Far Out, Man!: CHEECH & CHONG’S UP IN SMOKE (Paramount 1978)

Hey Man, if you dig crude, vulgar stoner comedy… wait, what was I saying? Oh yeah, Cheech and Chong, man. These two dudes were, like, really cool dudes, and made a lot of records and stuff, and… wait, what was I saying, man? OK, so Cheech and Chong were hippie culture’s answer to Abbott & Costello , and so popular they starred in a series of doper-themed movies, the first being UP IN SMOKE, a film basically about nothing except two burnouts trying to score some weed. C&C play their familiar personas of Pedro and Man, a pair of L.A. hippies floating their way through the world in a perpetual marijuana haze. . Sure, it’s uncouth, sophomoric, and defiantly non-PC, but had me laughing out loud forty years later!

The supporting cast features Stacy Keach as Sgt. Stedenko, a super-narc trying to stamp out drug use, and he’s a straight-edge riot. Keach and his band of incompetent undercover cops (Mills Watson, Karl Johnson, Richard Beckner) are the establishment bad guys, and poor Stacy takes the brunt of much of the buffoonery.  Strother Martin and Edie Adams appear as Chong’s rich parents (“Get a God damn job!”), Tom Skerritt is Cheech’s whacked-out Vietnam vet cousin Strawberry, and Zane Busby plays Jade East, who leads the boys to a Battle of the Bands at L.A.’s famed Roxy, which they end up winning, of course! Sunset Strip scenesters like Rodney Bingenheimer and the ever delightful Cheryl “Rainbeaux” Smith , and Ellen Barkin, comic Gary Mule Deer, and David Nelson pop up in cameos.

C&C wrote the script (if it can be called that!), and obviously knew their audience. They riff on some of their tried-and-true routines (Cheech’s low rider, “Dave’s Not Here”, and goofing on nuns a’la “Sister Mary Elephant”), and break out Cheech’s ‘Alice Bowie’ persona at the Roxy to sing their quasi-hit “Earache My Eye”:

Music producer Lou Adler (Carole King, The Mamas & The Papas, Johnny Rivers) sat in the director’s chair for UP IN SMOKE, which probably didn’t take a lot of effort. Adler dabbled in films, and produced the seminal 1967 rock doc MONTEREY POP and THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. His only other directorial effort was 1981’s LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE FABULOUS STAINS, which has become somewhat of a cult classic. Adler was also part owner of The Roxy, and the movie has performances by punk bands Berlin Brats, The Dils, and The Whores, as well as music from War, Bobby Day, and (believe it or not) Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass..

UP IN SMOKE’s raucous dope humor opened the floodgates for stoner comedies to come. Yeah I know, there’s no redeeming social qualities whatsoever, and it’s lewd and infantile, but I don’t really care – it makes me laugh! That’s pretty much all I want out of a comedy, and Cheech and Chong deliver the goods. *sniff, sniff* hey, did somebody let a skunk in here?

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6 Replies to “Far Out, Man!: CHEECH & CHONG’S UP IN SMOKE (Paramount 1978)”

  1. All the Cheech and Chongs films were legendary around are school yard as we swapped VHS cassette tapes. This one and Still Smoking and Nice Dreams are three I most remember. But you know what dude, I never until this second, on reading your post, knew that it had Stacy Keach in it!! It’s amazing that the two are still going strong 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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