‘Reefer Madness’ is the best unintentional comedy

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A photo of a leafy green cannabis plant. Reefer Madness is a movie that is known for its demonization of cannabis.  Photo by    Rick Proctor    on    Unsplash

A photo of a leafy green cannabis plant. Reefer Madness is a movie that is known for its demonization of cannabis. Photo by Rick Proctor on Unsplash

When making a list of the worst movies ever made, Reefer Madness would place highly on that list. It has terrible acting, lackluster direction and an abundance of misinformation. Despite all of those flaws, “Reefer Madness” is one of the funniest movies I have ever seen.

Directed by Louis Gasnier, “Reefer Madness” follows Mary (Dorothy Short) and Bill (Kenneth Craig) as they try cannabis for the first time and how it ruins their lives. 

The first thing to know about “Reefer Madness” is that it is an inaccurate representation of what marijuana does to a person. The film claims that marijuana is a violent narcotic and that smoking it can lead to violence. It also claims that cannabis makes you go crazy, but I will let you decide if that is the case.

The film was made in 1936, but the level of misinformation about marijuana is overboard, even for that time period. There seemed to be little in the way of fact checking, yet Gasnier decided to make the movie anyway.

What makes “Reefer Madness” one of the best unintentional comedies is how serious everyone in the movie takes their part. Short and Craig overact for a majority of the film and they read their dialogue as if it’s the first time they have ever seen it. That kind of acting is reserved for films like “The Room,” which has been called the “Citizen Kane” of bad movies. 

The ending tries to be a cautionary tale of how the dangers of marijuana will destroy a person and will lead to trouble, but all I got from the ending was a half-assed attempt to scare people into thinking marijuana is the equivalent of heroin. If they wanted to make an effective ending, they should’ve made a film that was based on facts and not blatant lies.

In terms of production qualities, “Reefer Madness” has laughable credentials. The sound quality was awful, even by 1936 standards. Every time a character speaks, the audio is muffled and the music is ear-piercingly loud. The camera movements are flat and lack creative direction. Each scene looks like a Home Depot display set minus any charm. 

“Reefer Madness” will be forever remembered as a badly made exploitation film that is also hilarious. It helped set a standard for low level exploitation films over the next few decades and it made the anti-marijuana movement seem less credible over time.

The one saving grace of “Reefer Madness” is that it is in the public domain, meaning no corporation or entity owns the movie, but who would want to own this film anyway?

If you are interested in checking out the movie, it is available to watch on YouTube for free in either black and white or in color. Neither version is better than the other since they both look like garbage, but if you are in the mood for a low-grade movie that is hellbent on making marijuana seem worse than it actually is, “Reefer Madness” is the movie for you. 

Rating: 2/5

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Ian Ward is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at ian.ward@uconn.edu.

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