Review: Reefer Madness

One of my favourite musicals is Reefer Madness. Its a film that not many people in the UK have heard of, since it was only shown on the Showtime channel in America, but it’s so entertaining.

Back in 1936, a public service film was produced called “Reefer Madness”/”Tell Your Children”. It scared parents by telling them that their children were at risk from a new drug menace, marijuana. It became a cult classic in recent years, as stoners watched it and mocked the over-reaction that one “toot” on a joint would send you crazy.
Somehow this film inspired an off-Broadway musical which satirized the way people reacted to the original exploitation film. This in turn was turned into a movie for Showtime.

The film stars Alan Cumming as many roles (he may not have been the lead, but he certainly was in most of the scenes!), Kristen Bell as Mary Lane (a sweet wholesome girl who is madly in love) and Christian Campbell as Jimmy Harper (Mary’s love interest)

The songs from the musical fit the era quite well, and make me laugh every time I hear them. One song in particular that I love is “Lonely Pew”, Mary’s sad song in church.

The song shows how much she loves Jimmy, and her confusion over why he has been ignoring her lately. This scene then segues into Jimmy and Ralph (a college boy gone bad) stealing the church’s collection box to be able to pay their dealer. Jimmy looks towards the alter, the crucifix starts breathing out smoke and Jimmy is transported to a Vegas style heaven, with Joan of Arc as the emcee.

“No Christian martyr works it harder!”

The story takes a twist towards the end of the film where Mary is tricked into smoking a joint, and turns into a whip wielding, bondage loving dominatrix.
I love the opening song “Reefer Madness” if only for the Thriller-esque dance moves on the school steps by the zombified teenagers.
The musical will be coming to London in March 2009, I can’t wait!


  1. Jackie says

    Hm, I didn’t realize there was a 2005 version of Reefer Madness; I may have to check it out.
    I saw the 1936 version. It was so ridiculous, I loved it.


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