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Arts and Entertainment

Celebrating Reefer Madness Tomorrow: Screenings and DVD Release Party

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Reefer Madness at the Vista on 4/20.


Reefer Madness at the Vista on 4/20.
Tomorrow is April 20 so prepare yourself for the onslaught of pot jokes and references. If we had to pick one event from all the bud-related festivities, we'll go with a screening of Reefer Madness tomorrow at the Vine Theater to commemorate the film's upcoming 75th anniversary.The now-cult classic was released in 1936 (which confuses us why they're celebrating the film's 75th anniversary) but whatever. The film is still a lot of fun--especially on the big screen.

Reefer Madness has been known by a number of titles--Tell Your Children, Doped Youth, Dope Addict, Love Madness and The Burning Question--originally financed by a church group to educate (i.e., scare the living daylights out of) parents on the dangers of a single toke of marijuana.

It's got the artistic merit of an industrial/educational, with the soul of an after-school special morality tale. The story focuses on drug dealers Mae and Jack who sell marijuana to local high school kids. Two of the kids Bill and Mary are tennis-playing, tea-drinking, Shakespeare-reading clean-cut sweethearts who make the mistake--an ultimately fatal mistake--of getting involved with Mary Jane. The film's plot has everything: dancing, drinking, drugs, parties, lewd behavior, a hit and run accident, suicide, rape and brain-addled teenagers.

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But what gives Reefer Madness its staying power is the earnestness with which the writers and actors approach the over-the-top plot twists, dialogue and story lines. Check out this no-so-subtle text from the film's introductory crawl (italics are our emphasis):

The motion picture you are about to witness may startle you. It would not have been possible, otherwise, to sufficiently emphasize the frightful toll of the new drug menace which is destroying the youth of America in alarmingly increasing numbers. Marihuana is that drug— a violent narcotic— an unspeakable scourge— The Real Public Enemy Number One! 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— followed by emotional disturbances, the total inability to direct thoughts, the loss of all power to resist physical emotions… leading finally to acts of shocking violence… ending often in incurable insanity. In picturing its soul-destroying effects no attempt was made to equivocate. The scenes and incidents, while fictionalized for the purposes of this story, are based upon actual research into the results of Marihuana addiction. If their stark reality will make you think, will make you aware that something must be done to wipe out this ghastly menace, then this picture will not have failed in its purpose… Because the dread Marihuana may be reaching forth next for your son or daughter… or yours… or YOURS!

With an intro like that, viewers know that they're in for a wild and crazy ride.

Attendees to the screenings tomorrow will be given a free DVD, which has more than two hours of bonus films and clips including the Betty Boop cartoon "Happy You and Merry Me" (1936) and "The Pusher" (1951).

Reefer Madness Screenings and Release Party
The Vine Theater
Tomorrow (4/20)
at 4:20 and 8:20 pm
6321 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles
Tickets $9 (includes free DVD)