Up in Smoke
|Up in Smoke|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Lou Adler
Tommy Chong (uncredited)
|Produced by||Lou Adler
|Written by||Tommy Chong
|Music by||Danny Kortchmar
|Editing by||Scott Conrad|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Running time||85 minutes|
Up in Smoke, directed by Lou Adler, is Cheech and Chong's first feature-length film, released in 1978 by Paramount Pictures. It stars Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong, Edie Adams, Strother Martin, Stacy Keach, and Tom Skerritt.
Cheech & Chong had been a comedy team for about ten years before they started reworking some of their material for their first film. Much of the film was shot in Los Angeles, California, including scenes set in Tijuana, Mexico. Scenes set on the Mexican border were actually filmed at the border in Yuma, Arizona.
Tommy Chong plays Anthony 'Man' Stoner, a jobless, marijuana-smoking drummer who is told to either get a job by sundown or be sent off to military school by his parents. Anthony leaves the house in a Volkswagen Beetle convertible (which had his father's Rolls Royce radiator grille on the front), a car which is subsequently left smoking on the side of the road. Anthony is picked up while hitchhiking by the equally enthusiastic smoker Pedro de Pacas (Cheech Marin). The license plate reads MUF DVR ("Muff Diver"). They share a large joint, which Man says is made with "mostly Maui wowie" and "Labrador" (essentially dog feces, as his dog, a Labrador Retriever, had eaten his stash). Police find their car parked on a traffic median with them in it, discover that they are clearly stoned and arrest them. At trial, the pair are released on a technicality after the judge's water pitcher is discovered to be containing vodka.
In an attempt to procure marijuana, they visit Pedro's cousin Strawberry (Tom Skerritt), a Vietnam War veteran. They narrowly escape a police raid on Strawberry's house while Strawberry has a flashback and thinks the police are the Viet Cong, but are soon deported to Tijuana, by the INS (la migra), along with Pedro's relatives, who actually called the INS on themselves, so they could get a free ride to a wedding in Tijuana. In order to get back to the United States they arrange to pick up a vehicle from Pedro's uncle's upholstery shop, but arrive at the wrong address, a disguised marijuana warehouse. They end up unknowingly involved in a plot to smuggle a van constructed completely out of "fiberweed" (hardened THC resin derived from marijuana - a play on the word "fiberglass") from Mexico to Los Angeles, with an inept police narcotics unit, led by the overly zealous Sgt. Stedenko (Stacy Keach) hot on their heels. At the Mexican-American border, they almost get arrested but attention is diverted to a group of nuns (Man had thrown away his joint, in order to not be caught by the border patrol, which fell into the nun's car by accident). The duo then narrowly cross the border into America and pass Stedenko who is giving an interview to a newswoman. Stedenko then finds out from his unit that they apprehended the wrong group and they begin to chase after Pedro and Man. They don't get far, however, after one of Stedenko's men accidentally shoots one of the tires to the car they were in.
Along the way, Pedro and Man pick up two women, who convince them to perform at a Battle of the Bands contest at Roxy Theatre. Pedro and Man tell the women they need marijuana; the women convince them to see Gloria—a police dispatcher who sells drugs being held as evidence. Gloria informs the women she can't sell them any drugs as the police destroyed the evidence they were holding, but there should be some in stock soon as the police were searching all over town for a huge stash—which the police do not realize is currently sitting in the police station parking lot. They narrowly avoid another arrest, at one point, after being pulled over by a police motorcyclist, but the officer gets high from the burning "fiberweed" emanating from the van's exhaust, and lets them go after asking for a hot dog one of them was eating.
When they arrive at the venue, most of the bands that are performing are negatively received by the audience. One of the women gives Man an "upper", causing him to feel out of it. Later, the duo's band, Alice Bowie (Ay Les Voy ("Here we go" in Spanish)), wins the contest and a recording contract, with a performance of their song, Earache My Eye. They win after everyone, including the cops, get stoned due to a large amount of marijuana smoke from the burning van being funnelled into the venue.
The film concludes with Pedro and Man driving in the former's car and dreaming how their future career will pay off. Man then lights a small portion of hash and gives some to Pedro. However, it falls into his lap, causing him to panic and swerve the car while trying to put it out; Man manages to put the joint out with his beer. During the scuffle, the car crashes and smokes over the end credits.
- Cheech Marin as Pedro De Pacas
- Tommy Chong as Anthony "Man" Stoner
- Strother Martin as Arnold Stoner
- Edie Adams as Tempest Stoner
- Stacy Keach as Sergeant Stedenko
- Tom Skerritt as Strawberry
- David Nelson and Kurt Kaufman as Roxy Theatre doormen
- Rodney Bingenheimer as Himself
- Ellen Barkin (uncredited) as Guitar-playing woman
- Harry Dean Stanton (deleted scenes) as Police officer
Paramount's market research determined that for reasons unexplained, the greatest concentrations of Cheech and Chong's fans were in Texas and Canada. As this was the comedy team's first film, Paramount wanted the initial screenings to be filled with their most ardent fans. Cheech and Chong also came up with the novel (and ultimately successful) idea of advertising the film through comic strips, which they left on bus benches. The film opened first in Texas to huge business, and also later in Canada boosted by strong word of mouth.
Up in Smoke received mixed to negative reviews,now earning a 38% "Rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. However, the film has gone on to become a cult classic particularly popular with marijuana users.
Reaction to content
The film was banned by the South African Publications Control Board (Censor Board) for fear that "it might encourage the impressionable youth of South Africa to take up marijuana smoking".
- "Up in Smoke, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
- Chong's character name is used only once. It is during the scene in which his father (Strother Martin) berates him, and his mother (Edie Adams) calls him "Anthony".
- Litwak, Mark (1986). Reel Power: The Struggle for Influence and Success in the New Hollywood. New York: William Morrow & Co. p. 251. ISBN 0-688-04889-7.
- Up in Smoke at Rotten Tomatoes
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- Up in Smoke at the Internet Movie Database
- Up in Smoke at the TCM Movie Database
- Up in Smoke at allmovie
- Up in Smoke at Box Office Mojo
- Up in Smoke at Rotten Tomatoes