Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Great Acid Cinema 13: PSYCH-OUT (1968)

This non-Corman AIP classic has awesome doc footage of the Haight-Asbury scene while it was at its zenith, with shocked squares rubbernecking by like a parade in reverse. As for the characters, they're pretty damn authentic, if my own memories of playing in psychedelic rock band are correct, which is doubtful. There's the Dean Stockwell pseudo-shaman (that was totally me), carrying STP-laced fruit punch around like its just another drink and arguing with the band's smarmy lead singer and guitarist, Jack Nicholson, while simultaneously stealing his girl--that's just for starters, I could go down matching the cast list with my photo album but you probably would just skip over it. (Or go here), but! Ask yourself why the similarity, only one reason - acid makes you tarot-myth tribal, it assigns you a role in your group - the clown, the king, the shaman/wizard, princess, Morganna, Lancelot, it's all there waiting to play out amongst your friends; it's in your DNA... the man can't burn that out of you, but you can't even reach it without a little boost from our machine elf friends behind the curtain, so tip them well!

Point is the movie strikes a rare and right note of genuine people engaging in cautious lysergic idealism, like HAIR: the psychedelic love bead and budding branch pull focus magic of Lazlo Kovacs make deaf mute tourist Susan Strasberg into a love child overnight, and we're contact high and beside her all the way. But then the film also shows the dirty morning after, when one tin soldier rides away without doing his share of the dishes!

Once Vietnam got rid of patriotism, countercultural "freedom" became the ad hoc refuge of a scoundrel, and then the CHUDS came, and you may as well move to Los Angeles. At the end, when Stockwell is dying he says "I hope this next trip is a good one!" It was, man it was WOODSTOCK, And it wasn't man, it was GIMME SHELTER, and yet we rode on, man, until the times they are a changing back. Now take him away for re-grooving!

PEAK: The scene when a STP-addled Warren is found "Freaking out in the gallery" and hallucinates all his friends are undead Vietnam vets. They advance towards him, trying to get him to cool it and put down the power saw. And it's not long before he's trying to cut off his own hand! It's funny because it's true.

In short, this film is the shit - a personal favorite. A must-own. If you want to get a start in the LSD cinema canon, get the MGM double dose of PSYCH-OUT and THE TRIP. It's in the "essentials" widget at right!

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