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Image Entertainment presents
Triple THC Feature (Marihuana, Assassin Of Youth, Reefer Madness) (1935/36)

Its first effect is sudden, violent, uncontrollable laughter; then come dangerous hallucinations -space expands - time slows down, almost stands still....fixed ideas come next, conjuring up monstrous extravagances...leading finally to acts of shocking violence, ending often in incurable insanity.
- Opening text, Reefer Madness

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: December 08, 2000

Stars: Harley Wood, Hugh McArthur, Luana Walters, Dorothy Short
Other Stars: Arthur Gardner, Kenneth Craig, Dave O'Brien
Director: Dwain Esper, Elmer Clifton, Louis Gasnier

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (lots of drug use, nudity)
Run Time: 03h:15m:29s
Release Date: December 05, 2000
UPC: 014381974423
Genre: cult


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C C-C-B- A-

DVD Review

Before I begin the review proper, allow me to point out that if you see this DVD in a store somewhere, do not be confused or shocked by the presence of the Something Weird label on it. Yes folks, it's true. The DVD medium has finally been graced by material from the vaults of Something Weird Video in cooperation with Image Entertainment. You may now thank the appropriate deity or deities for this gift from SWV to you. While only a handful of titles are available now, let's hope this leads to a new age in which SWV's catalog of superb sexploitation, drugsploitation, safety films, youth warning films, old commercials, and classic striptease acts are to found on every store shelf in America. And then...the world!!! First, though, we delve into these little gems of cinematic history, the anti-marijuana films of the 1930's presented on this Triple THC Feature disc.

For those of you staring into your monitors through a cloud of pot smoke, barely being able to make sense of the words before you, it is already too late. You have already succumbed to the pleasures of the devil-weed marijuana! For those of you not yet corrupted, there may still be hope. Educate yourself to the dangers we all face by watching these 3 films, Marihuana, Assassin Of Youth, and last, but not least, Reefer Madness. I am, of course, joking. I'm about as scared of people smoking marijuana as I am of chocolate marble cheesecake. I know that the decriminalization of the drug is a big, hot topic these days (I'll leave that issue for another time), but I've never known anyone who smoked pot and turned into the looney, murderous, freaked-out characters we have here.

These exploitation films were wildly popular in their day, along with similar scare films about sex, gambling, and most other vices. The key to the popularity of these movies was basically that, by disguising the movies as educational "warning" films to the public, they could get away with things that were literally unimaginable for the time. The so-called "Hayes Code" of the era (precursor to the modern MPAA) was a censorship code that strictly limited what could be shown in American films. Even something as seemingly innocuous as a woman's cleavage could be seen as a threat to the free world. So, the art of exploitation managed to provide hours of baseless, twisted entertainment without fear of censorship. I mean, they're only showing you drug crazed orgies and killing sprees to warn you, right? Yeah...right.

The first film on the disc's roster is Marihuana, from 1936. While Reefer Madness is typically the most infamous of these films, Marihuana is easily the most amazing from the standpoint of what we see. In the film, we are introduced to the typical crowd of rowdy "teens" (thought the actors are easily old enough to have fathered their own teens) who hang out at a nasty bar where all sorts of bad things go on. Shady and stereotypical "greasy Italians" sell joints from out of hollow heels in their shoes! A reporter who wants to do a story on the drug decides to join in the debauchery, only to realize that this crowd is doomed to death, pregnancy, and who knows what else. What will immediately strike any viewer, is how 'extreme' Marihuana is. Not more than two minutes into the film, there's a bizarre sight gag that implies a drunkard is peeing on the floor. There's also the drug-induced sessions of skinny-dipping that the kiddies indulge themselves in; featuring a level of nudity simply unheard of in late 1930's mainstream film. The entire thing was probably the most shocking thing ever filmed up until that point, and that was the idea, of course. It's funny as hell, and it paints the most ridiculously unrealistic picture of pot smokers perhaps ever seen on film.

Assassin Of Youth, from 1935, is not so much a shock film as it is a subtle satire of the typical movies of the day. In the film, the central character, Joan Barry (Luana Walters) must behave like a proper woman in order to earn her inheritance. Her recently dead aunt was killed by a crazy driver who was high on marijuana. A reporter (who's about as square as they come) decides to go incognito in Joan Barry's town in order to get a closer look. He takes up a job as a geeky soda jerk and listens in on all the hot gossip going on around town. Of course, the crowd that Joan hangs around with all smoke pot (or 'reefers'), and for some bizarre reason one of her friends, Linda, wants to shatter her image of being a nice girl. Linda sets forth to make it look like Joan is some joint-smoking fiend, even though she's not. It doesn't really matter anyway, though, because in the end everyone's life turns into one quest for doobie after doobie, much like heroin junkies! Even the soda jerk gets in on the action and ruins his esteemed career as a reporter all for the love of M! By far the best part of the movie is the 'educational' film that the reporter is forced to watch, in which a fictional professor comes up with a historically inaccurate timeline of how marijuana was originally used to create Turkish assassins, or some such nonsense.

Then we have Reefer Madness. This film has mostly gained attention for its ridiculous portrayal of pot 'addicts,' with some of the funniest scenes in drugsploitation history. Originally titled Tell Your Children (also titled Doped Youth), it sets itself up as a documentary of what kind of sick, criminal mind uses pot. Actually, the film is a sort of flashback that begins with a lecture from a high school (no pun intended) principal. It essentially tells the story of good teenagers getting sucked into smoking pot by the immoral couple, Mae and Jack. Eventually, it all leads to murder, hangings, and total insanity, not to mention really fast piano playing!

The first myth that needs to be put to rest about these classics of drug-scare films is that they were propaganda. For the most part, the most successful of these films (and the three here are considered the biggest anti-pot films of the 1930's, especially Marihuana, which earned back something like 100 times its production cost) were made by people who simply wanted to make money by freaking out an ignorant public, not because they actually were crusading for some lofty moral ideal. Like sideshow hucksters, they were merely using the shock technique to pack theatres, not really caring much about any real-life drug problem. Unfortunately, too many people took these movies too seriously, and the end result was the kneejerk banning of anything even remotely related to marijuana, despite the fact that the United States had long profited from non-narcotic hemp plant production. These films, while silly, are a window into the world of the 1930's- 1940's attitude towards youth culture and drugs. Undoubtedly, these scare tactics had a profound effect on any teen who grew up viewing these. The country became absorbed in a puritanical attitude where even things like twin beds for married couples became the norm. For this reason, it's worth viewing these flicks just to gain that bit of insight on what it was like to have actually lived in that age.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: As you might imagine, these films are so old that they are quite heavily damaged. So, all of them have quite a bit of scratches, holes, blotches, and other natural artifacts. The digital transfer is well done, and doesn't aggravate any of the source print problems, but be aware these are 30's era prints. That said, though, Something Weird Video has had a long time reputation of trying to obtain the best condition negatives as possible, and I've seen some of these old drug films look a LOT worse in non-SWV treatments. My only complaint is the fact that windowboxing the films into a more accurate 1:66:1 aspect ratio would have made them look a bit better and less text would have been pushed off the screen.

Image Transfer Grade: C-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: All of the shorts (including the extras) are in single channel Mono format. While the audio in some of the films is slightly damaged, overall everything is in good condition and works well. Like many of these old, low-budget films the dialogue is often very hard to hear against background sound, but that's really the fault of how it was recorded. However, nothing suffers because of the problems.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 36 cues and remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Devil's Harvest
1 Feature/Episode commentary by David F. Friedman
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Additional short film Sinister Menace.
  2. Excerpt from the 1924 film High On The Range.
  3. Excerpt from the film Wages Of Sin.
  4. Gallery of Drug Scare artwork and movie promotional material, accompanied by radio advertisements from the 60's.
Extras Review: The extra features on the disc start off with a great commentary track by B-movie legend David F. Friedman and a representative from Something Weird Video who's name I couldn't understand (Mike something). The commentary is for the film Marihuana, but they discuss all sorts of elements from several drug-scare films of the age. It's a wonderful commentary with one of the most personable B-cinema figures around today.
The additional short, Sinister Menace, is a typical scare film that discusses the pot epidemic in the East. The short was directed by Marihuana's Dwain Esper. There are also excerpts from High On The Range (a silent anti-pot film from 1924) and cautionary youth tale Wages of Sin.
Trailers for Marihuana and Assassin Of Youth are included along with Devil's Harvest, which is not featured on this disc. Everything wraps up with a 5-minute reel of promotional material and drug-scare material from the age with 1960's and 1970's era radio spots for revivals of these films playing in the background. My only real complaint is that the trailers, shorts, and excerpts all feature the infamous Something Weird Video water mark, which was typically featured on all of SWV's extra material on VHS. Unfortunately, I don't think the DVD community will appreciate this and SWV, as much as I respect them, should seriously consider getting rid of those old watermarks for their DVD material.

(Oftentimes, with Public Domain conditions as they are, the only way for a studio to protect their print and transfer investment is to watermark it. If Studio A spends money on cleaning up a digital transfer to DVD, what's to prevent someone else from digitally stealing the work and putting it out as their own? Watermarking. It's an unfortunate but understandable practice. -Ed.)

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

This a great collection of classic, marijuana-scare material. The extra material brings a nice balance to everything. It's nice to see one of Something Weird's early DVDs turn out so nicely. Highly recommended.

 


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