Reefer Madness revisited on DVD

    An anemic kid falls backward into a fountain, yelling, “I’m sorry” in a distinctive nasal twang, even though his lips aren’t moving.

    The bastard child of Kramer and Shemp gets seriously wigged out playing ragtime, then walks into a closet and shows off his ability to roll his eyes.

    A grandmother one-ups “American Idol” cast-off William Hung by 65 years, presenting the coveted “She Bangs” dance in the middle of a make-out party.

    These images, and many others, have been enjoyed by countless audiences since the film “Reefer Madness” was released in 1938 as a propaganda film warning children and their parents of the multitude of dangers possible under the influence of the “demon weed” marijuana. The film was financed by a church group to help the Drug Enforcement Agency skewer the public image of marijuana. In these enlightened times, however, it has become tradition to enjoy the film as the height of camp entertainment while completely zonked out of your head.

    In an effort to combat any residual seriousness left from “Reefer Madness,” the folks at Off Color Films have colorized it in a nightmarish pastel scheme, complete with orange suits and neon green puffs of smoke. (Apparently their target audience enjoys bright colors.) At any rate, with this new presentation, “Reefer Madness” has established itself as the ultimate group mockery movie. Who better to sit back and rip apart the film with you and your friends but “Mystery Science Theater 3000” alumnus Mike J. Nelson?

    Nelson has his own commentary track on the DVD, which abandons all attempts at providing insightful commentary within the first minute, and instead devotes itself to tearing apart the film to hilarious effect. Everything from the terrible acting and the cinematography to the food obsessions of the characters are skewered without abandon. The jokes are not as regular or consistent as an episode of “Mystery Science Theater” since Nelson left his puppet companions at home, but over the course of the film, there are more than enough belly laughs to warrant several listenings. Another less interesting track chronicles the restoration and colorizing process, but any typical DVD commentary pales in comparison to Nelson’s comedic opus.

    In keeping with the campy theme (and padding out the DVD, since the film is only one hour long), a short comic documentary, “Grandpa’s Marijuana Handbook” by Evan “Grandpa Ganja” Keliher is included. In “Grandpa’s Marijuana Handbook,” a 72-year-old pot smoker (Keliher) imparts nuggets of wisdom about how to grow marijuana (put it in a closet), how to buy marijuana (flag down a Hell’s Angel or senior citizen), and what cats think about marijuana (they love to eat it). A far cry from the Puritan camp of the feature, this documentary has a lot of lovable kitsch, and would make an excellent instruction video for any upcoming Sun God plans.

    The DVD will soon be in stores, and makes the perfect gift for all your pothead friends. If you can’t wait to experience the madness, however, you can view the film on April 20 (surprise!) at 7 p.m. at the San Diego Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. “Grandpa Ganja” will appear at the event, and audiences will be able to vote on whether or not they would like to see the film with Nelson’s hilarious commentary track.

    This is an excellent idea, but why should “Reefer Madness” selfishly reap all of the benefits? With the season of summer blockbusters soon upon us, Nelson’s commentary tracks should be an option for audiences of all upcoming films. After all, what other reason could you possibly have to attend a film like “Scooby-Doo 2” or “The Passion of the Christ,” if not to hear the savage yet sage commentary of a certain Michael J. Nelson? Come on, nobody is paying attention to Jesus’ dialogue anyway…

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