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Originally called Tell Your Children, this anti-marihuana film from 1936, was directed by Louis Gasnier and originally financed by a 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!
Reefer Madness provides examples of:
- 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.
- 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.
- Big Fancy House: The pot house is really nice, even by today's standards.
- Black Comedy Rape: Ralph gets Mary stoned and tries to rape her.
- Bloodless Carnage: Mary is shot, and all that's visible is a little spot on her back.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: At the end, the principal says that this could happen to anyone's children, like yours, or yours, or yours.
- 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.
- 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.
- Well just reefer, anyway. Tobacco and alcohol are A-OK!
- ~Everything's Better On Drugs~: What it actually is saying.
- Frame Up: They try to frame Bill for Mary's death.
- Fridge Logic / Plot Hole: Related to Karma Houdini below. The entire film is told in flashback by the principal... but how did he know about Jimmy running the old man over if he was never charged?
- Also the drug dealers don't actually "deal". Nobody seems to purchase the stuff. Do they just give it away?
- 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.
- 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 and gets away clean. Odd for a 1930s movie (since the Hays Office had a rule about bad people not being able to get away with committing crimes) and especially odd for this movie.
- 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.
- Marijuana Is LSD: Even less accurate, marihuana's shown as a violent narcotic.
- 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.
- Poes Law: By today's standards, definitely.
- 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.
- ~So Bad It's Good~: In the 70's, college kids would enjoy smoking "marihuana" and watching the film whenever it came on TV. They found it to be a blast.
- 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.
- Think of the Children: Invoked by the DA
- Worst News Judgment Ever: All stories pertaining to the plot are featured prominently in the local paper.
The Musical (and the movie based on it) contain examples of:
- Adaptation Expansion: In the stage show, Mae's summoning of FDR is laughed off under Rule of Funny as 'It's a funny story,' and dropped. In the movie, FDR is established as being in town earlier and even contains a sequence of her fighting through his guards to talk to him.
- An Aesop: Lampshaded in the anti-marijuana aesop, but played straight with the musical's actual point about censorship.
- Arson Murder and Jaywalking: "My innocence ravaged! / My virtue devoured! / I can't count the strangers with whom I have showered!"
- Bastard Girlfriend: Mary, under the influence of reefer.
- Black Comedy: A lot of humor is gotten out of drug addiction, infedelity, rape, murder, and cannibalism.
- Black Comedy Rape: Unlike the 1936 film it was based on.
- Blatant Lies:
I'm not addicted no, I just enjoy the glow
- Chekhov's Gun: Jack using more than one bullet to kill Ralph may seem like a joke at first, but he's out of bullets when Mae tries to kill him.
- Completely Missing the Point: Essentially the joke behind "Romeo & Juliet."
- Critical Research Failure: In universe. It's one of the most well known tragic endings in history. How do you not know this?
- Dark Reprise: The reprise of "Romeo and Juliet."
- Delicious Distraction: The entire joke behind "The Brownie Song."
- Died Happily Ever After: Parodied. In the final song Mary is released from Hell and Jimmy tells her to wait for him. '"One day I'll get cancer, or hit by a train!"
- In stage productions, they seem to like making up new ways for him to die. When I saw it last year, one of them was "eaten by wild bears."
- Disney Acid Sequence: "The Brownie Song" in the film.
- Does This Remind You of Anything: Mary seems to be singing about something else during "Lonely Pew."
- Double Standard Rape Female On Male: Averted. While it's played as comedy, it's shown to be clearly not "okay," although to be fair if it WAS reversed, it would be a huge case of Dude Not Funny. Also, the scene role reverses that of the original 1936 version; in the musical, Mary tries to rape Ralph when she gets stoned, instead of the other way around.
- It's really more like he was trying to take advantage of her and got way more than he bargained for. You might say they tried to rape each other.
- Face Heel Turn: Jimmy and Mary...after one puff of marijuana.
- Heel Face Turn: Jimmy during the final song.
- Hey Its That Guy: The Lecturer is Nightcrawler
- And Mary is Veronica Mars
- Not to mention the fact that Ralph is the freaking Cryptkeeper!
- Humble Goal:
I've taken a life,
- I'm a Humanitarian: Ralph when he gets the 'munchies.'
- The Chinese in the movie are also suggested to be this.
- Jesus Was Way Cool: Even though he supports the anti-marijuana stance that the musical parodies, Jesus makes up for it with an awesome song, a Walking Shirtless Scene, and a troupe of sexy, angelic backup singers.
- Leaning On the Fourth Wall: In the stage show, everyone from the Lecturer to Jesus will directly address the audience.
Mary Lane, Oh, Mary Lane
- Marijuana Is LSD: Played for laughs. Actors appearing in the stage show are instructed to act like they're on crack, rather than pot.
- Nietzsche Wannabe: Easy to miss (as it's during the climax of Murder) but Jack is of the opinion that 'the winner is the last one left alive.'
- Not Using the Z Word: For a fairly light-hearted musical parodying old propaganda flicks and after-school specials, there are an awful lot of Zombies in it.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: A most triumphant example, as some changes made for the movie, like Dead Old Man being replaced by Mary Jane/Mary Lane and The Truth replacing the reprise of Reefer Madness, were so popular that most stage productions now include those changes.
- Refuge in Audacity
- Shout Out: "A little orphan girl once told me that the sun would come out tomorrow. Her adopted father was a powerful billionaire, so I suppressed the urge to laugh in her face."
- Triumphant Reprise: May's reprise of "The Stuff."
- In the stage version Jesus reprises "Listen to Jesus, Jimmy" at Jimmy's execution to mock him for not listening to him.