(1940s-ish, Educational-Short, b&w)
Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy
Heroin: When you’ve got nothing better to do.
In a Nutshell:
Apparently, heroin is bad for you.
Our hapless thirty-ish teen protagonist (whose name escapes me) is all broken up about his father leaving him and his mother. Meanwhile, the provocatively named Moose and his drug-dealing henchmen try to drum up business, but the squares at the local high school keep turning them down. Hey, Narrator-Boy is both popular and emotionally vulnerable. They invite him to a party, where someone hands him a dope-laced cigarette. Our accidentally buzzed protagonist beats up the first person to laugh at him.
Moose takes him aside. “You fight pretty well,” he says. “Wanna fight for me?” Narrator-Boy drops out of school so that Moose can supply him with drugs and boxer training, culminating in a humiliating defeat. That’s what comes of showing up to your first match stoned out of your gourd, I guess. Victory, for Moose at least, was never really the point anyway. Who cares that Narrator-Boy is a hopeless fighter? He’s quit school to live the dream, and every kid in high school wishes they could be just like him. Moose’s drug-dealing henchmen drop a few rumors about Narrator-Boy’s unsavory habits, and now demand for drugs has never been higher.
Narrator-Boy quits boxing, quits drugs and gets a job. But his girlfriend moved away while he wasn’t looking and his mom went to a sanatorium, so he’s so bored. He starts taking drugs with Moose again. Mom comes home early one day and catches him shooting up, so off he goes to rehab. Social workers stutter an offer of help, which he spurns. He goes to shoot up again, but Moose has gone mad from withdrawal (pronounced withdrawerereral). He breaks into Narrator-Boy’s house looking for drugs. Frightened by his former friend/dealer’s degeneracy, Narrator-Boy decides to call the social workers after all.
The Story of a Teenage Drug Addict is essentially Reefer Madness with a touch more accuracy (marijuana and heroin are correctly portrayed as downers) and far fewer histrionics. The opening titles say “cast of non-professionals” and they mean it. There’s not much acting, just a lot of dispirited line recitation. Also, it’s often hard to tell people apart, so much so that at one point Kevin asks, “Are all these characters played by the same guy?” They’re not, but I’d be willing to bet that the casting pool had a lot of siblings and first cousins in it.
You’d think that a Reefer Madness clone without absurd melodrama would collapse under its own boredom, but The Story of a Teenage Drug Addict is actually kind of endearing. What it lacks in peculiarity it makes up in inept earnestness. The message was so important to them they had to get it out there regardless of whether or not they had anyone who knew how to act, write, edit or point a camera in the right direction.
The riffers do their best to help it along. When the obligatory “introduction doctor” drones anti-drug platitudes in the opening scene, Mike drones with him. “Please let me die,” he says. “My soul is a dried-up orange peel.” When our protagonist bemoans his loneliness with unnatural diction, Kevin adds, “People hated me on account of my crisp Ts.” When Moose tells narrator-boy that he’ll accept the offer “if he’s smart,” Bill replies, “I just punched out a kid for laughing after I smoked the first thing he gave me. Does it look like I’m smart?” Though there’s nothing especially amusing about the short itself, the mellow tone and inept filmmaking give it a slightly surreal feeling. With the riffers propping it up in all the right places, I liked it in spite of myself.
(1940s-ish, Educational-Short, b&w)