Gasland as Reefer Madness

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It seems Josh Fox’s film Gasland is somewhat fittingly, a recycled idea.

Louis J. Gasnier beat Josh Fox to exploiting people’s fears in the 1930’s.  Referred to as an exploitation film, Louis J Gasnier’s ‘Reefer Madness’ starts out with the foreward:

“The motion picture you are about to witness may startle you.  It would not have been possible, otherwise, to sufficiently emphasize the frightful toll of the new drug menace which is destroying the youth of America in alarmingly – increasing numbers.  Marihuana [sic] is that drug – a violent narcotic – an unspeakable scourge.  Its first effect is sudden, violent, uncontrollable laughter; then come dangerous hallucinations ½”

You can see the whole film here.  Its depictions of crazed pot addicts jumping around, can today cause sudden, violent and uncontrollable laughter.  For that alone it’s worth a watch.

When I was in high school we all thought Reefer Madness was Government sponsored propaganda.  As ‘sophisticated’ kids in the seventies, we used Reefer Madness to ridicule the beliefs of our parents about marijuana.  Not that I inhaled or anything.

Turns out Reefer Madness was privately funded.  According to Internet Archive – “Like many exploitation films of the time, “Reefer Madness” tried to make a quick buck off of a forbidden subject while skirting the Motion Picture Production Code of 1930.” – which is to say it pretended to be a documentary.  Sound familiar?

Like Mr. Gasnier, Josh Fox records scenes designed to startle people about a subject new to them today.   However, Josh Fox jumping around and lighting taps on fire to warn us of the ‘unspeakable scourge’ of modern natural gas development will soon seem as silly as Louis J. Gasnier’s pot crazed addicts.  Josh Fox himself admitted on film he knew people reported lighting their taps on fire in 1936, decades before fracing.

It’s not hard to imagine we will soon ridicule Gasland as Madness much as we did Reefer Madness.  It will happen sooner if you go to this link to donate a $1 to become an executive producer of a new film, ‘Fracknation’.


An interesting historical footnote is that Reefer Madness used the spelling Marihuana to help their uninitiated audience pronounce Marijuana properly.  It’s a little like spelling fracing with a k today.