note in particular the piano playing), and I suggest to anyone viewing it as "cinema" rather than as a "cheap laugh," that they memorize the important characters before the movie begins. They often come in pairs, and it's not easy to distinguish them in this black-and-white film. Invest five minutes before you watch:

1) Central Protagonists: Mae Coleman and Jack Perry (the main pushers - "May Jack")

2) Minor Protagonists: Ralph Wiley and Blanche (the transitional college students who became intermediary pushers - Ralph looks a lot like Ralph Fiennes; Blanche has "blanched" hair)

3) Bill Harper and Jimmy Lane (high school students)

Mary Lane (Jimmy's sister and Bill's girlfriend - Bill, Jimmy, and Mary have All-American names)

4) Dr. Alfred Caroll, who you'll have no trouble remembering, as he stands alone.

If you commit the seven characters in 1) - 3) to memory early on, you'll have an easier time of things, trust me. I thought I could skim through this piece of drudgery, and ended up rewinding over thirty minutes to get the characters straight - a small investment in concentration early on will pay dividends later.

Is it as ridiculous as everyone says? Sure, but so were a lot of things back then. As a work of art, it falls short. As a work of propaganda, it also falls short. As a piece of history and culture, it's worth seeing once.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...