Reefer Madness (2005 film)

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Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical
Reefer Madness (2005 film) poster.jpg
DVD cover
Directed by Andy Fickman
Produced by Andy Fickman
Kevin Murphy
Dan Studney
Screenplay by Kevin Murphy
Dan Studney
Based on Reefer Madness 
by Kevin Murphy
Dan Studney
Narrated by Alan Cumming
Starring Kristen Bell
Christian Campbell
Neve Campbell
Alan Cumming
Ana Gasteyer
John Kassir
Amy Spanger
Robert Torti
Steven Weber
Music by Dan Studney
David Manning
Nathan Wang
Cinematography Jan Kiesser
Editing by Jeff Freeman
Studio Dead Old Man Productions
Distributed by Showtime
Release dates
  • April 16, 2005 (2005-04-16)
Running time 108 minutes
Country United States
Germany
Canada
Language English
Budget $25 million

Reefer Madness, also known as Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical, is a 2005 made-for-television musical comedy film adapted from the musical of the same name based on the 1936 exploitation film. Made by the makers of the musical themselves, it is directed by Andy Fickman, written by Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney, and produced by the three.

The film premiered on Showtime on Saturday, April 16, 2005. It stars Kristen Bell, Christian Campbell and John Kassir reprising their roles from the stage, with the notable addition of Alan Cumming and Ana Gasteyer in other lead roles, with Campbell's sister Neve making a cameo appearance as Miss Poppy. Robert Torti, who played the characters of both Jack and Jesus onstage, portrays only the latter in this version.

Plot[edit]

In a high school classroom, The Lecturer tells the assembly of anxious parents about the evils of marijuana ("Reefer Madness"). With the help of his assistant, Blumsack, he then launches into the tragic tale of one boy's struggles with the demon weed.

Jimmy Harper is a fine upstanding youth, blessed with the love of the fair Mary Lane. The two are sure they will live happily ever after and (not knowing how the story actually ends) compare their relationship to that of William Shakespeare's greatest love story ("Romeo and Juliet"). However, across town, the sadistic weed-pusher, Jack Stone, and his cronies, neurotic whore Sally DeBanis, and former college student Ralph Wiley, are living in the depths of depravity. Jack's moll, Mae Coleman, explains how she came to live in such a state and how she would leave Jack if he didn't give her the marijuana she so craves ("The Stuff").

Meanwhile, Jack goes out to recruit new addicts at Miss Poppy's soda counter ("Down at the Ol' Five and Dime"). There, he meets Jimmy, whom he lures back to the house and offers a stick of reefer. After one puff, Jimmy becomes an addict ("Jimmy Takes a Hit/The Orgy"). He forgets about Mary Lane, who sits alone in church, waiting for him ("Lonely Pew"). One night, Jimmy and Ralph break into the church in order to steal from the collection plate for drug money. Jesus comes down from the cross and, in a musical revue hosted by Joan of Arc, exhorts Jimmy to kick the habit ("Listen to Jesus, Jimmy"). But Jimmy's too deep into his habit to be saved; he has a new God now. He goes back to the Reefer Den, and to Sally, where he finds out that Sally, desperate for drug money, sold her baby to the black market.

One dark night, Jimmy and Sally are driving wildly back to the house, stoned, when their car hits and kills an old man. Sally runs away. Jimmy, scared straight, drives in a panic to Mary's house, where he tells her he still loves her ("Mary Jane/Mary Lane"). However he realizes that by staying with her he is putting her in danger and tells her that he has to leave town without her. Mary then insists on going with him, saying "If Romeo has to run away, then so does Juliet." Jimmy tells her to go inside and pack, then sneaks away, hoping for a new start somewhere else, where Mary won't be harmed. But Jack knows that if the police catch Jimmy, his 'reefer empire' will be shattered. He waits for Jimmy at Mary's house and offers him an innocent-looking chocolate brownie, which turns out to be a marijuana brownie. Jimmy eats the brownie and immediately forgets all about Mary ("The Brownie Song").

Jimmy goes back to the Reefer Den. But this time, Mary pursues him, planning to rescue him. Instead, Ralph ensnares her with his fraternity jacket and a puff of reefer ("Little Mary Sunshine"). He soon finds out that he has unleashed more than he can deal with, as Mary transforms from your simple high school sweetheart into a sadistic, whip-cracking dominatrix who begins to rape Ralph. Jimmy comes downstairs to find Mary taking advantage of Ralph. He angrily attacks Ralph and the two begin fighting. Jack comes in and attempts to break up the fight, while Mae reprimands them for corrupting someone as innocent as Mary. During the scuffle, Jack's gun goes off and Mary is shot through the heart ("Mary's Death"). Jimmy holds her, but it is too late; she dies in his arms. The police appear, summoned by the gunshot, and Jack fingers Jimmy as the killer. He is carted off by the officers (who leave Mary's body where it lies). The radio reveals that Jimmy has been sent to death row.

Upon hearing this news, Ralph goes insane, thinking that Jimmy, Mary (whom he sees being molested by the Devil in hell), and the rest of the youths whose lives have been ruined by marijuana, are stalking him from beyond the grave ("Murder"). Spooked, Jack and Mae go out for food while Sally stays behind to look after the raving Ralph. When they return, they find that Ralph, in the throes of reefer-induced hunger pangs, has murdered Sally and cannibalized her body. Jack shoots him several times, but Ralph continues to get up, his strength increased while he is in the throes of "Reefer Madness" he collapses in the backyard, but disappears when Jack goes to check the body. Jack looks up to see Ralph leap down from the trees only to be impaled on the scarecrow. But now Mae is having visions of Jimmy, Mary, Sally, and Ralph, all accusing. To regain her sanity the only way she knows, she hacks Jack to death with a garden hoe and kicks the habit once and for all ("The Stuff (Reprise)").

When Mae reads in the daily paper that the president will be coming to town to visit a sick child, she becomes determined to talk to him and gain a Presidential pardon for Jimmy. They burst into the electrocution chamber at the last second and free the doomed Jimmy, who joins them in their crusade to tell the world about the evils of marijuana. They travel back to the reefer den, where Jimmy torches the crop. Mary appears, haloed and freed from hell by his heroic destruction of property. She promises to wait for him in heaven ("Tell 'Em the Truth").

The Lecturer's presentation ends; the entire audience joins the suddenly real film cast to explain how they will join the fight against things they don't understand, ("Reefer Madness (Reprise)"), thus connecting the 1930s crusade against marijuana, with the Hollywood Hays Code and prejudice directed at racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, labor unions, gays and lesbians.

As the film ends, the galvanized townsfolk hold a huge anti-reefer bonfire, in a scene similar to the book burnings that took place in Germany in the 1930s, as well continuing the film's theme of associating marijuana prohibition with other campaigns against minorities and dissent, with the Lecturer promising, as he drives away, "When danger's near exploit their fear. The end will justify the means."

Cast[edit]

Musical numbers[edit]

  1. "Reefer Madness" - Lecturer, Parents, Zombies
  2. "Romeo and Juliet" - Jimmy, Mary, Company
  3. "The Stuff" - Mae
  4. "Down at the Ol' Five and Dime" - Mary, Miss Poppy, Lecturer, Company
  5. "Jimmy Takes a Hit" - Sally, Jimmy, Jack, Mae, Ralph, Company
  6. "The Orgy" - Sally, Jimmy, Jack, Ralph, Mae, Moloch, Company
  7. "Lonely Pew" - Mary, Lecturer, Company
  8. "Listen to Jesus, Jimmy" - Jesus Christ, Joan of Arc, Satan, Company
  9. "Mary Jane/Mary Lane" - Jimmy, Mary, Mae, Jack, Singing Clams, Miss Poppy, Dead Old Man, Officer Sordelet, Jesus, Joan, Satan, Ralph, Sally, Chinese Man, Company
  10. "The Brownie Song" - Jimmy, Mae, Sally, Jack, Ralph
  11. "Little Mary Sunshine" - Ralph, Mary
  12. "Mary's Death" - Jimmy, Mary
  13. "Murder!" - Jimmy, Ralph, Mary, Satan, Sally, Jack, Mae, Zombies
  14. "The Stuff (Reprise)" - Mae
  15. "Tell 'Em the Truth" - Mae, Lecturer, Jimmy, Mary, Jack, Sally, Ralph, Company
  16. "Romeo and Juliet (Reprise)" - Mary, Jimmy
  17. "Reefer Madness (Finale)" - Company
  18. "Reefer Madness" (end credits) - Lecturer, Sally, Company
  19. "Mary Jane/Mary Lane" (end credits) - Mary, Jimmy, Company

Inspiration[edit]

In 1998, writing partners Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney, who had met while studying at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, were driving from Oakland to Los Angeles and listening to Frank Zappa's Joe's Garage, when they began discussing how one might stage the piece. "So I started picturing it in my head," Studney recalls. "Frank Zappa's concept of a musical and then it just hit me. I turned to Kevin and said 'What about doing Reefer Madness as a musical?'" By the time duo reached L.A., they had already written the first song. The high school is named after Harry J. Anslinger, the first Commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Narcotics, known as the Father of the Drug War.

Release[edit]

The film premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. It also screened in competition at the 2005 Deauville Film Festival and won the Premiere Audience Award. On the night of April 20, 2005, Showtime aired the musical back-to-back with the 1936 exploitation film that inspired it.

Home media[edit]

The DVD was released on November 9, 2005 by Showtime. The DVD includes an audio commentary by director Fickman and the original film.

Accolades[edit]

The film won the 2005 Emmy Award for Music and Lyrics (for the song "Mary Jane/Mary Lane", which was written specially for the film). It also received Emmy nominations for Choreography and Make-Up Effects.

Soundtrack[edit]

A soundtrack CD was first released by Showtime in their "stash box" press package. Mixed from the 5.1 audio masters, this version has several anomalies including a few sound effects.

On October 28, 2008, Ghostlight Records released a double CD of the soundtrack from the film and original Los Angeles cast recording. The night before, The Public Theater's Joe's Pub hosted a release party concert featuring a four-person ensemble and leads Alan Cumming, Ana Gasteyer, Christian Campbell, John Kassir, Robert Torti, Amy Spanger, and Jenna Leigh Green doing an abbreviated concert version with introductions to each song by Kevin Murphy.

The two versions of the soundtrack differ in quite a few places, both from each other and from the film, but it is most noticeable during the song Murder. The Showtime CD features a longer version of the song, sans all spoken dialogue. The Ghostlight CD features a truncated version of the track littered with dialogue from the film.

References[edit]

External links[edit]