Do you wake and bake? Do you giggle whenever your friends mention "weed" or "herb" in non-recreational pharmaceutical terms? Is your life just one big black light poster - better yet, do you know what said device is and does? If so, you are probably a pot head. A dope fiend. A friend of Mary Jane and a bong huffing half-wit just wasting away in your parent's basement wondering why the microwave takes so long with your damned Hot Pocket. Either that, or you're Bill Maher. Actually, marijuana is rapidly becoming the gay marriage of current social issues. Many see it's legalization, either for medical purposes or without restriction at all, as the next great debate. Let's just hope no one on the opposition pulls out the horrible educational films featured on the latest release from Apprehensive Films, The 420 Triple Feature Volume 2: Contact High. Together, they make a slam dunk case for having chronic as part of any table's well balanced mood alterers.
The three movies here are all examples of alarmism tainted by a true lack of legitimacy. In other words, they're like your clueless parents yelling at you that masturbation will turn your palms hairy, cause you to go blind, or worse, insane! The agendas here are obvious - don't do drugs since they are illegal and bad for you. Today, we still play by many of these lame, illegitimate rules. Instead of trying to tie them all together, here is a brief synopsis and quickie review of each individual effort:
The Terrible Truth (1951) - **1/2
Judge William McKesson opens up his case files and illustrates how just a little puff of wacky tobaccy can turn one's life into a living Hell.
Having never seen this before, The Terrible Truth turns out to be a hoot. It takes itself so seriously that it's impossible not to laugh at its balderdash desire to play Puritanical God! In one instance, a "good girl" smokes weed, gets high, hallucinates, needs a bigger "kick" to get off, and ends up marrying her dealer and shooting smack. Naturally, we see the evils of heroin addiction (wait, I thought this was a movie about marijuana) and the whole "gateway" drug ideal is defined. In the end, Judge McKesson makes it very clear that pot is the byproduct of the Commies and want to turn our kids onto Socialism via sensimilla. While some of the movie is too trite to be bothered with, our heroine's descent into despair and drug-fuelled failure is a trip...and watch out for the actress's turn as a junkie going through withdrawal.
The Devil's Harvest (1942) - ***
Kay likes to dance, but when she starts seeing the effects of marijuana on her friends, she stops hoofing and starts helping out the police...as a narc!
Trying to take the subject from the concerned kid's point of view, this film offers up a young lady who believes her wholesome good times are being marred by the influence of joke smoke into her social set. So Kay heads out to date the pusher, only to push him aside for a job in a mob nightclub to take down the local Kingpin. She even makes a pit stop at the hot dog vender's, who turns out to be a devious drug middle man! Yikes! Considering that this all begins because of some hop heads mixing it up and accidentally killing some girl (their fight is hilarious since their stunt punches fail to come close to landing), the movie makes very little sense narratively. At least we get a big musical number before the police crash the party.
The Devil's Weed (1949) - **1/2
Anne is working hard as a dancer - no, not that kind - to help put her brother through school. When a perverted pusher decides he wants to corrupt her, one funny cigarette is all it takes.
Ah...drugs and the deceived virgin. Sounds like a sketch from some other world parallel universe version of Love, American Style. Kindly Anne is caught between a rock and a reefer place. She inadvertently takes a puff of the notoriously addictive herbage and watches as her already troubled life sinks further down the commode. Longer, and boasting a more professional cast (was that Jack Elam as a young ruffian?), Weed is also less impressive, if only because of the likeable lead at the center. We don't really want to see Anne suffer. Sadly, once she takes a toke, that's all she seems to do.
As with many of these educational films, the message is mired in a deep suspiciousness that claims no human being is capable of either common sense or wholly rational thought. Instead of explaining that drugs can be a dead end street leading to lots of pain and suffering (not just for you but for your family and friends as well), they use a sloppy sledgehammer laced with self-proclaimed good intentions to tip the balance in their favor. Of the three, Harvest is the best if only because it shies away from the "evil weed" ideal and focuses, instead, on our undercover adolescent and her quest for justice. Weed is second if only because it gets too dour and dark, while Truth is indeed "terrible" but fun. The makers clearly want to go for the "Just Say No!" gold. They wind up winning nothing.
When you consider how old these movies are, how long they've been part of the public domain, and how horrible N-th generation prints typically are, the tech specs for the 420 Triple Feature are surprisingly good. All three films presented offer their flawed full screen transfers in better than expected images. Sure, some of the color is faded and there are scratches and flaws in abundance, but overall, the 1.33:1 presentation is pretty decent, again considering. Equally acceptable is the Dolby Digital Mono mix. Sure, the music occasionally overmodulates and the scores can drown out dialogue, but the hollow, tinny qualities of most old movies are softened a bit here. Maybe it's the actual prints the DVD distributor was working with. Sadly, there are no bonus features offered here. Apparently, the people over at Apprehensive Films believes 108 minutes of goof/cheese ball entertainment is reward enough.
As someone who, in their youth, was known to pack a bong bowl or two (or three...or four...or five...), the 420 Triple Feature, Volume 2: Contact High is reminiscent of that time when, under the influence of some rather potent H.R. Pufnstuf, I sat through a Student Union showing of Reefer Madness. Not only are the efforts at scaring kids straight remarkably off putting - like said example of exploitative nonsense - these titles made me want to get back on the pot pony and ride...ride...ride. Now to see if my old connection is still around. What? It's only been thirty-five years. I wonder what $5 will get me? Recommended (with some home rolled help).
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