R072 Reefer Madness (Three Riffer Version)

(1936, Teen/Crime Drama, color)


Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

The lesson: Doing drugs can get you laid. You also get away with murder.

Rating: **1/2

In a nutshell:

An innocent young man stands trial for the drug-related murder of his girlfriend.


The devil's weed, known to cause spontaneous homicidal rages.[Note: Following what has become my standard practice for these sorts of situations, I have once again shamelessly recycled the following summary from the first time I reviewed this film.]

We begin with five minutes of scrolling text—handwritten, hard-to-read text—detailing all the horrible things marijuana (sorry, marihuana) will do to you and your children. Did you know that this terrible narcotic is worse than crack cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, and a Sudafed/Nyquil combo? It’ll rape your sisters, burn down your house, run over your dog, and steal your bible too!

This rant continues—if “rant” is the right word for anything spoken aloud by the blandest man alive—as Professor Alfred Carroll (not his real name) addresses a PTA meeting to further disparage the drug. Eventually this gives way to narration of an event that happened “not so far away, to children just like yours.”

Local teens Bill Harper and Mary Lane share a pure, wholesome love, filled with chaste study sessions, stilted Elizabethan dialogue, and clumsy fountain pratfalls. But alas, it is not to be, for Bill falls in with a set of well-dressed ne’er do wells at the local malt shop. Soon they’ve taken him back to their pusher’s apartment (a fast-talking Mafioso named Jack) where they smoke richly colored herb and let their primal instincts throw them into such hedonistic activities as giggling, dancing and Jazz.

One day Jack’s stash runs out, so he bums a ride from Mary’s brother Jimmy (also a dope addict) to pick up a new supply from the local drug kingpin. Jimmy, of course, is flying high on the devil weed and runs over an old person on the way home. The cops track the license plate to Mary’s house. She realizes what Jimmy must have done, but lies to the cops to protect him.

This man's way too tense to be a dope fiend.After a bit of sleuthing, she tracks Jimmy and Bill to Jack’s apartment. Jimmy’s not there, but Bill is; he’s fornicating in another room with another addict. Mary accepts a cigarette while she waits for him to emerge. It’s laced with drugs, and soon she’s ineffectually fighting off a party-goer’s unwelcome advances. Bill comes out and starts to pummel the would-be rapist. Jack tries to break it up with a gun. Bill fights him too, and the gun goes off and kills Mary.

Bill wakes up a short while later with the gun in his hand. Jack convinces him that he killed Mary, a story he makes sure gets repeated to the cops. Bill goes on trial for murder while Jack and the other party-goers go into hiding. By the time he’s found guilty, the fugitives have finally had a drug-induced fallout that ends with Jack’s violent death. One of the addict girls spills the true story to the cops before committing suicide. A judge overturns Bill’s conviction and commits the last surviving addict to an institution for the criminally insane. Professor Carroll returns for the heavy-handed moral, and then we’re done.


That guy peeking through the smoke--is that Skeletor?Yadda, yadda, filmmakers know nothing about pot, rapeta, rapeta, pot bad but not in this way, etc., etc., etc. Again, head back to my prior review for my thoughts on the film.

Moving on to the current iteration of the commentary, Mike brings his partners Kevin and Bill back to re-riff another of his old solo efforts, and once again the best jokes from the solo version have been recycled. The old version was half straight commentary, though, so there’s plenty of space for new material. A few of my favorite comments: noting the character Bill’s wholesome, nerdy behavior before his fall from grace, riffer Bill says, “Bill puts the ‘wad’ in ‘gaywad’”. As the police commissioner and the local school principal conclude a long-ish, moralizing conversation about the evils of drugs, Mike adds, “Now let’s go get blackout-drunk at one of the many perfectly legal bars in the neighborhood.” Near the end, as an addict fugitive from justice begins to go homicidally insane, Kevin notes, “The ‘mellowing-out’ effect of marijuana clearly doesn’t work on that guy.” The riffing has improved, but it’s still a dreary 65-minute film that opens with ten uninterrupted minutes of scrolling text and narration and then ends with another fifteen minutes of moralizing courtroom proceedings. It’s entertaining enough with the commentary, but there appears to be a hard limit on how much this sort of film can be enjoyed while sober.