Sunday, February 24, 2008


I watched the movie Marihuana (1936) today, courtesy of the public domain movies podcast I download via Miro. There are something like 240 videos floating around on my desktop, all fodder for my bike trainer habit. Seeing as I was at 775 miles at this time last year, and only 225 miles this year, I have a lot of ground and public domain viewing to catch up on. So 240 should be just enough to get me to the MN Ironman at the end of April.

I was worried about Marihuana when it started, because there was a graphic warning that smoking reefer "fires the user to extreme cruelty and license." It was pretty obvious they weren't kidding. There were 30 year old high school kids sitting around all over the place, drinking 5 cent beers and doing some sort of dance that involved popping balloons orgiastically in the bar, a regular Ibiza of the 30's. All this before they ever smoked a joint. Not that any of them intended to smoke a joint. They were tricked. All those teenagers get dressed up in fancy evening gowns and suits with pocket kerchiefs, only to discover that the two men hosting the party - I think there was some sort of weird, Italian, gay, subtext going on - keep weed in the heels of their shoes, ala James West, and behind loose fireplace stones, and break it out to trick kids into being buyers.

It's just not their fault, the poor kids. Those joints are just lying around, and they can't help but go from them being the "funniest cigarettes I ever saw" to the "funniest cigarette I ever tasted" to squirting bums with seltzer water and almost full front nudity on the nearby beach. Damn that marihuana. Damn those James West, pencil thin mustache, lothario dealers. Damn that firm, pounding jet of seltzer massaging your well-rounded posterior.

But marihuana isn't all an ass-smacking with a bottle of carbonation.'s riddled with the prospect of death and disgrace. Take poor Joan Marsh, who dies during the skinny dipping, frightened beyond the surf by an inappropriately tucked breast pocket handkerchief. And take Burma, who I was sure was named Verna, because that makes more sense than being named after aftershave. But maybe she was conceived when her dad was freshly smooth. Like in those quintuple blade razor commercials where some woman keeps rubbing your face and declaring how stubbleless you are. Or maybe he bought a bottle of Axe from Michael J. Fox, but couldn't bring himself to name her Axe and went after the closest parallel. Poor Burma...knocked up while giddy on her very first joint, and a disgrace to her sister, who's afraid she'll lose her fiance because of the social humiliation. Not because Burma is pregnant. She doesn't know about that. But because Burma went to a party. And there was marijuana!

So far, only one death and one humiliation. But we'll quickly rack up a Freddie vs. Jason body total. Because Burma's pregnancy forces her boyfriend, Dick Collier, to engage the dealers for a job to support the baby. They give him a fine gig hauling giant bales of marijuana off a boat, all sneaky like, until on his very first bale hauling operation he's shot dead by a pair of cops who shoot first, and ask whether it's marijuana or cotton later. Unable to raise a baby by herself, Burma turns to the dealers, who find her a hospital at which to have her baby. Because marijuana is about families, and togetherness, and never leaving a baby momma behind.

You know where it goes from here. Alcohol leads to a joint leads to seltzer water enema leads to pregnancy leads to single motherhood leads to...selling your baby for fun and profit. Which in and of itself might be bad enough. But Burma tops it off with a healthy dose of selling heroin, forcing addicts to pawn their engagement rings while opining, "I'm the doll that should be sporting the rock", and gloating about how much money she's going to make so she can show up her hated sister, who will obviously be jealous of her heroin-dealer, dip-into-her-own-product, live with two gay Italian dealers, child-selling lifestyle.

Cut to a soundtrack that consists of drugs and death: screaming, cars revving, hacking, coughing, coughing, hacking, dying, coughing...all the things that make drug use horrible, like emphysema and no catalytic converter or muffler on your car.

But you have to hit rock bottom before you realize you can't turn around your marijuana habit, because the morays of the 30s confine drug users to everlasting damnation after one joint. And rock bottom includes kidnapping your sister's ringletted, Shirley Templesque kid, making her drink milk out of used beer glasses, and forcing her to watch gay, Italian shadow puppet shows that end in her insanity, as she crawls around on the floor with a small broom pressed against her butt declaring she's a kitty. But fate is stalking Burma on two fronts. First, fortunately for the fiance of the engagement-ring pawning heroin addict, the phone book has an entry for "I Want a Policeman" (we're pre Angie Dickinson). On the second front, Burma's brother in law refuses to pay the ransom because, although he doesn't know it's Burma requesting the money, he states that the child is his sister-in-laws and they adopted her. If it had been a natural child, they'd have paid the ransom, but as it's only his sister-in-law's child he's been treating as his own for seven or eight years, they can't be bothered to cough up a cent.

Burma is horrified and shoots up above her stocking line so that you can appreciate her stocking line and pale thigh (I'm guessing everyone has milky thighs when its black and white. I could film my thighs in black and white with the setting on my camera and post it for you, just so we could verify. Email me if you need a copy) and in order to chase away the ghosts that are haunting her, even though the real people portrayed as ghosts are in the very next room. But in the end, she's really shooting up, because she needs to die as punishment for smoking that joint. It's hard to say if she dies, or just goes insane and passes out, but it looks like death as she enters the room where the cops have found the child and arrested her dealing compatriots, and she drops to the floor. Oh, goodnight sweet ice princess, may budded joints sing you to the sweet hereafter. The dealers, now all Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, kneel over her prostrate body, showering her with a joint moneyshot as the rolled weed drops out of their pockets and all over her face, bukkake style, which was probably just prep for the director's movie two years later, Sex Madness.

Lesson learned, Dwain Esper. I was convinced after your work on Reefer Madness. But Marihuana punctuated the lesson on cannabis by showing me how Pooteewheet will end up being a dealer and Eryn will be sold to my sister-in-law should I take a toke. I choose to walk the straight and narrow.


Anonymous said...

Seems like this movie is very devastating. Is it really spelled with an "h"?

Scooter said...

Yep. You can do a search on the word on Google, you'll get a lot of hits. But it's not devestating - it's more amusing as a historical artifact.

tonka_boy said...

Sounds like Reefer Madness. Same 30-year old high school students. Same tragic ending.