This unabashed propaganda film (also known by the title Tell Your Children, a dead giveaway) has become a cult classic of comically bad cinema due to its dated, alarmist views on the dangers of "marijuana addiction" and the exaggerated symptoms thereof. After the onscreen prologue that declares "Something must be done to wipe out this ghastly menace," Reefer Madness launches into a case study of clean-cut WASP couple Bill (Kenneth Craig) and Mary (Dorothy Short), high schoolers who play tennis and drink tea on the back porch. Their friend Jimmy (Warren McCollum) introduces them to a pot dealer named Jack (Carleton Young), who invites Bill up to his den of inequity, where stoned ne'er-do-wells laugh fiendishly, dance, and play the piano. After one joint, Bill is hooked, and his life begins to plummet down the tubes -- he starts flunking school and becomes a promiscuous regular in Jack's apartment. When a worried Mary tracks Bill down, she too is given a joint and begins giggling uncontrollably while being aggressively fondled by the bizarre addict Ralph (Dave "Tex" O'Brien). When Bill bursts out of the bedroom to tangle with Ralph, hallucinating and blacking out, Mary is accidentally shot. This prompts a string of guilt and calamitous occurrences, including several more deaths and courtroom sentences to mental institutions, all because of the devil weed. The film ends with the ominous warning, "The dread marijuana may be reaching forth next for your son or daughter...or yours...or YOURS!" ~ Derek Armstrong, All Movie Guide
- Includes all-new color version and restored original black & white version
- Commentary by Mike Nelson of TV's "Mystery Science Theater 3000"
- Color Design Commentary by Legend Films
- Short Film: "Grandpa's Marijuana Handbook" by Evan Keliher
- Reefer Madness Trailer
GreenCine Staff Pick, April 20, 2004:
Gee, it's 4/20, and a new edition of the camp classic Reefer Madness arrives on DVD -- coincidence, right? Yeah. This cult favorite, a 1938 propaganda film about the dangers of the "demon weed" that only makes it look like more fun than life without it, is, on its own, delirious and ridiculous. (My favorite is still the deranged piano player, who looks less like he's high on pot and more like he's on something much stronger.) But what makes this new DVD version of particular interest is the hilarious audio commentary by Mike Nelson, of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame, who offers his help to "guide you through the often difficult world of Reefer Madness." Fans of MST3K, or anyone not quite strong enough to make it through on their own, will welcome Nelson's spot-on commentary. (Samples: Commenting on the stodgy Fed who leads the crackdown on marijuana, "This guy's leadership style has probably driven more people to drugs than he prevented"; and as the feds burn bushels of pot, "Robert Downey, Jr. can't even watch this scene without breaking down in sobs;" along with tons of accurate comments on the inept filmmaking.) The disc includes both a restored black and white print and, even cooler, an all-new color version (as well as a surprisingly interesting separate commentary track by colorizer Legend Films). For once, colorization actually improves a movie, an artistic triumph in a film that is...not. And you gotta dig the touch of making the pot smoke now appear in all sorts of groovy colors. Interestingly, Nelson points out that one colorized character was "actually black and white in real life." Hmmm. This is one of the very rare occasions when the audio commentary tracks easily surpass the film itself. -- by Craig Phillips