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Blu-ray Review: Up in Smoke: 40th Anniversary Edition

April 10, 2018

By John Corrado

Lou Adler’s classic 1978 stoner comedy Up in Smoke is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and the film is being released on Blu-ray for the first time in honour of this milestone anniversary.

The film of course stars Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong as a pair of stoners who meet on the road and instantly hit it off over a gigantic joint, and the rambling plot follows them as they end up driving a van made of weed across the Mexican border, trying to get to a battle of the bands in Los Angeles, with the police hot on their trail.

The first feature film written by Cheech & Chong, who had already gained an audience for the series of comedy albums that they had released throughout the 1970s, Up in Smoke was shot in a month on a low budget and become a big hit at the box office, despite not being that well received by the majority of critics at the time.  The film has long since been reevaluated as a cultural touchstone of its time, and understandably so.  It’s been years since I had seen it, so I was probably a little too young the first time I watched it, but the film itself still holds up quite well and it remains a lot of fun to watch.

This is a definitive classic in terms of stoner comedies, playing with the same sort of hazy assemblage of a plot, which is strung along by a couple of drugged out characters who just go with the flow through a series of interconnected set-pieces, that has become a staple of the genre.  The film not only sparked multiple sequels, but also paved the way for a whole multitude of other stoner comedies that came in its wake.  It’s become iconic for good reason, and the Blu-ray presentation offers a marked uptick in quality from the original DVD release, for fans who want to upgrade their copies of the film.

The Blu-ray also includes a commentary track by Lou Adler and Cheech Marin, the brand new featurette How Pedro Met the Man: Up in Smoke at 40 which features interviews with Adler, Marin and Tommy Chong reminiscing about their early career, making the film, and when they first tried marijuana, as well as a selection of archival bonus features from 2007.  They include deleted scenes, the featurette Lighting It Up: A Look Back At Up in Smoke, the animated music video “Earache My Eye,” a supercut of the characters saying “man” entitled Cheech & Chong’s “The Man Song,” as well as a pair of vintage radio ads and the film’s theatrical trailer.

Up in Smoke: 40th Anniversary Edition is a Paramount Home Media Distribution release.  It’s 85 minutes and rated 18A.

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