"Riot On Sunset Strip" is a shitty movie even for AIP standards. Initially made for MGM by "Jungle" Sam Katzman (one of the worst genre directors you can imagine credited here as Arthur Dreifuss), a picture exploited actual riot on L.A.’s Sunset Strip, which happened when local shop owners felt their businesses were going down due to permanent presence of the local hippies and used police force to chase them away. Katzman shot his picture straight after "the riot" to use running media exposure as a sales pitch, but MGM was slow in getting the movie into theatres, hence it landed eventually in AIP office. Sam Arkoff liked the idea and agreed to distribute this dumb flick, nevertheless it flopped in the drive-ins… not without a reason.
The basic plot is duller than dull – it exploits teenage kicks in a very down-beat, sloppy way. Centre of the action is Pandora’s Box club on Sunset Blvd, where local garage groups play and where young hipsters burn their time. Indeed there we get to to recognise the rising tension between the rebelious youth and local squares. Insights are provided by members of the city hall, policemen and parents, who won’t stand these dropouts anymore and demand action. As interesting as it may sound, this potential is destroyed by initial, ridiculous voice-over, very baaad script and even worse acting! There’s not much to enjoy in "Riot On Sunset Strip", in terms of filmmaking values, unless you are a vegetable. How then did it get to be recognised as a kind of a 60’s cult movie?
The answer is very simple, it’s all about the music – the only thing here, which doesn’t let you fall asleep. One of these rare 60’s exploitation flicks giving you an opportunity to look into the garage scene. We get to see on stage such bands as: The Standells, The Mugwumps, The Chocolate Watchband and The Enemies – all full of fuzz, obscure, cult combos in 60’s garage fan circuit. If there’s one point to watch this movie, here you have it as the soundtrack is brilliant and SO RARE! It was released on Sidewalk Records the same year and probably sold much better than the movie itself.
Still, there’s one scene, that every 60’s drugsploitation fan needs to dig. It’s been tossed down together with this crap, but an absolute gem anyway – young Mimsy Farmer on acid… happening when teens think this whole club is a drag and hit the pad. "She’s never been trippin’ before… it’s the acid, sweetie", her character hears first from one of these immoral kittens. She’s trembling from fear and says no to the drug, but she will eventually get loaded when handed a well-intentioned glass of cola. She licks the sky and dances wildly – what these strange drugs will do with the kids, man! Giallo fans will find it interesting that Mimsy acted later in Dario Argento’s "Four Flies On Grey Velvet" (1971) and then in Lucio Fulci's "Black Cat" (1981). That’s the kind of pussycat she was.
[The movie can be purchased from Cinema de Bizarre]