Feature Film Showcase – Reefer Madness (1936)

Showcasing classic movies that have fallen out of copyright and are available freely from the public domain (with streaming video!)


Reefer Madness, a.k.a Tell Your Children (1936)

Directed by Louis Gasnier.
Starring Dorothy Short, Lillian Miles, Dave O’Brien and Thelma White.

Originally intended as a cautionary anti-marijuana morality tale and financed by a church group under the title Tell Your Children, the movie was acquired by exploitation film-maker Dwain Esper who was looking to capitalise on the hysteria surrounding cannabis use in the U.S. at the time (see 1937 Marihuana Tax Act).

Reefer Madness begins at a P.T.A meeting, where parents are being lectured on the dangers of cannabis use, and the tragic events that occured when a group of high-school students were lured into the murky world of “reefer” cigarettes. The narrative then switches to the students whose addictions ultimately lead to chaos, committing hit-and-run, rape, manslaughter and suicide as they all lose control.

Although the movie did not find an audience upon release it re-emerged in the 1970′s, gaining popularity among cannabis-users and college students who viewed the film as a comedy with it’s cheap production values and exaggerated acting and plot-lines. Having achieved cult-status, there is much for contemporary audiences to enjoy in Reefer Madness.

Embed courtesy of Internet Archive.

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