Movie: (1936) A campy diatribe against the evils of marihuana use, whose only audience today is ironically pothead stoners. Bill, Jack and Mary are wholesome teenagers who get recruited by a gang of drug dealers, which leads to hit-and-run, attempted rape, gunplay, murder, suicide, and madness.
First released: Jan 20, 2009 (Three-riffer edition), Dec. 3, 2007 (Mike solo edition)
Availability: Watch on Hulu; Download VOD from Rifftrax or Amazon instant; DVD from Rifftrax, Amazon and Netflix.
Reminds me of: I Accuse My Parents and The Sinister Urge. Note that those were made, respectively, about ten and twenty years later.
For such a famously bad movie there isn’t actually that much to work with here. The current audience enjoys the campy, over the top performances and the exceedingly melodramatic twists. Much like Sinister Urge, the film describes real social problems but assigns all the blame to one cause, which in both cases are considered relatively harmless now.
I think the movie actually serves as a greater warning about capital punishment, strangely enough. The trial of Bill is based on fairly ambiguous evidence, but stony-faced Jury Foreman and Judge essentially railroad any doubts and sentence the boy to death. Then, stony-faced Judge just sets aside the jury verdict on one witness’ testimony, who immediately kills herself. Now, how reliable was that testimony?
I do enjoy how much classier everyone dressed back then, teenagers and drug dealers alike wearing suits or at least sportcoats.
Cast and crew roundup: Not much to say. Dorothy Short (Mary) and Dave O’Brien (Ralph) were married in real life, and sadly she passed early in real life too. Carleton Young (Jack) later married groundbreaking Asian exotic dancer Noel Toy. According to Google Image Search, he was one lucky guy.
Callback: none? Maybe Bill’s “And… scene. Brilliant!”
Fave riff: “The fifth Marx Brother—‘Dope-o’.” Honorable mention: “Is there a water shortage? Dump the pitcher!”
Next week: Cinematic Titanic bowdlerizes “Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks”!