By Hernán Panessi via El Planteo
Prejudices, funny looks and confusion: At times, cinema also served as a propagator of stigmatizing discourses. In fact, in 1934, an official production code was created in the United States (with the complicity of the major film studios) to determine what could be seen on screens and what could not.
Known as the Hays Code, regulated via the MPAA (Motion Pictures Association of America), the American government and the studios established a set of rules that were intended to become a self-imposed censorship system that violated Hollywood’s natural style.
Farewell to the carefree, and farewell to freedom.
Since then, a string of films aimed their cannons against marijuana users, sex, the organization of labor, politics, and society. A specific worldview was being cast.
In the same vein were the War on Drugs, its business, and obsessions, followed by the abrupt action of a Western society cooked in the heat of ignorance, cruel military dictatorships, censorship, and oppression.
Here, you will find a guide to the five most stoner-adverse films in history. These films, by action or omission, disregard the tacit commitments to the plausible, and proceed without tact, without a clue, without anything that effectively resembles the experience of smoking a real joint.
The 5 Most Anti-Marijuana Films In The History Of Cinema
5. Marihuana (Dwain Esper, United States, 1936)
In the midst of the financial crash of the 1930s, the big movie studios were busy producing musicals, filming stories with classic literary monsters, distributing hilarious physical comedies, and producing anything else that would make the “common people” forget that there was no bread and there were no jobs, however, there was show business.
In this context, an early cannabis exploitation film appeared, known as the cornerstone of involuntary narcotic videos.
Despite having an openly propagandistic discourse, Marihuana, biological sister of the classic movie Reefer Madness (1936), was daring enough to feature a few joints on screen.
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Marihuana was written to educate an adult audience. Why? So people could learn about “the pitfalls of youth in America” (according to its trailer, just imagine the movie).
Also known as “Marihuana, the Weed with Root in Hell!, the work of director Dwain Esper, not only managed to point out a problem of the time but also served as an inspiration to generate a tremendous (and dark) cinematographic legacy. This was the kickoff of a moral and prejudiced cinema.
On its flip side, it became an inevitable stoner snack.
4. Assassin of Youth (Elmer Clifton, United States, 1938)
A child of the Hays Code, Assassin of Youth stands as an educational film designed to warn about the use of marijuana. However, like almost all films devoted to that issue, it showed truculence, skins, and disguises. The Hays Office was glad.
In the name of education, one could see outlines of nudity, violence, and sordidness. The spectators were also happy with the movie.
Elmer Clifton and the aforementioned Dwain Esper, two private entrepreneurs from outside the industry, provided the general public with what Hollywood could not. They were a kind of involuntary Trojan Horse: “nobody should smoke, and by the way, this is the way you do it.”
Strictly speaking, Assassin of Youth tells the story of a student who gets involved with a group of pot smokers and begins a cheesy road to ruin. In between, there’s a melodramatic issue in which the “bad guys” get their comeuppance and the “good guys” get their perks.
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It starts out a bit dull but gets “good” (the quotation marks are as generous as they are fair). For that reason, it is considered a slightly more entertaining play than the average exploitations marihuana films of the 30s and 40s.
It is consistently so anti-marijuana that it is singled out, even, over heroin and pills. Another feature film in the reefer madness sub-genre that will get a few good laughs out of you.
3. The Cool and the Crazy (William Witney, United States, 1958)
In the paranoid 1950s, when Marlon Brando was synonymous with freedom and rebellion, and the capitalist/communist blocs were debating world domination, a young marijuana salesman intrudes among the unruly miscreants of a rough Kansas City.
The Cool and the Crazy is a classic of propagandistic genre reefer madness: one bad apple (the new bad boy in town) contaminates the rest of the crate (the innocent local youth).
The aim of the film? To scare the youth about surrounding themselves with the “wrong people.” It’s like the story of the boogeyman but for teenagers: don’t smoke or the boogeyman will come.
The plot unfolds exaggerations: marijuana is a killer, it is the gateway to other narcotics, and one puff leaves you hooked for life (how could it not?).
Nevertheless, if these naive and exaggerated references can be ignored, behind the cheesy juvenile delinquency proposition, there is an interesting script and a good cast.
The film remains a capsule of its time, as it reflects certain youthful customs, hairstyles, the influence of contemporary idols such as James Dean and Dick Jones, hot rods, cigarette smoking, among other rebellious references in the prelude to the stormy 60s.
2. Marihuana (Hernán Garrido, Chile, 1975)
In Chile, during the Pinochet dictatorship, a documentary brought the marijuana issue to the forefront. How? By demonizing it to the hilt, how else?
“The pothead is bad,” repeats in a thousand and one ways Marijuana, a profoundly anti-drug film made by the Film Department (ok) in conjunction with the U.S. Embassy (ok, ok). Yes, you read that right, there is no typo.
Experimenting with different patients, the short film aims to demonstrate the harmful effect of cannabis and LSD, equating them on the same scale of values.
From there, images of police raids and dramatizations of psychedelic effects emerge, combining all possible commonplaces seasoned with ignorance about a number of issues.
With a lot of enthusiasm and with today’s eyes, it can be seen as a mockery. Almost like one of Peter Capusotto’s Videos.
1. Sobredosis (Overdose) (Fernando Ayala, Argentina, 1986)
If the body is a temple, for Dani it is also a laboratory: amphetamines, sleeping pills, joints, acid, cocaine, and heroin. Everything serves him to escape from the life he denies. And, incidentally, to find his own focus. The plot is typical: starts as a game and ends in the abyss.
In a sort of spiral tour de force, Dani dodges parental mandates (his father is a professional who is about to become president of a soccer club and his older brother follows him at every step) and enters an underworld that tempts him with much more: experimentation.
A “good kid” in an increasingly “hot” environment.
With journalistic research by Enrique Symns himself (monologuist of Patricio Rey y sus Redonditos de Ricota and creator of the mythical magazine Cerdos & Peces), music by the punk band Los Violadores and the exaggerated, crafty, and guiltily moves of actor Federico Luppi, Sobredosis is an underground film that approached mainstream themes.
Beyond the somewhat predictable ending (if the main character gets really, really high, guess what happens to the kid before the “end” sign), there is a surprising didacticism for the time.
And although the message is intended to be about morals, ethics, good manners, and family bliss, it ends up unintentionally becoming a misshapen display of chemical, narcotic, and psychotropic ebullitions. Aimed for “A”, but achieved “Z”.