“The motion picture you are about to witness may startle you.”
A principal (Joseph Forte) warns parents against the evil influence of “marihuana” by telling the story of an upstanding teen named Bill (Kenneth Craig) whose life went downhill after he was led into a life of wild partying by drug dealers Mae (Thelma White) and Jack (Carleton Young).
Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this cult exploitation film (with more alternate titles than you can count on one hand) was clearly “made by people who obviously knew nothing about their subject”, and “reinforces every falsehood you’ve ever heard about marijuana: that you become immediately addicted, that it is violence-inducing, that it’s as bad as heroin, [and] that it ends in one’s ‘inevitable insanity’.” Reefer Madness possesses a handful of unintentionally hilarious moments — such as a young addict (Dave O’Brien) laughing maniacally, or characters reacting to weed as though it’s the latest form of speed — but I’ll admit I don’t enjoy it much on the whole: it’s too hard to keep track of the characters, and, despite its short length of only 67 minutes, the storyline tends to drag. Nonetheless, while Reefer Madness is undeniably a “terribly made, sensationalized, preposterous film”, it remains “the ultimate camp film”, and is required viewing for anyone seriously interested in the history of cinema.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- A hilariously uninformed representation of the effects of marijuana
- Countless campy moments
- Dr. Carroll testifying to Bill’s unexplainable outburst of laughter during a class reading of Romeo and Juliet
- Ralph (O’Brien) prompting Mae to play the piano “faster — faster!”
Yes, both for its undisputed cult status, and as a representative example of post-Hays Code exploitation films. Discussed at length in Peary’s Cult Movies (1981).