Up in Smoke

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Up in Smoke
Cheech & Chong's Up in Smoke.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLou Adler
Produced by
Written by
Starring
Music by
CinematographyGene Polito
Edited byScott Conrad
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • September 15, 1978 (1978-09-15)
Running time
86 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$2 million[2]
Box office$104 million[3]

Up in Smoke is a 1978 American buddy stoner comedy film directed by Lou Adler and starring Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong, Edie Adams, Strother Martin, Stacy Keach, and Tom Skerritt. It is Cheech & Chong's first feature-length film.

Cheech & Chong had been a counterculture 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, while scenes set on the Mexican border were actually filmed at the border in Yuma, Arizona.

While negatively received upon its release, Up in Smoke grossed over $104 million, is credited with establishing the stoner film genre, and is now considered a cult classic.

Plot[edit]

Anthony "Man" Stoner, an unemployed, marijuana-smoking drummer, 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 1967 Volkswagen Beetle convertible, a car which is subsequently left smoking on the side of the road. Anthony is picked up while hitchhiking by the equally enthusiastic stoner Pedro de Pacas. They share a large joint. Police find their car parked on a traffic median with them in it, discover that they are high and arrest them. At trial, the pair are released on a technicality after Anthony discovers that the judge is drinking vodka.

In an attempt to procure marijuana, they visit Pedro's cousin Strawberry, a Vietnam War veteran. Strawberry's nickname is derived from the large birthmark on his face and neck. Pedro tells Man not to look at the birthmark, but Man does and makes a remark. 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, 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 processing plant. 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 insane Sgt. Stedenko hot on their trail. At the Mexican–American border, they almost get arrested but attention is diverted to a group of nuns (into whose car Man had thrown his joint). The duo then cross the border into America and pass Stedenko as he 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 the 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 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 what she believes is an "upper", but mistakenly gives him the wrong drugs. The duo's band, Alice Bowie, win over the audience, including the cops, who get stoned due to a large amount of marijuana smoke from the burning van being funneled into the venue. The pair win the contest and a recording contract.

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 attempts to put the hash out with his beer. During the scuffle, the car swerves down the road and smoke billows out the windows.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The screenplay was written under the title The Adventures of Pedro & Man.[5] Paramount Pictures provided the budget of $1 million but refused to provide the additional $800,000 needed to complete the film after studio president Michael Eisner saw a rough cut, so Lou Adler used his own money to complete it.[6]

Release[edit]

As this was the comedy team's first film, Paramount wanted the initial screenings to be filled with their most ardent fans.[7] 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 had test screenings in August 1978 and opened in nine theatres in Texas in early September, grossing $344,785 in its first 10 days.[6][7] The film went on to become a huge success. Prior to its official release date, the film had grossed $1.7 million, and by the end of the first month of release it had grossed $20 million[6] and went on to gross $76 million at the domestic box office and over $104 million worldwide.[3][8]

The film had midnight screenings at the Cannes Film Festival on May 17 and 18, 1979.[9]

The film was banned in South Africa during the era of its apartheid regime. Censors in the country said that the film "might encourage the impressionable youth of South Africa to take up marijuana smoking".[10] It was also banned in Colombia.[3]

Home media[edit]

On April 10, 2018, a 40th Anniversary Edition set was released, which featured the movie on Blu-ray and DVD, and the album on vinyl record and compact disc, as well as a 7-inch picture disc vinyl record single featuring the songs "Earache My Eye" and "Lost Due To Incompetence (Theme From A Big Green Van)", with an image of Cheech from the film on the A-side and the "YESCA" license plate image on the B-side.[11]

The 40th Anniversary Edition CD featured two bonus tracks, a previously unreleased version of the song "Up In Smoke" with an additional Spanish verse by Cheech, and a newly recorded "2018 version" of the same song.[11]

The set also featured oversized Up In Smoke branded rolling papers, a 11×17 film poster and a booklet with new essays by both Marin and Chong, along with rare and unseen photos.[11]

Soundtrack album[edit]

Up in Smoke
Soundtrack album by
Released1978[12]
Length40:05
LabelWarner Bros./Ode
ProducerLou Adler
Cheech & Chong chronology
Sleeping Beauty
(1976)
Up in Smoke
(1978)
Let's Make a New Dope Deal
(1980)
Singles from Up in Smoke
  1. "Up in Smoke/Rock Fight"
    Released: 1978
Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
Allmusic3/5 stars[13]

The soundtrack album was released in 1978.[12] Allmusic gave the album a score of 3 out of 5 stars.[13] In 2017, Billboard named Up in Smoke as one of the 10 best stoner film soundtracks.[14]

Track listing[edit]

Side A
No.TitleLyricsMusicPerformer(s)Length
1."Finkelstein Shit Kid" (dialogue)  Strother Martin0:14
2."Up in Smoke"Cheech & ChongTommy ChongCheech & Chong2:24
3."Low Rider" (first appeared on the 1975 album Why Can't We Be Friends?)War
Jerry Goldstein
WarWar3:13
4."1st Gear, 2nd Gear" (dialogue)  Cheech & Chong7:20
5."Framed" (first appeared on the 1976 album Sleeping Beauty)Cheech & ChongJerry Leiber
Mike Stoller
Cheech & Chong2:44
6."Searchin'"Cheech & ChongJerry Leiber
Mike Stoller
Cheech & Chong2:44
7."The Ajax Lady" (dialogue)  Thomas Chong
June Fairchild
0:54
8."Strawberry's" Danny Kortchmar
Waddy Wachtel
Yesca3:28
Side B
No.TitleLyricsMusicPerformer(s)Length
9."Here Come the Mounties to the Rescue" Danny Kortchmar
Waddy Wachtel
Yesca2:58
10."Sometimes When You Gotta Go, You Can't" (dialogue)  Cheech Marin
Stacy Keach
1:04
11."Lost Due to Incompetence" (Theme for a Big Green Van) Danny Kortchmar
Waddy Wachtel
Yesca3:45
12."Lard Ass" (dialogue)  Cheech & Chong
Stacy Keach
Karl Johnson
1:27
13."Rock Fight"Cheech & ChongCheech & ChongCheech & Chong3:13
14."I Didn't Know Your Name Was Alex" (dialogue)  Cheech & Chong
Zane Buzby
1:26
15."Earache My Eye" (first appeared on the 1974 album Cheech & Chong's Wedding Album)Cheech & ChongCheech & Chong
Gaye Delorme
Alice Bowie2:38
16."Up in Smoke" (reprise)Cheech & ChongTommy ChongCheech & Chong0:56
40th Anniversary Edition CD bonus tracks
No.TitlePerformer(s)Length
17."Up in Smoke" (Spanish verse)Cheech & Chong3:26
18."Up in Smoke 2018"Cheech & Chong3:57
40th Anniversary Edition bonus 7" picture disc single
No.TitlePerformer(s)Length
1."Earache My Eye" (Side A)Alice Bowie2:38
2."Lost Due To Incompetence (Theme From A Big Green Van)" (Side B)Yesca3:45

Charts[edit]

Chart (1979) Peak position
Australian (Kent Music Report) 80[15]

Personnel[edit]

Yesca
"Up in Smoke 2018"
  • Bass – Cisco Adler
  • Engineer, Mixed By, Mastered By – Johannes Raassina
  • Guitar – Duane Betts, Jeramy "Bearbo" Gritter
  • Piano, Organ, Drums – Cody Dickerson
  • Producer – Cisco Adler, Lou Adler

Reception[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 47% based on reviews from 19 critics. The site's consensus reads, "Oft-quoted but undeniably flawed, Up In Smoke is a seminal piece of stoner cinema thanks to the likability of its two counterculture icons."[16] On Metacritic it has a score of 57% based on reviews from 11 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[17]

Vincent Canby of The New York Times called the film "a genially slapdash, sometimes winning live-action cartoon" with "several genuinely funny moments."[18][better source needed] Variety wrote that the film "gets off to a great start" but "once the more obvious drug jokes are exhausted, Adler lets the film degenerate into a mixture of fitful slapstick and toilet humor."[19] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film half of one star out of four, calling it "one of the most juvenile, poorly written, awkwardly directed pictures I have ever seen. And my guess is that even if you saw it in a pleasantly altered state whether from grass, a banana daiquiri, Frango mint milkshake, or a Weight Watchers' Veal Parmigiana frozen dinner, 'Up in Smoke' would still be a real downer, man."[20] He later put it on his year-end unranked list of the worst films of 1978.[21] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote that Cheech & Chong were "a likable, funky duo, but the script they've come up with for their film debut is severely underwritten." He also found it "hard to watch the effects of gulping Quaaludes and the like being treated as something hilarious—especially when one realizes that the kids for whom the film was so clearly intended are probably going to love it."[22][better source needed]

Pauline Kael of The New Yorker compared the film favorably to The Groove Tube, writing that Up in Smoke was "also crudely done but is more consistently funny." She added that "Cheech and Chong are so gracefully dumb-assed that if you're in a relaxed mood you can't help laughing at them."[23][better source needed] Art Harris of The Washington Post wrote that the film "may give you a buzz, but don't count on it to keep you high. Like, you know, the film suffers from a bad case of burn-out, leading one to nod off between jokes and wonder why producer Lou Adler bothered to attempt a Doper's Delight in this post-Woodstock age of Clean Living."[24] David McGillivray of The Monthly Film Bulletin observed that the film "looks, unfortunately, as if it were more fun to make than it is to watch."[25]

Unproduced follow-ups[edit]

In December 1978, Rolling Stone published an article stating that Cheech and Chong had "seven scripts waiting in the drawer" which included one for an animated film, and one for a sequel to Up in Smoke.[12] No sequel was ever produced, and Cheech and Chong's Next Movie, released in 1980, did not feature the characters of Pedro and Man.

Legacy[edit]

The Grammy Award Museum in Los Angeles features an Up in Smoke exhibit which displays the master tape for the soundtrack album, the annotated original script, limited-edition 40th anniversary "smoking devices," and part of Marin's collection of "Blazing Chicano Guitars."[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "UP IN SMOKE (X)". British Board of Film Classification. October 18, 1976. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  2. ^ Buchalter, Gail. "Cheech & Chong's Joint Career Is a Smoke Screen: at Home They're Not Potheads but Proud Papas". People. Retrieved September 4, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c "Columbia Sets Cheech & Chong; They'll Write, Star and Direct". Variety. September 12, 1979. p. 6.
  4. ^ Chong's character name is used only once. It is during the scene in which his father berates him, and his mother calls him "Anthony".
  5. ^ a b "Cheech and Chong "Up in Smoke" Exhibit at the GRAMMY Museum". Discover Los Angeles. April 19, 2019.
  6. ^ a b c Up in Smoke at the American Film Institute Catalog
  7. ^ a b 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.
  8. ^ "Cheech Marin biography". Biography.com. April 27, 2017. Retrieved May 3, 2020.
  9. ^ Archerd, Army (May 17, 1979). "Just For Variety". Daily Variety. p. 3.
  10. ^ Stoned, I. M. (October 18, 2009). Weed. ISBN 9781440504440.
  11. ^ a b c Staff (February 14, 2018). "Cheech And Chong's 'Up In Smoke' gets the 40th Anniversary treatment". Goldmine.
  12. ^ a b c Perry, Charles (December 14, 1978). "Pot Luck: Cheech and Chong Take Weed Humor to Big Screen". Rolling Stone.
  13. ^ a b Up in Smoke at AllMusic
  14. ^ Semigran, Aly (January 19, 2017). "10 Best Stoner Movie Soundtracks: From 'Friday' to 'Easy Rider' & Beyond". Billboard.
  15. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 60. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  16. ^ "Up in Smoke (1978)". Rotten Tomatoes.
  17. ^ "Up in Smoke". Metacritic.
  18. ^ Canby, Vincent (November 19, 1978). "What's So Funny About Potheads and Toga Parties?". The New York Times. D17.
  19. ^ "Film Reviews: Up In Smoke". Variety. September 13, 1978. p. 13.
  20. ^ Siskel, Gene (September 26, 1978). "Cheech & Chong are one big drag in juvenile 'Up in Smoke'". Chicago Tribune. Section 2, p. 7.
  21. ^ Siskel, Gene (January 7, 1979). "Film clips and the year's Top 10 in review". Chicago Tribune. Section 6, p. 3.
  22. ^ Thomas, Kevin (September 29, 1978). "Cheech, Chong Go 'Up in Smoke'". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 24.
  23. ^ Kael, Pauline (October 9, 1978). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker: 162.
  24. ^ Harris, Art (October 6, 1978). "'Up in Smoke' Is A Blast of the Past". The Washington Post. Weekend, p. 19.
  25. ^ McGillivray, David (October 1979). "Up in Smoke". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 46 (549): 213.

External links[edit]