The New York Times March 14, 1968
Maryjane Tops a Bill
IT’S conceivable that American International had in mind the box-office pull of the film, “Valley of the Dolls” when it launched “House of 1,000 Dolls,” opening on a circuit double-bill yesterday with “Maryjane.” As for those lurid ads for the second one, heralding a peephole exposé of high school marijuana addicts, the movie is short on sensationalism but tedious and contrived in its restraint. The two pictures have one thing in common, very good color photography.
“Maryjane” is uneven on several counts as an indictment of “pot” usage by teenagers. With a theme right out of yesterday’s newspaper, this littlé picture could have gone places.
The setting is not a crowded urban high school but a sunny, spacious small-town one. The erring students are a gang of well-dressed, scrubbed looking boys and girls who methodically drive out to the country, puff away soulfully and wallow around amorously. Scorning the grim squeals of some stiff-necked town officials, a spunky young teacher determines to set the kids straight in his own way, through trust and sensibility.
The teacher is quite a guy and very sensibly played by Fabian, the only “name” in the cast. This art instructor not only doubles as football coach but admits, to the horror of the town leaders, that he has had a puff or two in his day. At his side is a pretty blond history teacher, played by Diane McBain.
To the credit of Richard Gautier and Peter L. Marshall, the scenarists, and Maury Dexter, the director-producer who also supplied the original story, the idea is packed with good, unstereotyped, dramatic potential Considering how American International has previously gone hog-wild in sadism and sex, notably in those motorcycle frolics, the tone here is surprisingly restrained.
Unfortunately, the dialogue is generally wooden, the pace is static, the acting is generally second-level and the cynicism of the arrogant youngsters.
Even so, the unmasking of the pusher is a devastating shocker that almost makes up for everything else. Indeed it packs such a warning wallop that a viewer can only regret that Mr. Dexter didn’t speed things up, shed the pious finger-wagging, flesh out his characters and settle for a sermon in suspense.