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Film: Reefer Madness

Originally called Tell Your Children, this anti-marihuana film from 1936, was directed by Louis Gasnier and originally financed by a concerned church group and intended for parents, but was picked up by producer Dwain Esper who recut it as an Exploitation Film. Today, it's in the public domain and considered So Bad, It's Good, and has even inspired a 1998 musical satire which itself was adapted into a well received TV movie.

Witness the frightful toll of the new drug menace which is sweeping America online. Don't do drugs, kids!

Tropes:

  • The Aggressive Drug Dealer
  • An Aesop: Drugs Are Bad.
  • Alternate DVD Commentary: The best way to watch. Mike Nelson has done more than one, but in a pinch the goofy commentary of your stoned buddies will suffice.
    • The film was the subject of a RiffTrax live presentation, expanding on Mike's solo commentary on the Legend Films release.
  • Attempted Rape: Ralph gets Mary stoned and tries to rape her.
  • Ax-Crazy: When going over the government files on "marahuana," they talk about a teenager who became addicted to the drug and killed his family with an ax for some reason. It might have been an allusion to an actual person who was believed to have murdered his family while stoned (he was schizophrenic).
  • Big Fancy House: The pot house is really nice, even by today's standards.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Mary is shot, and all that's visible is a little spot on her back.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall / The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: At the end, the principal says that this could happen to anyone's children, like yours, or yours, or yours (repeating the Opening Crawl).
  • Celebrity Resemblance: On the Rifftrax, the soda shop piano player is compared to Kramer and the Marx Brothers while The Judge is compared to Dick Cheney.
  • Clueless Aesop: The movie failed so badly at its Aesop that it's used as a strawman by people lobbying to legalize marijuana.
    • It might not have been the best idea to start the film by giving detailed instructions on how to make and even smuggle joints.
  • Cool Car: The main teen characters have a then-brand-new Ford convertible sedan. Ironically, the use of Stock Footage means the police cars shown are 5-8 years old (the equivalent of a 15-20 year old car today).
  • Dawson Casting:
    Mike Nelson: "These guys probably had sons the same age as their characters."
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing
  • Driven to Suicide: Blanche
  • Drugs Are Bad: Well, duh. Or at least, that's what it tries to say.
  • Epic Fail: This movie's message is that Drugs Are Bad. It is impossible to take it seriously because of how over-the-top it is.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Mae the drug moll doesn't like selling pot to teenagers, a qualm her partner Jack doesn't share.
    • Ralph, whose near-rape of Mary leads to her death, is the only one of the gang who shows any remorse that Bill is convicted of her murder. Though it is implied that his attitude is primarily a side effect of marihuana usage.
  • Frame-Up: They try to frame Bill for Mary's death.
  • Framing Device: Dr. Carroll, the high school principal, relates the film's events while addressing a PTA meeting about the scourge of marihuana.
  • Gag Dub: Reefie's Madhouse, which airs as a celebration to Four Twenty on G4
    • Hell, this had a gag colorization: Clown color pot smoke.
  • George Lucas Altered Version: The colorized version adds Funny Background Objects For the Lulz.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: "We educators can't do anything until the public is sufficiently aroused."
  • He's Dead, Jim: Even though none of the characters are medically qualified, they all know that Mary is dead right away.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Mary gets shot by accident.
  • Irony: It's a good stoner flick.
  • The Judge: Of the gruff older white man sort.
  • Karma Houdini: Jimmy runs a man over with his car while stoned and gets away clean. Odd for a 1930s movie (since The Hays Code had a rule about bad people not being able to get away with committing crimes) and especially odd for this movie.
    • Although we see Mae being grilled by the cops, we never hear what punishment is eventually dished out to her (possibly because of her attitude toward underage clients).
  • Laughing Mad
  • Leave the Camera Running: There seem to be a lot of long, pointless shots in the movie, such as Bill dropping his book, picking it up, and dusting it off.
  • Lost Aesop: Invoked, for cripes sake! The lead jurist won't accept one juror's "reasonable doubt" argument, but then he envisions a hanging noose, reminding him that a man's life hangs in the balance. He then proceeds to deliberately ignore his own epiphany and continues bullying the jury with his viewpoint.
  • Marijuana Is LSD: Even less accurate, marihuana's shown as a violent narcotic. Hell, some of the posters for the film were covered with needles.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: Bill is found guilty of Mary's murder even though he was framed, but it's averted at the last minute when Blanche admits that it was actually Jack's fault.
  • The Musical: The original film was later made into a highly popular stage musical in the late 90's, and then that was made into an award-winning Showtime movie in 2005.
  • Nerf Arm: seriously, someone was killed with a curtain rod?
  • No Indoor Voice: The District Attorney.
  • One-Liner:
    Jimmy: Let's go, Jack, I'm red-hot!
    Jack: Better be careful how you drive, or the first thing you know you'll be ice-cold.
  • Opening Crawl: a particularly lengthy one. Mike Nelson was not impressed.
  • Poe's Law: By today's standards, definitely.
  • Reactionary Fantasy: A quintessential example.
  • Rogue Juror: Subverted. One of the jurors at Bill's murder trial has doubts as to his sanity, but the others quickly buffalo him into voting for conviction.
  • Shout-Out: The newspaper showing Bill's verdict also has a headline about Dick Tracy.
  • Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty: Very much on the shiny side, especially considering the producers' intent. The aforementioned nicest drug hangout in cinematic history and new car and all the young drug users are well- (and one would presume by 1936 standards fashionably-) dressed.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Averted. This was one of the first attempts (if not the first) at making smoking look uncool, and viewers might have a hard time believing they didn't set the studio on fire... Using "joints" which look exactly like factory-produced cigarettes is a contributing factor. On the other hand, it's notable that the two leads, Bill and Mary, are depicted as incredibly square even for 1930s standards — "Gee, hot chocolate! — and yet are shown to smoke (regular tobacco) even before they get introduced to pot.
  • Spinning Paper: Minus the literal spinning, but still...
  • Stocking Filler: Mae, getting dressed in an early scene.
  • The Stoner: Averted - No one in this movie behaves like a real-life stoner.
    • Whatever they're smoking is some kind of powerful stimulant. It certainly isn't pot.
    • The only realistic side effect was the bad guy's constant eating.
    • Which is funny considering that they list a fair number of accurate symptoms in the opening crawl.
    • They don't even get it right on the poster in the page image. Nobody in the film or real life takes Marihuana as a pill.
  • Stoner Flick: Ironically.
    • To the point where most people hear about it first from someone who's watched it stoned.
  • Sweater Girl: One scene shows Mary waiting for Bill at the tennis court in a tight sweater and shorts.
  • Think of the Children!: Invoked by the DA
  • Watch It Stoned: The movie might be just a teensy bit counterproductive.
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: All stories pertaining to the plot are given screaming headlines in the local newspapers.


    B-MovieChild Bride
The Nostalgia Critic: You're a Rotten Dirty BastardRecap/The Nostalgia CriticSuper Nintendo
The Petrified ForestFilms of the 1930sShow Boat
The Red Shoes 1948Danny Peary Cult Movies ListRio Bravo
Really RosieThe MusicalRent

alternative title(s): Reefer Madness
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