Up in Smoke


Strother is only in this movie in the first five minutes and his scene is only ninety seconds long. It is however a memorable 90 seconds. He gets to rant at Tommy Chong and do several of his patented “frustrated man” bits.

The film is a notorious stoner movie that ushered in the whole genre in a major way. This was a Paramount release and it was directed by Lou Adler, a music producer who was also partially responsible for bringing us the Rocky Horror Picture show. The “script”, such as it is, was made up of pieces of business from the comedy duo Cheech and Chong . They’d had several successful comedy albums and were moving to the big screen with this lazy shaggy dog story of a film.

The plot, if you can call it that revolves around two hippie types who meet, get high, end up transporting drugs across the border and then participate in a battle of the bands. There are a few songs along the way, most of which celebrate the High Life. The battle of the bands however does feature a credible rock song presented by their faux band “Alice Bowie”.

We are treated to frequent jokes about dog poop, urination and gross foods. In other words, it’s exactly the kind of counter-culture film that teens and college students made popular in the 1970s, paving the way for the sex comedies of the eighties and the gross out films of the 1990s.  Stacy Keach appears as the recurring character from their albums Sgt. Stedenko, an ineffectual LAPD Narcotics officer, who is hot on their trail.

There are a lot of scenes of our stoner heroes driving around Southern California in 1978, so if you have some nostalgia for that time and place, as I do, then you might find something else to recommend this movie. I’m sure I saw this at the Vogue Theater on Hollywood Blvd, and I’m also sure I took my future bride with me. My Dad’s friend Ed Linde was the projectionist for several theaters in the Hollywood area, and I’m pretty sure we saw this as his guests.

So, like I said, there is not much here for a cinephile, but if you party, maybe you will enjoy jokes about ODing on LSD and dropping burning embers into your lap. If you are simply a fan of the great Strother Martin, let me just give you this and save you another 85 minutes of your life.