Written by: Betty Tusher, Betty Ulius, and E. Hunter Willett (Psych-Out)/Jack Nicholson (The Trip)
Directed by: Richard Rush (Psych-Out)/Roger Corman (The Trip)
Starring: Susan Strasberg, Dean Stockwell, Bruce Dern, and Jack Nicholson (Psych-Out)/Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern, Susan Strasberg, and Dennis Hopper (The Trip)
- Commentary by director-producer Roger Corman (The Trip only)
- Theatrical trailers
- “Love and Haight” featurette
- “Tune In, Trip Out” featurette
- Psychedelic film effects
Released by: MGM
My Advice: Rent it if you want some psychedelic camp.
[ad#longpost]Psych-Out tells the story of Jenny (Strasberg), a girl looking for her brother (Dern) in the heart of Flower Power Central. She experiences the counter-culture at ground zero, mucks about with the stoners and acid casualties, dabbles in some recreational pharmaceuticals herself, and generally has a trippy good time. She meets head “head” Stoney (Nicholson), who stands as advocate of the alternative life of the drug culture, though he’s typically he’s too blasted to do anything to really promote the lifestyle. She sees some bad trips, some good trips, and a couple of bands, and life moves right along, with the occasional wacky stoner hijinks for laughs. This is an entertaining enough bit of fluff, though there’s little seriousness to the issues addressed, for all the earnestness of the young crop of actors playing the roles.
The Trip is Roger Corman’s take on a similar scene, which of course means there will be more bad trips than good, more flesh bared, and definitely more weirdness. Paul Groves (Fonda) is in the midst of a nasty divorce, and decides to take a bit of a vision quest with some premium LSD. After hooking up with dealer Max (Hopper), he seeks out friend and experienced acidnaut John (Dern) to play Virgil to his psychedelic Dante. After some really bizarre visuals (including envisioning his own death), Paul strikes out, goes dancing, watches some laundry spin, and meets some requisite hippie chicks. The film plays like the vaguely sinister twin of Psych-Out, reimagining a similar sort of initiation into the counter-culture through a slightly darker lens. Now, it’s still Corman, so even when it gets dark it stays campy enough to be good fun. There’s also a very palpable sense of where Corman made acid look worse than he felt it was, just in order to keep studio execs off his back and make sure nobody could accuse him of being “pro-drugs.”
The acting is solid enough, and given the names these young talents would go on to make for themselves, it’s hardly surprising. You can also see some of the seeds of 1969’s Easy Rider blowing in the wind of these movies. The visuals in both films try a little too hard to be “psychedelic,” and therefore feel forced, though Corman’s vision is the less phony of the two, and has some really cool moments. Neither story is really anything to write home about, but then what can one expect given the subject matter, really?
The DVD presentation has some nice extra features (most of them drawn from The Trip), but has at least one glaring problem, as well. Psych-Out has been sliced and diced pretty significantly from previous incarnations on video, with several scenes cut short or nearly excised. Fans of the movie will be disappointed, and rightly so. There seems little reason for the cutting, either, unless it’s simply being done to fit two movies on one disc, at which point, why do it? Or why not cut the special features altogether and release The Trip separately with all the bonus material and Corman’s commentary?
For an evening’s entertainment, you could certainly do worse. You could also do better, but if you’re in the mood for some freaky 60s flashback action, have at it. Anybody that lived through it will groan and roll their eyes a lot at the oversimplified stereotypes, and anybody younger will roll their eyes and groan complaining that nobody ever really talked like that.