Reefer Madness

Directed by Louis Gasnier

> > Apr 2004

Reefer Madness - Directed by Louis Gasnier
By Lorraine CarpenterThanks to pot-heads, this infamous propaganda relic is the best-selling B-movie ever, an unintentionally funny flick that makes maniacally overblown claims about "marihuana." Now on DVD, in its original B&W and colourised, it's as terrible as ever, stoned or sober. The endless disclaimer and verbose framing sequences are drier than pasty-mouth and the early exchanges between the squeaky-clean school sweethearts are equally revolting, but that's B-writing, B-acting and B-directing for you. (Not surprisingly, this 1938 picture was snapped in the twilight of Gasnier's career, which started with teenage slapstick comedy.) The laughs are relegated to scenes set in the sleazy pot flop-house, where pushers invite kids to smoke and party hard. In Reefer Madness world, those under the influence of the "violent narcotic" behave like psychotic crack heads and their "addiction" inevitably leads to sin, insanity, suicide, manslaughter, etc. Along with a dopey short about a weed-smoking grandpa, the extras include two feature-length commentaries. The folks from Legend Films offer a funny and informative spiel about their stylised, personalised colour design (each character emits uniquely tinted smoke), pointing out their discontinuous "Easter eggs" — intentionally placed fun-flubs for baked viewers. Mystery Science Theatre 3000's Mike Nelson provides the other commentary, bringing laughs by bashing the acting, dancing, dialogue and directing — everything but the movie's message and the unscience it's based on. The educated know that weed's got nothing on alcohol (let alone cocaine and heroin) when it comes to addiction and physical harm, but Nelson doesn't debunk any of the movie's crazy, archaic theories. Instead, he repeatedly disassociates himself from the ganja-smoking set, aka Reefer Madness's only audience, so his conservative tone is a bit of a bummer. Maybe they couldn't get Tommy Chong for the job, being in jail for selling bongs and all. Plus: trailer, more. (Fox)
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