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Reefer Madness!

Reefer Madness movie poster

Reefer Madness movie poster

Movie Posters as Propaganda Posters

Cable network Showtime is set to premiere the movie musical Reefer Madness this month. The cable movie is a film version of the hit LA and off Broadway musical Reefer Madness, which was in turn based on the infamous 1938 cult classic film of the same name.

While it’s origin is the subject of some debate, the 1938 anti-drug film was said to originally be conceived by a church group and was called Tell Your Children. The film fell into the hands of infamous exploitation filmmaker Dwain Esper, who retitled and recut the B-movie to help launch the “drug panic” genre of films of the period. The “grindhouse” film circuit became an early incarnation of “indie” film making — independent roadshow filmmakers made and exhibited films that titillate by addressing such forbidden topics as sex and drugs, which the mainstream film studios were unable to do.

In the case of Reefer Madness, the film was nothing more than propaganda, complete with an “educational film” label to justify the topic being depicted. The film’s poster also illustrates another advantage that small-time producers had over their mainstream studio competition — it was relatively cheap and easy to generate a salacious and provocative one-sheet poster, regardless of a film’s budget. Decades before the era of movie trailers and film reviews across all media outlets, a film was judged by it’s cover, the movie poster. Who couldn’t resist the sensationalist images and copylines like:

The deadly scourge that drag’s our children into the quagmires of degradation. Your child may be next!

Buy Reefer Madness movie posters at: AllPosters, eBay, MoviePosterShop.com, Amazon

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7 Comments

  1. PaulApril 15, 2005 at 9:10 PMReply

    Forgive me for asking in the comments, but does this site not have an RSS feed? It’s an interesting blog, but it needs a feed if I’m going to visit regularly.

  2. PaulApril 15, 2005 at 9:11 PMReply

    Forgive that last post, I found it down at the bottom of the sidebar.

  3. adminApril 15, 2005 at 9:26 PMReply

    No problem. It’s also listed in the HTML source, which is usually the best place to look. (That’s how most newsreaders, feed syndicators, etc. find it.)

  4. karramarroApril 20, 2005 at 4:55 AMReply

    Hey! you can download “Reefer Madness” at great resolution for free at archive.org.

    http://www.archive.org/movies/details-db.php?collection=feature_films&collectionid=reefer_madness1938

    More info:
    http://www.papelcontinuo.net/index.php?p=188

  5. MarcSeptember 14, 2005 at 6:43 AMReply

    Hey, for a great companion to Reefer Madness, check out an earlier film called Marijuana. Kids get drunk, high, engage in wild orgies of delight, skinny dipping, ass smacking, drug dealing shootout crazed police fury bastard child pools of blood ending in opiate injected kidnapping revenge schemes that leave our heroine in a heroin stupor when the cops arret her.

    Classic.

  6. Poster Exploits « Posterwire.com « the movie poster weblogFebruary 9, 2008 at 11:09 AMReply

    […] like more than “Exploitation” movie posters from past decades. Whether it’s 1950s drug panic films or blaxploitation from the 1970s, the exploitation genres rely on what serves low budget film […]

  7. Stu RhodesOctober 2, 2008 at 12:16 AMReply

    I went to see Reefer Madness in 1970 or ’71, double featured with Martian Space Party (by Firesign Theatre). A group of my friends & I went, very stoned, of course (hey, it was the 70’s) I still have an 8 1/2″ X 11″ flyer for that showing.

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