Saturday, 21 January 2012

The Trip (1967)

If you never heard about "The Trip", but psychedelic drugs are something you understand and you’ve been into, it’s definitely a movie for you – checking it out it will be like getting a proper flashback (lucky you). If you occupy the other side of the barricade thinking that drugs are bad, that you have to be a degenerate to mess with them, that people taking LSD get loco and hear voices, which make them jump from the nearest roof, don’t watch it, it’s not gonna be funny for you. After all to fully appreciate this cult movie, you need to get heavily loaded. How else are you gonna watch a movie about LSD trip, which is supposed to be real fun? Stone cold sober? Forget it!

Basically, this movie carries a real legend, which breaks down like that. One day Jack Nicholson approached Roger Corman suggesting him shooting a picture dealing exclusively with LSD experience, for which he even managed to cut a screenplay. Corman accepted it objecting only against it’s length, thus quickly rewrote it to make the film easier to produce. As he didn’t know anything about acid at this point, he promptly dropped a sugar cube in Big Sur to check it out – it’s hard to imagine that he didn’t do it before, isn’t it. It gave him a brilliant insight as "The Trip" is one of his best movies ever and could be definitely classified as drugsploitation or hippiesploitation classic.

Not everyone thought it was that awesome in the beginning though! Original cut (85 min.) has never seen the world due to AIP mongers, who messed with Corman's version cutting out the beautiful, transgressive ending! However, even this safe cut was never classified by the MPAA, which means that distribution has become impossible and the print itself was shelved. Then UK film office has followed banning a movie till 2002, which as we might expect totally cut it’s wings in Europe. But what was irreparably wrong in this picture? No violence, no even rough sex… just the fact that a character drops some acid and starts rediscovering the world around him. However, it was seen as drug culture manifesto back then – a hedonistic statement, which potentially might have corrupted the youth. As a matter of fact, due to AIP helping hand it contains one of the funniest disclaimers in film history, but even that didn’t convince the censorship unfortunately. Almost 40 years later it’s been finally released on DVD and got to live a second life.

I personally love this flick, it’s a beautiful work with a whole bunch of surreal scenes, in which main character - Paul Grove sees everything around being totally zonked out of his mind – it almost induces the acid experience itself. Worth mentioning is that the character does not do it recreationally, but as a way of feeling out where to go next (it was a part of the sales pitch back then). He faces a divorce with his wife (Susan Strasberg) and he’s not satisfied with his professional life either while all around his friends freak out and discover their inner child. A movie itself is a showcase of hallucinogenic effects! We get lens flare (the same used later in "Easy Rider" by Dennis Hopper), fantasy sequences, whirling lights and whatnot. Jerky shots of Sunset Strip were directed by Hopper (he plays Max character in the movie) and Fonda definitely knows what he’s doing as an actor. It’s a real sweetness that came our way from Corman!

As a bonus for watching "The Trip" comes fantastic, obscure soundtrack by The Electric Flag (originally released on Sidewalk Records), who recorded it as their first album in ten days session. It can be considered a masterpiece of San Francisco sound! 18 tracks cut were swinging around psychedelic rock, blues, various moods of free jazz and soul. It’s here, where Mike Bloomfield unveiled himself as a genius composer, arranger and one of the up-and-coming guitar talents in USA. The music leads a viewer through all Peter’s acid trip, from the first kick-in through blows of euphoria, paranoia, searching to be saved from bad trip and "circus court" to final wear-off. To imitate peculiar vibe of the acid trip, band used whole set of weird effects including lines played by Paul Beaver on one of the first Moog synthesizers, which were quickly to possess an American psychedelic sound.

Full movie