Story: After a driver that was hopped up on weed was involved in car accident that left a woman dead, a reporter named Artie (Arthur Gardener) travels to the town to learn more. As he wants to learn all about the local culture and the impact of the devil’s lettuce, he goes undercover and works as a soda jerk, which allows him to eavesdrop on the local youths. At the same time, Joan (Luana Walters) learns her grandmother was the victim in the car accident and while she was left the inheritance, others aren’t pleased that she was the recipient. The will contained a morals clause, so those who wish to see the estate redistributed have a plan to trigger that clause, which means they will need to push Joan to engage in some less than moral activities. Will Joan take a walk on the wild side and lose it all or can she figure out the plan before its too late?
Entertainment Value: Assassin of Youth, also known as The Marijuana Menace, is another propaganda film produced to try to scare youth away from cannabis, which of course leads to outlandish and over the top results. I will say this one isn’t as outrageous as some, but it still makes some wild leaps and stretches the truth often to hammer home its false information. The narrative is passable and at least provides more structure than most films of this kind, as our lead is targeted to be gaslight and pushed into “immoral” behavior. The result of cannabis use here ranges from accurate (telling bad jokes and laughing for little to no reason) to beyond the pale (attacking friends with a butcher knife), so it is inconsistent in that regard, though it tends to lean toward the absurd. Not as wacky as some of the weed propaganda movies however, while it is better made in many regards, from the writing to the performances, so it still stands out in the genre. If you like these scare pictures about the “dangers” of cannabis, Assasin of Youth is a staple and worth a spin.
I found the performances here to be mostly fun to watch, with some on the wooden side and others with the melodrama dialed up. I’ve seen others compare to this to kind of a soap opera style approach from the cast and that isn’t a bad comparison, though I don’t know if most people will appreciate that aspect as much as I do. A small, but memorable role here belongs to Fern Emmett, who rides around town on a motor scooter to judge the locals. She has serious wicked witch energy and even resembles Margaret Hamilton, so it is a fun little part of Assassin of Youth. She doesn’t have a lot to do beyond that, but it adds some fun, without question. Luana Walters is a capable lead and handles the material with ease, while also giving us some melodrama boosts here and there. Not an over the top turn, but a fun one and as mentioned, wouldn’t feel out of place in a soap opera. The cast also includes Dorothy Short, Arthur Gardener, and Fay McKenzie.