Dwain Esper, who made the bizarre MANIAC (1933) and built a career out of roadshowing exploitation films, directed this absurd antidrug melodrama. It's not as laughable as REEFER MADNESS (1936), though for sheer cheap sleaziness, it's worth a look.
An opening crawl informs us that marihuana "fires the user to extreme cruelty." High school student Burma Roberts feels neglected by her mother, who is concerned with getting her other daughter Elaine married off to society swell Morgan Stewart. Saying that she's doing her homework with friends,
Burma and her boyfriend Dick hang around a beer hall. They and their friends meet Tony, a sleazy operator who invites them to use his beach house for a weekend weenie roast. At the party, Tony supplies generous amounts of liquor--and, when everyone is drunk, "funny-looking cigarettes" that produce
giggling fits in all the girls, who decide to go skinny dipping--all except Burma, who has decided to give in to Dick's inflamed passions. When one of the girls drowns, Burma's mother pulls some strings to keep her name out of it, for fear it will upset the Stewart family.
Soon after, Burma tells Dick she's pregnant. Needing a job, he goes to Tony, who hires him to help pick up a marihuana shipment at the docks. In a shootout with the police, Dick is killed. Burma threatens to rat on Tony unless he helps her. He takes her to a home for unwed mothers, convinces her
to give the baby up for adoption, and cuts her in on his drug-peddling operation. Having run away from home, the bitter Burma is eager to gain more money than her well-married sister. She becomes a top dealer in various drugs, as well as a heroin user herself. Several years later, she sees Elaine
and Morgan with their daughter, and decides to kidnap the child. The plan backfires when she goes to pick up the ransom from Morgan, who (not knowing to whom he is talking) refuses to pay, saying he and his wife actually adopted the child of his wife's missing sister. Meanwhile, police have
followed another lead to Burma's apartment, where they discover drugs and the kidnapped girl. Dazed, Burma shoots up before returning to the apartment, and dies after seeing her daughter.
To his credit, Esper packs a lot of plot into the brief MARIHUANA, though mostly by having his characters standing around talking. Unlike REEFER MADNESS, it's less an antidrug tract than it is a melodrama about one woman's descent. Typically for the genre, the scenes of drug use are ludicrous,
with characters puffing marihuana without inhaling and "shooting" heroin by popping a fast needle into some random patch of skin. MARIHUANA's most exploitable quality was the skinny-dipping scene, in which you can dimly make out the bare behinds of a quartet of women; as thrills go, it's pretty
cheap. (Violence, nudity, sexual situations, adult situations, substance abuse.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Rating: NR
- Review: Dwain Esper, who made the bizarre MANIAC (1933) and built a career out of roadshowing exploitation films, directed this absurd antidrug melodrama. It's not as laughable as REEFER MADNESS (1936), though for sheer cheap sleaziness, it's worth a look. An ope… (more)