Best viewed while stoned: The Evil Bong series
Evil Bong and Evil Bong 2: King Bong
Directed by Charles Bong
Produced by Full Moon Features
Starring David Weidoff, John Patrick Jordan, Mitch Eakins, Brian Lloyd and Tommy Chong
Press releases for Full Moon Features’ Evil Bong and Evil Bong 2: King Bong describe the two films as “horror/comedies” – and this is true: Both have ample amounts of the sinister and satirical.
But the direct-to-video releases by producer/director Charles Band also firmly occupy the terrain of another genre – one that includes such screamers as Up In Smoke, Caddyshack, Half-Baked and – most recently – Pineapple Express: All are “Films Best Watched While Stoned Silly.”
Cannabis intoxication isn’t just recommended for the full enjoyment of the Evil Bong films. It’s required. Both flicks – essentially about the horrors inflicted upon a group of college dudes by ?a “cursed piece of paraphernalia” – have a style, pacing and edginess that only the significantly toasted can truly appreciate. Band’s eponymous villainess, the multi-hosed bong Eebee, is kissing cousin to Caddyshack’s dancing gopher: To behold them while straight is to groan and roll your eyes. To see them while high is to howl like they’re the funniest damned things you’ve ever seen.
None of this is to say that the films are without meaningful social redemption: For all their zaniness and subversive humor, Bongs 1 and 2 actually have genuine messages to convey. One of these messages – that “we should all have the right to get high when and if we want” – is conveyed fairly effectively. Fans of cult cinema are also bound to appreciate the series’ many nods to other Full Moon classics, including cameos of Puppetmaster creatures and Tim “Call me Jack Deth” Thomerson.
While his presence sadly is limited to the second half of Evil Bong 1, few would argue that the soul of the franchise belongs to Tommy Chong. Starting the moment he walks on screen, Chong provides the film with a gravitas and momentum that instantly carries it to a new level of hilarity. (David Burton)
Shining a light on Canada’s green goldmine
The Union: The Business of Getting High
Directed by Brett Harvey
Starring Joe Rogan, Norm Stamper, Chris Bennett, Tommy Chong and others.
Distributed by Eagle Entertainment, Lace International and SuperChannel
In The Union: The Business of Getting High, documentarians Brett Harvey and Adam Scorgie reveal how the marijuana industry is able to prosper in spite of – and, in fact, because of – its outlaw status.
Their premise is based largely on the underground growth and distribution business in British Columbia, Canada.
Much of the film focuses on a series of rational arguments against prohibition in general. Further credibility and clout are lent in the form of interviews with a bevy of individuals involved in the underground industry — from growers to dealers to medical professionals and entertainers. The documentary quickly shifts focus from BC’s regional trade to the impact of the industry and its prohibition across the Western Hemisphere.
The depth and scope of The Union is staggering and the information contained within is well presented, if not simply overwhelming. Host and producer Scorgie, who co-wrote the film with director Harvey, present their case with such authority and straightforward logic that even those opposed to marijuana legalization will be compelled to think, “Why do the big-time dealers want to keep marijuana illegal as much as American politicians do?” The answer is obvious when you consider that British Columbia rakes in more than $7 billion annually from this industry, trumping all major legal industries in the region.
This extraordinarily well-made documentary does suffer from an anti-climactic ending and occasionally loses focus in its attempt to thoroughly address the topic. Not that this is a huge detriment; the additional breadth of information is actually quite welcome. The Union has won several independent film awards for a reason: it is quite simply a piece of excellence and reason that begs to be watched by everyone on both sides of the marijuana debate. (Hans Fink)
Waiting to Inhale: The Politics of Medical Marijuana
By Alan Bock
Seven Locks Press
As a senior editorial writer for the Orange County Register, Alan Bock has spent more than 25 years reporting on the quest to return medicinal marijuana to legality (Oh yes, it was perfectly legal until 1937). His 2001 book, Waiting to Inhale: The Politics of Medical Marijuana, assembles this vast journalistic insight and develops it into an approachable history of the subject.
The core story is a thorough catalogue of events leading up to the passage of Proposition 215, as well as the subsequent resistance to implementation both in California and Washington D.C. But Bock also includes chapters on initiatives in other states, the overwhelming scientific evidence for therapeutic uses of cannabis, and the federal scheduling system for controlled substances. His perspective is admittedly a partisan one (he’s Pro, if you didn’t already know), but the evidence that marijuana is at the very least relatively benign, is convincing. For example, a 1999 Institute of Medicine study commissioned by then-drug czar Barry McCaffrey to prove the evils of weed actually found that rather than any pharmacological qualities, it is the illegal nature of marijuana that “makes it a gateway drug.”
Much of the content will likely be familiar to the already faithful. But the magnitude of explicit support from traditionally conservative institutions, coupled with the maddening details of the chronic refusal by government and law enforcement to carry out the will of the people, might be just enough to sway even the most blasé centrist in favor of legalizing marijuana, period. It is these folks, the indifferent undecided, who must be won over if the medical-cannabis cause is to find more traction than a baker’s dozen of barely enforceable state initiatives and the occasional pun-laced article in the popular press.
In the meantime, despite a handful of advances, marijuana remains a Schedule I drug, defined as having a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use. Perhaps the book’s most sobering takeaway is that nearly a decade later, the material remains relevant. (Anna Lambias)