Vicarious Pleasure: Enjoy the Jack Nicholson-penned, Roger Corman-directed THE TRIP on Blu Ray, New from Olive Films!
LSD is bad. Real bad. I mean, I’ve never tried it, but allow me to summon up Louis, a talented artist at Curtis High School in Staten Island, New York, who used to cut out of school all day and draw charming, eccentric little comics in his notebook where his math homework should be. A fan of Satanic metal band Venom (I still can’t get their most famous chorus, introduced to me by Louis, out of my head: “Evil/In League with Satan!/Evil!/In League With Satan!”) Louis was a truly nice guy, but he dropped acid habitually, and by senior year he vanished completely from school and my radar. I hope he’s OK, wherever he is, if he’s still alive. So there’s my cautionary tale. LSD: don’t do it!
But The Trip, co-written by Jack Nicholson and Charles B. Griffith and featuring Peter Fonda as a Hollywood square introduced to his first trip in the Hollywood Hills by the bearded, preternaturally calm and never trustworthy Bruce Dern, is splendid, no doubt more so with the distance of time. I don’t care about any dated 60’s trappings and attitudes. I celebrate them! From the first scene where we watch Peter Fonda direct a commercial on a beach near the Pacific Coast Highway, to the introduction of fabled Corman supporting actor Dick Miller as a bartender, followed in short order by Dern and then Dennis Hopper in his pre-cleaned up era, to all the reasonably clever ways Corman came up with to “sell” an acid trip on film in the 1960s, I ate the whole thing up. Trippy music (largely by Mike Bloomfield’s Electric Flag); hallucinations of hooded figures on horses and witches cackling in foggy caves; Fonda’s obsession with an orange; his visions of roaming around beaches with pretty girls; sex scenes with multiple partners lit by psychedelic strobing effects; it’s all fairly astonishing at this point.
Take Dern’s advice to Fonda before he pops his pill, “Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream,” and sit back for a very fast-paced 82 minutes of late 60’s fun, and feel sentimental for an era you never witnessed, or maybe did, but never had it as wonderful as these striking people surrounded by sun, sand, freeways, money, and easy access to dope and girls.
Olive Films is releasing The Trip on restored Blu Ray and DVD in Roger Corman’s preferred edit, not seen until the last few years – the notorious cautionary prologue and “broken glass” superimposition at the end of the film required by American International Pictures are no longer present, making the film’s attitude towards LSD much more undecided. Remember, I have no use for the drug; we should all get high on life, root beer and cool movies. Add The Trip to Scarface and Wall Street as one more diverting, seductive cinematic odyssey that allows us gentler souls to explore a world unknown to us vicariously, permitting us access to our less ethical and moral sides. Groovy, man.