Two psychedelic hippie exploitation films, both from American International, both featuring Bruce Dern and Susan Strasberg and available on the same DVD.
The Trip (1967)
, directed by Roger Corman.
Written by Jack Nicholson.
A director of TV commercials (Corman: "they always called me a commercial director even though I made feature films") does his first acid trip under experienced supervision. Some of it is good and some bad. Much of his hallucinatory journeys deal with the women in his life. Corman: "the LSD trip is fundamentally erotic".
Quite a few nudity and passion scenes, although they are obscured by body paint (for dancers) and psychedelic image projection (for lovers). Which is indeed kind of erotic.
We also drift into Cormanesque Poe medieval sequences which must mean something. Or not. The trip incidents and imagery are not at all coherent.
The presence of the acid "guide" is supposed to be reassuring, but in retrospect seems ominous and creepy. Later we have one of the more unsettling moments I have seen recently: the runaway tripper wanders into a strange house in the middle of the night, has a conversation with a little girl in her pajamas and gets her a glass of milk. Then her Dad gets up. Yikes.
The guide keeps a hypo of Thorazine (!) handy. "Brings you out of a bad trip instantly".
In the end, well it doesn't have much of an ending. The trip is over. "Ask me tomorrow".
Peter Fonda was an important cult film actor during this period, but for some reason I've never warmed up to him. He's well-suited to this role of a "straight" character taking a walk on the counter-cultural wild side. The hippies accept him as such.
Dennis Hopper, is -- of course -- quite believable as a druggie patriarch. He's often kindly here.
In the commentary track Corman says:
- He had a very positive LSD experience and wanted to show that side, without making what he called an "acid commercial". So he shows the paranoia of a bad trip and the dangerous wandering of a tripper without supervision.
- He totally disclaims the anti-drug public service message added by the studio.
- It's ironic that Bruce Dern plays the experienced acid guide: he was a marathon runner, almost went to the Olympics and was about the only person involved who wouldn't do drugs.
- Nicholson advised him to scale back on the language because "most hip" = "soonest dated". (I wish everyone understood that). Corman disagreed: if the film is a time capsule, so be it.
- All the little plot incidents meant something at the time, but Corman no longer always remembers what he intended.
- One of his self-criticisms is that the scene with Hopper as some sort of inquisitor in a carnival-themed afterlife goes on too long and is too obvious in its message.
- The open ending is intentional: make of it what you will.
, directed by Richard Rush.
A deaf runaway (Susan Strasberg, last seen in Scream of Fear (1961)
) arrives in San Francisco searching for her brother, an artist who doesn't want to be found. She's taken in by musicians and eases into a world sex and drugs, insanity and death.
STP overdoses seem to be a particular problem: sometimes you have to rescue friends armed with circular saws. Sometimes they run into the middle of traffic and scream and scream.
These hippies believe in peace, love and nonviolence for a while, but when junkyard bullies push them too far they will punch back. Are they dirty hippies? They look like they bathe but also complain of lice. No one cleans house and heaps of dirty dishes and cockroaches are a problem.
And yet: they can be kind and generous, too. Jenny has left home for a reason and her new family help without pressure for sex or anything. Not much pressure.
Jack Nicholson wrote the original version but gets no screen credit. He wrote the character of "Stoney" for himself.
Dean Stockwell is his usual eerie self as a cynical guru with a headband.
Contemporary score: Strawberry Alarm Clock and others.
The DVD is of the 82m cut. Now available on Blu-ray (the full 101m cut, I presume), but my thumbnails are from the DVD.