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
Screenplay by
  • Kevin Murphy
  • Dan Studney
Based on Reefer Madness
by Kevin Murphy
Dan Studney
Narrated by Alan Cumming
Music by
  • Dan Studney
  • David Manning
  • Nathan Wang
Cinematography Jan Kiesser
Edited by Jeff Freeman
Dead Old Man Productions
Distributed by Showtime
Release dates
  • April 16, 2005 (2005-04-16)
Running time
108 minutes
  • United States
  • Canada
  • Germany
Language English
Budget $25 million

Reefer Madness, also known as Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical, is a 2005 American made-for-television musical comedy film adapted from the musical of the same name based on the 1936 exploitation film also of the same title. The film, directed by Andy Fickman, written by Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney, and produced by the three, premiered on Showtime on April 16, 2005.

The film stars Kristen Bell, Christian Campbell, and John Kassir reprising their stage roles, 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.


An ominous Lecturer warns an assembly of '30s American parents about the evils of marijuana on their youth ("Reefer Madness") through the tragic tale of one boy's struggles with the demon weed in a film titled "Tell Your Children". Throughout the film, the Lecturer stops the film to detail a political point or to condescend any audience member questioning his credibility.

Jimmy Harper and Mary Lane, a joyful teen couple blissfully enjoy each other's company ("Reefer Madness"), unaware of the seedy goings on in The Reefer Den, the residence of Mae, who is abused by her boyfriend, Jack, a street tough who supplies her and others dope ("The Stuff"). Mary and Jimmy and others head to the local hangout, Mrs. Poppy's Five and Dime, where they dance to swing music, which the Lecturer comments as sinful ("Down at the Ol' Five and Dime"). Jack appears at the hang-out, offering Jimmy swing lessons to impress Mary.

Jimmy is taken to the Reefer Den, where Jack, Mae, college drop-out Ralph and the neighborhood slut Sally, pressure him into smoking his first joint, leading him to a carnal carnival ("Jimmy Takes a Hit/ The Orgy"). Jimmy turns into a crazed addict and neglects Mary, leading her to pray for him ("Lonely Pew"). Jimmy has a vision of Jesus Christ in a Vegas-esque Heaven, telling him to change his ways or be sent to eternal damnation ("Listen to Jesus, Jimmy")

One night, Jimmy and Sally take a joy ride while buzzed, running over an old man. Jimmy runs to Mary, debating whether to continue being under the influence or repent his ways ("Mary Jane/ Mary Lane"). Jimmy returns to Mary romantically, however he realizes that he is putting her in danger and tells her that he has to leave town without her. He is brought back to the Reefer Den by Jack with a pot-brownie, putting him in a cartoonized trip ("The Brownie Song"). Mary follows Jimmy to the Den where she is seduced by Ralph. Ralph convinces her that Jimmy has joined his fraternity, "Phi-Beta-Cannabis", and suggests they celebrate with a smoke, which turns out to be a toke. This intro to reefer turns Mary into a sadistic dominatrix who terrorizes Ralph for pleasure ("Little Mary Sunshine). Jimmy enters and a fight ensues, being stopped by Jack who knocks out Jimmy, shoots Mary, and frames Jimmy. Jimmy gives Mary his class ring, which he had attempted to give to her earlier ("Mary's Death").

Jimmy is taken away by police, and Ralph, racked with guilt, has pot-induced hallucinations of the children who got hooked on the Reefer Gang's dope as the living dead. Ralph gets an extreme case of the munchies, in which he cannibalizes Sally. Jack shoots Ralph to stop him ("Murder!"). Mae sees visions similar and sees the error of her ways, telling Jack to do the same. He rejects her pleas and Mae bludgeons Jack to death with a garden hoe, gaining her much needed empowerment ("The Stuff (Reprise)").

Mae pleads to the visiting President Franklin D. Roosevelt about Jimmy's case, resulting in Jimmy getting a presidential pardon. Together, Jimmy, Mae, the President, and Jimmy's fellow prisoners, along with Ralph, Jack, and Sally reincarnated as Uncle Sam, George Washington, and Lady Liberty respectively, praise the American justice system and patriotism ("Tell 'Em the Truth"). Jimmy cuts down the Reefer Den's weed garden, freeing Mary from Hell and Satan before everyone's eyes. The Lecturer's film ends with Mary entering Heaven, greeted by Jesus and other Holy souls.

The entire audience joins the suddenly real film cast to hold a huge anti-reefer book burning stating to join the fight against marijuana, sex, racial and ethnic minorities, and other things which will harm their dear country ("Finale"). The Lecturer drives off, pleased that he has succeeded in exploiting everyone's patriotism.


Lecture assembly[edit]

  • Kevin McNulty as Mayor Harris Macdonald
  • Stephen Sisk as Blumsack, the Lecturer's projectionist assistant
  • Robert Clarke as Principal Poindexter Short
  • Lynda Boyd as Mrs. Deidre Greevey
  • Ruth Nichol as Mrs. Roxanne MacDonald
  • Michael Goorjian as Mickey Druther

Musical numbers[edit]

  • Reefer Madness- Lecturer, Parents/ Zombies Ensemble
  • Romeo and Juliet- Jimmy, Mary
  • The Stuff- Mae
  • Down at the Ol' Five and Dime- Mary, Miss Poppy, Lecturer, Youth Ensemble
  • Jimmy Takes a Hit/ The Orgy- Sally, Jimmy, Jack, Mae, Ralph, Exotic Ensemble
  • Lonely Pew - Mary, Lecturer (Organist), Ensemble
  • Listen to Jesus, Jimmy- Jesus Christ, Joan of Arc and Arc-ettes, Satan, Heaven Ensemble
  • Mary Jane/Mary Lane- Jimmy, Mary, Full Company (Mae, Jack, Singing Clams, Miss Poppy, Dead Old Man, Officer Sordelet, Jesus, Joan, Satan, Ralph, Sally, Asian Man)
  • The Brownie Song- (animated) Jimmy, Mae, Sally, Jack, Ralph
  • Little Mary Sunshine- Ralph, Mary
  • Mary's Death- Jimmy, Mary
  • Murder!- Jimmy, Ralph, Mary, Satan, Sally, Jack, Mae, Zombies Ensemble
  • The Stuff (Reprise)- Mae
  • Tell 'Em the Truth' (Finale)- Mae, Jimmy, Lecturer (FDR), Mary, Jack, Sally, Ralph, Prisoner Ensemble
  • Romeo and Juliet (Reprise) (Finale)- Mary, Jimmy
  • Reefer Madness (Finale)- Company
  • Reefer Madness (End Credits)- Full Cast
  • Mary Lane (Mary Jane/ Mary Lane)(End Credits)- Mary, Jimmy, Company'


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.


Reefer Madness 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 April 20, four days following the film's television premiere, Showtime aired the musical back-to-back with the 1936 exploitation film that inspired it.

Home media[edit]

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


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


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.


External links[edit]