Friday, December 31, 2010

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)

There's more than one way a filmmaker can approach a sequel to a hit movie. You can follow the same formula as the original movie, or try building upon the mythos it created. You could even go the Blair Witch 2 route and do something so completely different that nobody will believe it was actually made at all.

Or you could always aim for self-parody, as Joe Dante did when he made the sequel to his seminal '80s creature feature Gremlins. The sequel was more lighthearted than the original movie, eschewing much of the dark humor for a self-referential silliness that makes it feel like a completely different creature than its predecessor.

It's been a few years since Kingston Falls was decimated by the gremlins, during which time the peaceful mogwai Gizmo (voiced by Howie Mandel) has lived safely in the curio shop where he was initially found. But when the shop's owner dies and the store is demolished, Gizmo is left homeless.

He is eventually found by a geneticist and taken to the laboratories at Clamp Tower, an ultra-modern skyscraper in Manhattan owned by eccentric media mogul Daniel Clamp (John Glover). It's an amazing coincidence, too, as former Kingston Falls residents Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) and Kate Beringer (Phoebe Cates) work in the building as a graphic designer and tour guide.

Billy stumbles upon Gizmo one day and frees him from the lab, leaving the mogwai hidden in his desk until Kate can take him home at the end of her shift. But a broken water fountain sprays Gizmo, spawning a new batch of evil mogwai. And thanks to a combination of the Clamp Tower food court and a triggered sprinkler system, an army of gremlins are soon running loose throughout the building. Trapped inside with them, Billy and Kate must find a way to destroy the gremlins before they can escape Clamp Tower and wreak havoc on the streets of New York City.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch is nowhere near as good as the first one. Let's go ahead and get that out of the way right now. It quite simply comes nowhere near its predecessor. But for all the stupid moments and corny jokes and all that jazz, Gremlins 2 is still an hour and a half of dumb fun. The movie's not really all that good, but the fact that it's willing to go to any length to get a laugh is somewhat endearing.

As I said, Gremlins director Joe Dante returns to helm the follow-up, and he's made the odd choice to go from a horror/comedy to a straightforward screwball comedy. The shift in tone between the movies can be a bit off-putting, especially if you watch them back to back. But it's still watchable, however, so it isn't a total waste of time.

But still, Dante does do a fine job in the director's chair. He's armed with a bigger budget, which allows him to approach things on a grander scale. The mogwai and gremlin puppets have been improved upon, and the sets are a lot roomier than the studio backlot from the first movie. (And I still think it's strange that the backlot Gremlins used would later become Hill Valley from Back to the Future). The bigger sets allow for some fantastic cinematography from John Hora; the movie looks great, in large part due to Hora's camerawork.

The problem with it, though, is that you get the feeling that part of the reason the movie was made was so Rick Baker and the gremlin designers could show off. Thanks to Clamp Tower having a genetics lab full of weird experimental serums and concoctions, you get to see all kinds of new gremlins. There's a gremlin with bat wings, a spider gremlin, a gremlin made out of lightning, a gremlin that turns into vegetables, and a metric ton of gremlins in the Clamp Tower lobby singing "New York, New York." I ended up with the impression that the movie's whole point was so Baker could point at the movie and say, "C'mere and look at all the cool stuff me and my crew can do." I don't want to sound like I'm dogging the effects, because they're great. But sometimes I just wanted Dante to focus on something other than showcasing the gremlins.

The screenplay is pretty flawed too. Written by Charles S. Haas, the script is full of nonsensical scenes that don't contribute anything at all to the movie. Take, for example, the scene where the movie breaks the fourth wall, having the gremlins destroy the film in the projection booth, and a theater usher gets Hulk Hogan to scare them into showing the movie again. The scene is funny, but does it have anything to do with anything else?

The same can be said for the Looney Tunes scene at the beginning of the movie. If you haven't seen it, Gremlins 2 opens with Daffy Duck stealing the Warner Brothers logo from Bugs Bunny. The scene has no real purpose, no point, and no reason for the scene to be in the movie at all. But that's the movie's whole shtick: getting humor from random silliness, logic and story be damned.

That's the movie's biggest flaw, too. There's just so much random mayhem going on that anything resembling a plot or a story gets buried underneath a mountain of goofiness. Did the movie really need the moment where the gremlins attack Leonard Maltin while he's giving the original movie a bad review? Maltin even holds up the VHS box of the original Gremlins to further hammer home the point that Gremlins 2 just doesn't care if it makes sense or not. And really, that pretty much sums up the entire movie: It just doesn't care about making sense.

I could go on all day about the stupid crap in the script, but I really should move along to the cast. Reprising the role of our hero is Zach Galligan, who plays the role as well as he did in 1984. Galligan is charming, likable, and entertaining, and he's all aces. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast is sadly forgettable. They're adequate, I guess, but you aren't going to be telling people about the fantastic acting in Gremlins 2. Phoebe Cates is fine and I did like Christopher Lee (I'm still not sure how they roped him into this movie) and Robert Prosky, but my favorite performance came from John Glover. I like Glover a lot anyway, and his work in this particular movie is really funny. It's always weird seeing him do comedic roles after spending six years watching him as a villain on Smallville, but the guy is great. He's so great, in fact, that he practically steals the movie.

And Glover would have, too, if it weren't for the late Tony Randall. Randall plays Brain, a rather verbose hyper-intelligent gremlin. While he only provides the voice, he plays Brain as hammy as he can get. If overacting has a sound, it would be Tony Randall's voice work on Gremlins 2. Quite frankly, it's a glorious example of how sometimes, silliness can actually work.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch is nowhere near the quality of the original movie. Hell, it's barely worth being called "good." But is it fun? Oh yeah, it is. Though all the stupid scenes and jokes that don't really work and pointless nonsense, Gremlins 2 is entertaining enough to be worth a watch. However, I can't give it anything higher than two and a half stars. And even if it does lead to gremlins, I still want to own my own pet mogwai. That'd be awesome.

Final Rating: **½

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Gremlins (1984)

I've been reviewing Christmas movies every December since 2006. And outside of a tiny handful of exceptions, the movies I've reviewed have been, shall we say, "unconventional." I've never been a Miracle on 34th Street kind of guy. Call me nuts, but I've always preferred the crazier Christmas movies. That's why, for 2010, I chose to review Gremlins. Because when you think of Christmas, you think of evil little monsters.

Seriously, though, Gremlins totally counts as a Christmas movie. I dare you to try and convince me it's not. It's also one of the quintessential movies of the '80s. Gremlins is a perfect blend of horror and comedy, and if you're one of the poor souls who've never seen it, allow me to tell you why you should.

It's Christmastime in Kingston Falls, a cozy suburban town called home by amateur inventor Rand Peltzer (Hoyt Axton). I say "amateur" because the gadgets he creates are mostly crap that don't work right. While visiting a curio shop in Chinatown one night, Rand finds a small, furry creature called a Mogwai (voiced by Howie Mandel). However, the shop's elderly owner refuses to let him buy it despite needing the money. The owner's grandson goes behind his back and sells it to Rand in secret, telling him that owning the Mogwai comes with three rules:
  1. Never expose it to bright light, especially sunlight.
  2. Never get it wet.
  3. Never feed it after midnight.

Rand brings the Mogwai home to his adult son, Billy (Zach Galligan), who is thrilled with his new pet. Naming it "Gizmo," Billy forms a quick bond with the little furball. But because of how movies like this go, you know those rules will be broken.

A random accident causes Gizmo to get wet, resulting in several more Mogwai spawning from his back. These Mogwai prove to be far more devious than Gizmo, which is further evidenced when they trick Billy into feeding them after midnight. This causes them to metamorphose into green-skinned creatures with a thirst for anarchy and mayhem. But what began as a few becomes an entire army of gremlins, one focused on creating as much chaos as possible in the streets of Kingston Falls.

I can summarize Gremlins in one word: awesome. It's a spectacular flick that is nothing but fun from start to finish. It's one of those classic '80s movies that can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike. Well, kids above a certain age, that is. Let's not forget that Gremlins is a blend of both comedy and horror, and it doesn't skimp on the horror. Younger children probably shouldn't be watching the movie, even if it does have a PG rating. But nevertheless, Gremlins is still a fantastic movie with a little something for pretty much everybody, and I can't recommend it enough.

At the helm is Joe Dante, who does an admirable job with Gremlins. His direction is great, building an atmosphere that's strangely both dark and lighthearted. I know that sounds conflicting, but it works. It works and it actually makes the movie better. Dante has a ton of elements at his disposal, and he puts all of them to excellent use. Whether it be the moody lighting, John Hora's awesome cinematography, or Jerry Goldsmith's absolutely fantastic music, Dante performs well with what he's got. He uses each of those to build suspense and make the movie pretty darn frightening at times, though he often follows the scares with a bit of humor to lighten the mood. And it boasts a certain sense of adventure and whimsy to it on top of all that, but I guess that's to be expected. Pretty much all of the movie Steven Spielberg produced or directed during the '80s were like that.

The movie was also written by Chris Columbus, who's had a lengthy career writing family movies. I even reviewed two of them during my marathon of Christmas reviews last year. But we're to talk about Gremlins, not Home Alone or Home Alone 2, so I'll say that Columbus's script is quite good. The characters are all likable and amusing in their own ways, with the exception of the evil Mrs. Deagle. She's basically as close to a live-action Cruella de Vil as anyone got before Glenn Close was hired for the 101 Dalmations remake. Mrs. Deagle is a vile, nasty woman who could have made a credible villain on her own. But once the gremlins show up, her story arc pretty much stops, having gone nowhere. I think the only reason Columbus included her in the script at all was so you'd be able to cheer for at least one thing the gremlins do.

I also thought the rules of Mogwai care were a bit too loosely defined, specifically the "no eating before midnight" one. How much of a window past midnight is there before you can feed them? You could make the argument that you couldn't feed them until at least noon, or even at all (since it's technically always after midnight). And which midnight is it? With the different time zones, it would have been after midnight in the rest of the world before it was in Kingston Falls. And what if you cross a time zone line after midnight? Go ten feet across that line and it's still 11:00, so what if you feed a Mogwai there and cross back into the midnight time zone? It's all complicated and weird, and I still get a laugh out of how it was parodied in Gremlins 2.

Speaking of things parodied in the sequel, how about Phoebe Cates's character's monologue about why she doesn't like Christmas? It doesn't serve any sort of purpose, either for the plot or for character development. And it's a real buzzkill, too. The movie was rolling along at a pretty steady pace, making sure everybody's having a good time, then BOOM! This scene happens and kills the momentum dead. It's no fault of Cates's, because she's good in the scene. It's just that it's not only completely irrelevant in regards to the rest of the movie, but it's just too morbid. Gremlins is simple scary fun outside of that one scene, which is just too depressing to fit in with the rest of the movie.

I could spend all day ranting about that scene or the flaws in the three rules, but I don't want to bore you to death. So let's move along to the cast. I really liked Zach Galligan as the movie's primary protagonist; he plays the role with a down-to-Earth charm that makes you like him as soon as he appears onscreen. The same can be said for Phoebe Cates, who was two years removed from her star-making role in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. She plays Billy's girlfriend Kate in Gremlins, and her performance is sweet and engaging. I don't know if her character is really that important to the movie outside of being the token love interest, but Cates is great all the same.

Hoyt Axton also provided a lot of humor as Rand Peltzer, the inventor who constantly tries peddling his creations to people yet fails to realize none of them work right. Axton's earnestness in the role makes him that much more entertaining. Also appearing in the movie is Dick Miller, a character actor who's been in more movies than I could probably count. Of all the movies he appeared in, I believe Gremlins marks his best performance. Miller only has three or four scenes in the movie, but he's a lot of fun in all of them. The rest of the cast have small, thankless roles (including Corey Feldman, of all people), but they're all fantastic too. They each make fine contributions to the movie, and Gremlins is better for them.

And before this review ends, I've got to touch on the special effects it took to create the Mogwai and gremlins. I mean, how could I review a movie about little monsters and not actually talk about the little monsters? Designed by Chris Walas, the creatures were a combination of puppets and animatronics, and they're all amazing. The effects are convincing and believable, even in the brief instances when they look kinda fake. There's just something about the fact that the gremlins and Mogwai are actually on the set interacting with the props and actors that make it that much cooler. I'm not knocking CGI, but I just wish movies would lean towards practical effects whenever they can. There's just something about it that CGI can't touch.

Twenty-six years after its release, Gremlins still holds up as a truly great movie. There's no arguing that at all. Every time I watch it, I come away with a smile on my face because I'd had an hour and 45 minutes of straight-up fun. Each second, from the first to the last, is pure entertainment. And because of that, I'm giving Gremlins four stars and a proud recommendation. I'm still upset, though, that its success led to Hobgoblins. That's just something I can't stomach.

Final Rating: ****

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

Over the last few decades, it seems like quite a few movies have been turned into stage musicals either on or off Broadway. Let's take a look at the list: The Lion King, Shrek, Elf, Hairspray, Legally Blonde, Carrie, and even The Evil Dead. And those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. But the one that always comes to mind for me is the adaptation of Roger Corman's movie The Little Shop of Horrors.

Brought to life by song composers Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, Little Shop of Horrors began in 1982 as an off-Broadway production that would eventually prove popular enough to move to the big leagues of Broadway. Its success even led to The Geffen Film Company making a cinematic version of the musical in 1986. A movie got turned into a play that got turned into a movie. Yeah. Whether it counts as a remake of Corman's original movie would probably be a matter of personal opinion, but either way, the 1986 version of Little Shop of Horrors is one hell of a great movie.

This time around, the story takes us to New York City's Skid Row, where Audrey Fulqward (Ellen Greene) and klutzy Seymour Krelborn (Rick Moranis) work in a flower shop for Mr. Mushnik (Vincent Gardenia). After an unexpected solar eclipse, Seymour finds a mysterious plant that looks like a Venus Flytrap. He buys the plant and names it "Audrey II" in honor of Audrey, with whom he is secretly smitten (and who is secretly smitten with him). However, Audrey II is wilting, and refuses any traditional plant food. It is only after he accidentally pricks his finger on some thorns that Seymour discovers the plant's appetite for blood.

He displays Audrey II in Mr. Mushnik's shop, which causes the previously failing business to thrive. People come from all around just to see the bizarre little thing. The plant's success even makes Seymour a celebrity, but feeding Audrey II his blood every night has left him weak. Having grown to enormous size and developed the ability to talk, Audrey II (voiced by Levi Stubbs) begins demanding more blood than Seymour can provide. His only other recourse: to feed Audrey II dead bodies. It starts with Audrey's abusive boyfriend (Steve Martin), and snowballs after that. Soon the scope of Audrey II's appetite becomes apparent, with world domination on the menu.

If you want to go ahead and just label Little Shop of Horrors a remake like I choose to, then it serves a proof that remakes don't necessarily have to be bad things. It's personal opinion, of course, but I thought that the musical was an infinitely better movie than Corman's original. It's funnier, more entertaining, better written and acted. I really like the Little Shop of Horrors musical, and would definitely suggest that you run out and rent a copy right now if you have yet to see it.

The movie musical was directed by Frank Oz, who you'll probably recognize as the voices of Yoda, Miss Piggy, and Fozzie Bear. Little Shop of Horrors was his third directorial effort, following The Muppets Take Manhattan and The Dark Crystal (the latter of which he co-directed with Jim Henson). This was Oz's first movie to have no involvement whatsoever from Henson, and I've gotta say that I thought he did an awesome job. This movie has kind of a Tim Burton vibe to it, something that makes it incredibly charming and fun. Oz establishes early on that the movie's not going to take itself seriously, and that silly tone he takes with the movie goes a long way.

I also liked his choice to keep the movie's look tighter and more intimate. Combining Robert Paynter's cinematography with the modest-looking sets on the Warner Bros. backlot, Oz makes his version of Little Shop of Horrors stay true to its off-Broadway roots while adding a cinematic flair to it. The way Oz handles it really makes the movie a lot more entertaining.

But that's not the only thing that makes the movie so much fun. Every element of the movie's production makes its own contribution to the fun. Take, for example, the screenplay penned by Howard Ashman. Ashman originally wrote the script for the off-Broadway production, and his cinematic update of that script is actually really good. It's a drastic improvement over the original movie, with characters that are actually likable. I actually didn't want to crawl into the movie and hit Seymour this time around.

And while I've always liked the 1986 movie's ending more than the original movie's, the movie would have kept the stage production's ending if I'd had my way. It was actually shot and was originally going to conclude the movie, but thanks to meddling executives and unsatisfied focus groups, it was cut. Warner Bros. even recalled the first printing of the DVD because the original ending had been included as a special feature (though that was more due to some legal red tape than anything else). It's a real shame, because giant man-eating plants taking over the world would have been a really memorable (and, dare I say, awesome) way to end a movie.

And as good as the movie is, it helps that the cast is tremendous. The actors are actually one of the movie's strongest parts, to tell you the honest truth. Playing our protagonist is Rick Moranis, whose Seymour is a complete 180-degree turn from the one Jonathan Haze played in 1960. Seymour retains his rather dorky nature, but Moranis's performance is nowhere near as insufferable as Haze was. Moranis is amusing, funny, and entertaining as Seymour, and I can't imagine anyone doing a better job.

Appearing as Audrey is Ellen Greene, reprising the role she played in the stage musical's original production. Greene is wonderful, giving Audrey a likability she was lacking previously. Her squeaky voice — what I'm guessing is a shout out to how Jackie Joseph talked in the '60s Little Shop — might get a wee bit annoying after a while, but it's easily forgiven. Greene's got one hell of a singing voice too. That voice has some power behind it. If I'd been watching the movie with a high-end surround sound system, she'd have probably rattled all the walls in my house.

The rest of the cast is great too, with funny cameos from John Candy and Bill Murray being among the highlights. Vincent Gardenia is also good, and I loved Steve Martin as the sadistic dentist. His overacting here is absolutely hilarious, and it's a real bummer that he only has three scenes, because he's a blast to watch. And in the role of Audrey II is Levi Stubbs from the legendary Motown group The Four Tops. Stubbs plays the role with attitude, making Audrey II both evil and cool. His voice acting is superb, and I'm happy he was hired.

And last but far from least are the songs, composed by Ashman and Alan Menken. All but two or three songs appeared in the stage musical, which is a shame since it left "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space" as the one that got a Best Original Song Oscar nomination when it's not even the best song in the movie. But anyway, Ashman and Menken's songs are fantastic. They're all really catchy, and can easily get stuck in your head. And considering that the movie's a musical, I'd say that's a pretty big compliment. The cast also does a great job with the singing parts, each of them sounding fantastic.

If this review hasn't made it glaringly obvious yet, I love Little Shop of Horrors. I can't say enough good things about it. Even hearing the songs is enough to put a smile on my face. With its fun attitude, catchy music, and engaging acting, it's a movie that's hard to hate. So on the usual scale, I'm going to give Little Shop of Horrors four stars and my seal of approval. Do yourself a favor and check it out if you have yet to, because it's all kinds of awesome.

Final Rating: ****

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)

Start listing nominees for the title of "the king of B-movies," and Roger Corman's name will have to be near the top. He's been involved with hundreds of movies during his lengthy career, whether it be as a writer, producer, or director. He's also been credited with helping launch the careers of numerous A-list actors and directors. But as a filmmaker, one of his most well-known movies was his 1960 monster movie The Little Shop of Horrors. It's been overshadowed by the musical it inspired over the last few decades, and really, maybe that's for the best.

Our story takes us to Skid Row in Los Angeles, where Gravis Mushnick (Mel Welles) runs a flower shop. The shop doesn't get much business, but his two employees — Seymour Krelboin (Jonathan Haze) and Audrey Fulquard (Jackie Joseph) — enjoy it there. Unfortunately, Seymour is fired after messing up one too many arrangements.

Desperate to keep his job, Seymour reveals to Mr. Mushnick that he has developed his own plant, crossbred from a butterwort and a Venus Flytrap. Though the plant, which Seymour has named "Audrey Jr.," looks sickly at first, Mr. Mushnick is intrigued by its uniqueness and gives Seymour one week to have it ready to be display it in the store.

But as the days start to pass, Seymour is disheartened to find that Audrey Jr. is unresponsive to plant food. It isn't until he pricks his finger on a thorn that he realizes Audrey Jr. craves blood. He begins a nightly routine of feeding the plant blood from his fingertips, as people flock from all around to see it.

But Audrey Jr. starts growing at an alarming rate, even developing the ability to speak (as voiced by Charles B. Griffith). Audrey Jr. demands more blood, but Seymour has become anemic from his constant bloodletting. Faced with little other recourse, Seymour begins feeding it dead bodies for sustenance.

The Little Shop of Horrors is typical '60s Roger Corman. Shot over two days and a night with recycled sets and a budget of 30,000 dollars, the movie is about as cheaply made as you could expect. It's got a wealth of cheesy acting and hackneyed writing, lame sets and lamer special effects. But it's got a weird charm to it that makes likable in a bizarre way, even if the movie isn't really all that good. I don't know what makes it that way, but I'll try to find out through this review.

Corman sits at the helm of this little picture, and the way he makes the movie, you can see why someone would try adapting it for the stage. The movie is made in such a way that it feels like Corman simply filmed the actors performing a play. The simple cinematography and cheap sets and props really give it that feeling too.

And in watching the movie, I started noticing scenes would just prattle on for several minutes at a time with little to no satisfactory payoff. Take Jack Nicholson's scene, for example. It doesn't have anything to do with any other part of the movie, other than extending the running time. Actually, more than a few scenes feel like useless padding. The movie's only 72 minutes long, and if you removed all the padding and useless scenes, you could probably whittle it down to an hour. Maybe even 45 minutes if you're feeling brave.

But let's move along to the script, written by Charles B. Griffith. The movie is promoted as a black comedy and actually features precious little of the titular "horrors." But unfortunately, I just didn't think the movie was all that funny. It just didn't do anything for me. I mean, did it really need that recurring Dragnet parody? Did that Jack Nicholson scene need to drag on for so long if it had to be in the movie at all? Were all the scenes with Seymour's hypochondriac mother and the stupid "who's on first?" routines absolutely essential to the movie? My argument is no on all counts. If I may summarize, Griffith's script is lacking in humor, likable characters, and dialogue that goes anywhere.

But let's wrap up this review by continuing onward to the acting. My honest opinion is that pretty much every actor in the movie is either annoying or just plain bad. I really had to struggle to even so much as tolerate the cast. I know I should expect such acting out of a Roger Corman movie, but come on now. I will give credit where credit is due and say I though Mel Welles was amusing enough. But the rest of the cast simply got on my nerves.

I went into The Little Shop of Horrors expecting it to be 72 minutes of dumb fun. It was certainly 72 minutes long and it was certainly dumb, but I'm not entirely sure about the fun part. It wasn't just my kind of movie. That's disappointing too, because I loved the remake. The original Little Shop of Horrors is, sadly, just kinda lame. I'm going to give it two stars and leave it at that. It's too bad they had to wait two and a half decades before Seymour would feed us a good movie.

Final Rating: **

Friday, December 3, 2010

Reefer Madness (1936)

Picking a movie to review for this blog doesn't take a whole lot of effort. A lot of the time, it's just as simple as me stumbling across a movie and thinking it might be fun to write about. But there's been the rare occasion where I'll see a movie and realize that not only am I a fool for having watched more than ten minutes of it, but that I just had to post something about it.

Such was the case with Reefer Madness. Yes, the legendary anti-marijuana propaganda movie from the '30s. I'd have probably never bothered watching it at all if Netflix didn't carry a DVD of Reefer Madness featuring a satirical commentary from the RiffTrax crew. And I'm a sucker for RiffTrax, if anything, so I rented the DVD and couldn't believe my eyes. I was simply amazed at just how terrible the movie is. So let's dig into Reefer Madness and I'll try explaining just how bad it really is.

The movie quickly introduces us to Mae Coleman (Thelma White) and Jack Perry (Carleton Young), a pair of pot dealers. While neither have any moral problems with peddling their illegal wares, they disagree on who their target market should be. Mae prefers to sell only to adults who know what they're getting into, while Jack goes out of his way to push it on teenagers.

Helping Jack are Ralph (Dave O'Brien) and Blanche (Lillian Miles), who act as Jack's go-betweens by inviting high schoolers and college students to house parties so Jack can make a few sales. It is at one of these parties that the lives of several characters begin spiraling out of control.

When a young man named Bill (Kenneth Craig) attends one of these parties and gets roped into the world of marijuana, his grades start slipping, and he stops interacting with his parents and friends. He even starts having a few rounds in the bedroom with Blanche. His girlfriend Mary (Dorothy Short) arrives at Mae and Jack's apartment looking for him, but ends up being taken advantage of by Ralph. Bill, stoned out of his mind, stumbles into the room and attacks Ralph. Jack tries breaking things up and in the ensuing fight, Mary is shot and killed. Things only start going downhill from there, all because of that damnable reefer.

I've never smoked weed, nor do I ever plan to. But even if I did, I could tell you that Reefer Madness is a tremendously stupid movie. It's grossly inaccurate, for starters, and it's lacking in anything that even remotely resembles common sense. I know that most of these propaganda movies don't exactly care about the facts, but Reefer Madness is particularly bad about it. And it's just a bad movie in general, too.

Helming this little project is a guy named Louis Gasnier, a French filmmaker whose work I'm unfamiliar with. And I'll probably stay unfamiliar with it, since Reefer Madness is the only one of his movies I've actually heard of. The real problem with Gasnier's direction, besides the terrible editing, is that the movie is just plain boring. The movie is supposed to be a prime example of unintentional camp, but it took all of my effort to pay attention to the damn thing. I was continually looking at the clock, trying to gauge how much time was left. Bad movies are one thing, but boring bad movies are insufferable.

The acting is far from good, too. None of the actors in this are worth watching, to put it bluntly. I can get over the so-called "teenage" actors all looking like they're in their 30s, but their lack of talent or even the ability to try being convincing is annoying. There's not one performance in this thing to tell you about. I couldn't even find a single, solitary well-acted scene or well-delivered line of dialogue. It's just pathetic.

But the worst element of the whole thing is the script. The badly written, totally ignorant script. Credited to Arthur Hoerl from an "original story" by Lawrence Meade, the script is about as braindead as you can get. The fact of the matter is that the only reason Reefer Madness is a cult classic at all is because of how misinformed it is about marijuana (or as the movie spells it, "marihuana"). The script actually includes dialogue about how weed is more dangerous than heroin. No kidding, the movie tries to make the argument that marijuana is worse for you than heroin. There's no way they could be serious, because that's an outright lie. Not only that, but the movie depicts marijuana use as having consequences that no pothead I've ever met has suffered. I'm astounded by just how wrong the movie is.

For quite some time, Reefer Madness has been touted as a campy exploitation movie that borders on the salacious. Turns out its reputation has been overblown. The movie is a terrible waste of time, one that is only enjoyable if you've smoked a whole pound of weed. While Reefer Madness is the movie's most famous title (it was originally called Tell Your Children and was given multiple titles on the exploitation movie circuit), crap is still crap no matter what you call it. And thus, Reefer Madness gets one star and I ask that you just not watch it. This overrated mess could use a little less attention.

Final Rating: *