Monday, July 28, 2008

MARIHUANA (1936)

The director of this drug-scare propaganda film is Dwain Esper, a 30's edition of Ed Wood, who made a number of low-budget exploitation movies. Before this, I had seen his MANIAC, a movie that is quite bizarre and difficult to describe that you simply must see it to believe it, though don't take that as a recommendation. It is both kinkier and more amateurish than anything Ed Wood ever did, but some of Wood's movies hold up to repeat viewings, hence his cult. Esper's movies aren't really much fun and don't invite repeat viewings. This one starts with a scene of wild kids dancing the night away at a 5-cent beer joint. Of course, given the gateway theory of drug use (who know that theory was all the rage in the 30's?), this is the place to get the kids hooked on reefer, so slick dealer Tony buy beers for slumming rich girl Burma (great name!) and her pals, then invites them to use his beach house for a weenie roast at which joints get handed out, girls go crazy and go skinny-dipping, and Burma and her boyfriend Dick go all the way. The wages of sin? One girl gets too high and drowns, and Burma winds up pregnant. Dick works for Tony to make some money, but gets killed in a drug bust shootout. Burma gives up the baby for adoption and starts working for Tony, becoming "Queen of the Snow Peddlers" for her penchant for getting pot customers turned on to "H" and "C." As her life spirals further downward, she winds up kidnapping her sister's baby (who, of course, is actually her own child though she doesn't know it) before her inevitable early demise. The highlight of the film is the skinny-dipping scene, in which we actually see a gaggle of naked women running into the water. They could probably get away with almost this much nudity on TV today, but it's still startling to run across it in a 30's film. The title is a little misleading, as the dope smoking is secondary to the real problems here, using heroin and working for drug dealers. For fun times, stick with REEFER MADNESS. (aka Marihuana, the Devil's Weed) [TCM]

3 comments:

Jim said...

Mike, is there something you're trying to tell us? Is this new focus of yours a thinly veiled cry for help?

Michael said...

Jim, wait until you see tomorrow's review. I'm turning into a snowbird! (Eyes rolling, head shaking, and fingers itching to shoot somethin', man...)

Jim said...

But ... that's pretty much how I remember you.