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Reefer Madness - Restored Edition  (1938)


Starring: Dorothy Short, Dave O'Brien Thelma White

Director: Louis Gasnier

Rating: NR

Distributor: Fox Home Entertainment

Release Date: April 20, 2004
Review posted: April 7, 2004

Spoilers: None


Reviewed by Jon Bjorling




It's every parent's worst nightmare. Clean cut teenagers take a hit of the demon weed, Marihuana, and fall into a web of sex, murder, madness, and jazz music. Oh, the horror.




Oh man, this movie is bad. Not fun bad either. Not Plan 9 From Outer Space cheesy bad. This film is BAD! It makes Batman & Robin look like Citizen K... sorry, I can't finish that sentence without making myself feel dirty. But I think you get the point. This is the sort of film one could only enjoy if one was completely stoned out of their mind. Kind of ironic, isn't it?


Reefer Madness is a 1938 church funded propaganda film, originally titled Tell your Children, that attempted to frighten parents into thinking their children were hooked on drugs. It's a perfect example of how NOT to make a film. The filmmakers apparently did no research whatsoever (hell, I've never done pot and I know more about it than they do,) nor have any concept as to how to put together a simple scene. They also found some of the worst thirty year-old actors to play kids half their age. These "actors" have the acting ability of third graders (most of whom can't seem to get a full take, since most of the scenes contain multiple jump cuts to other takes.) There is no logic in the story... the list could go on. It all boils down to one thing; the filmmakers were completely inept making the film.


I honestly wish this film was good for a laugh, but it isn't. It's dreadful, something time should have forgotten.




Quit colorizing films! Every film that has been colorized looks bad. This film is hard to watch in its colorized state. I also found the decision to give each character their own unique color when they smoke the ganja very annoying. Fortunately, the disc also comes with the original black and white feature. The restoration looks descent, but not great. The restorers wanted the film to still look dated, which I appreciate.


Rating: Colorized 5/10

Rating: Black and White 7/10




The audio is presented in 5.1 Dolby surround, 5.1 DTS, and (in the case of the original black and white version) in the original mono. The sound is okay, but sounds a little hollow at times. However, I'm not sure if it's because of the transfer, the print used, or the ineptitude of the filmmakers. Still, the sound fits the look of the film, and does not detract from it in any way.




The two commentaries on the film are pretty good. The one I would recommend listening to first would have to be by Mike Nelson of Mystery Science Theater 3000. His comments make the hour waste of time worthwhile. The other commentary, by the Legend films staff is only somewhat informative. In it, they describe how they colorized the film and comment on how bad the film really is. However, aside from comments that point out the absurdity of the film, they also try to make jokes about it. Sadly, all their attempts fail completely.


The disc also comes with a short called Grandpa Ganja's Marijuana Handbook. In it "Grandpa Ganja" teaches senior citizens how to purchase, use, and take care of marijuana. While not the short's intent, it does manage to prove that marijuana has harmful consequences - take too much and you end up like him. Sadly and ironically, this short is far more entertaining than the feature.




Reefer Madness is really quite bad, but Fox gives it a decent presentation. Rent it, get some friends together, and tear it a new one.




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