‘The story of acid in the America of the 1960s is a story of a nation in conflict between a renewed lust for life and an enhanced drive towards death, between the rebels and the republic, the old guard Don Draper types clinging by their fingernails to the 1950s American dream as it dissolved around them, and the crazy peaceniks mocking and deriding everything that dream stood for. While dad swills a beer and cheers the bombers on the news, his kids are out in Central Park, dropping tabs and flashing peace signs. Seldom before or since in American history has the line between old and young, life and death, love and hate, conformity and free-thinking, been so sharply and clear drawn. And in the field of combat the same line existed between delusional top brass notions of “heart and minds” and the real blood-and-ambiguity-drenched quagmire of the killing field.
‘LSD erased all those lines…as well as all other artificial social constructs. It could make you very peaceful with yourself as you committed horrific violence against yourself or others, merrily merrily merrily, life is but a dream of disconnect… On acid you realize even killing can be an expression of love, just ask the Manson family, or the babysitter nuking the kid in the microwave and putting the TV dinner to bed, or Native Americans apologizing to the buffalo as they kill it, understanding that they’re killing themselves for all is connected. All murder is just projected suicide. The Native American’s knew we always only ever eat ourselves. On acid, we knew it too.
‘Taking acid certainly could prove a boost to your perception, heightening and sharpening your senses enabling the user to transcend their usual social more strait-jacket. Whether over in the war or at home, what seemed like unshakable bedrocks only hours before–marriage, church, state, government, patriarchy, tradition–became suddenly clownish, yesterday’s papers, tools of hypnosis to keep the cattle placid. Acid made killing ‘real’ to non-combatants because it shuckered them loose from the grip of the patriarchy, helped them think like the enemy, or how they imagined the enemy thought, slinking through the jungle, hard-wired and alive to every flapping beetle wing and blowing leaf, and best of all, free of all the moral inhibitions about killing. Smashing open an innocent Vietnamese farmer’s face with the butt of your rifle would be intolerable sober, but is just another freaky thing to trip out once you surrender to the fact that you’re living in a world… of… shit, as Private Pyle puts it in FULL METAL JACKET (1987).
‘An integral — though demonized by the press– part of boot camp is hazing, the beating of lagging cadets with soaps wrapped in towels, to toughen them up, give them a face-to-face taste with unendurable pain, the kind that transforms and darkens you, makes you less afraid since you know it can’t get any worse. Anything less than that level of prolonged and traumatic beating up is just business as usual from then on; the volume is turned way down. This tradition is nothing new, and corresponds to Native American rituals that involve hanging by pierced shoulder muscles until you see your white buffalo vision and know you are a man. Women have the agony of childbirth; men have to find agonies for themselves to equal it.
‘Or, you could just try taking too much acid, a sort of self-induced hazing. Either way, you have to do something to free yourself from living life in a state of fear-based wussiness… it takes a jolt to your whole body-mind-spirit in order to shake the civilized cowardice out of a man, to sever all apron string breadcrumb trails back to mommy. You can’t wait to turn savage after you’re savagely killed, by then it’s too late. You have to be already on fire to fight fire with fire.
‘This “death-embracing” aspect of LSD is something America never has been able to reconcile with its more peaceful half, just throwing baby and bathwater alike into prison and barring the door on any further conversation, at least in the US. In England the late-inning demonizing was taken with a grain of salt, and the Nietzschean rebirth from civilized wanker into super-warrior thing appears in British films to this day. Leo DiCaprio taps into it for his psychedelic interlude during a stretch of THE BEACH (2000) and Cillian Murphy finds his inner psycho for the climax of 28 DAYS LATER (2002). Shauna Macdonald (above) experiences a similar death/rebirth when falling into a pit of menstrual blood signifier slime in THE DESCENT (2005). It’s the last straw of horror that snaps her free into CARRIE-style warrior woman.
‘The Japanese have always been fans of this conversion and the slew of samurai films such as SWORD OF DOOM (1966) illustrate a cosmic understanding of the difference between sympathy and true compassion. The antihero main character played by Tatsuya Nakadai, for example, kills a weary old man he meets on a hill, just because he seems to be a burden to his granddaughter. In sword battle contests he only cares about perfection of technique, barely noticing the corpses he leaves in his wake. Perhaps the Japanese, British, and Germans for that matter, are just a little better at “going there.” May I venture to guess it comes from being bombed?
‘But Americans can’t abide freedom from resolve-weakening head games without a little help from their lysergic friends. We need far more of a push to shed our civilized moral paralysis, as we see in our terror of issues like euthanasia, castration and abortion. Comatose, paralyzed, dying patients are kept alive for years, and convicted sex offenders begging to be castrated are turned down flat. Every hospital should have a man like Willard/Kurz in APOCALYPSE NOW or SWORD OF DOOM’s Tatsuya Nakadai (above) to walk through the wards and dispassionately off the incurably sick or comatose, castrating and severing and doing whatever needs to be done. But it’s shocking just to think of it. We are too scared to face death square in the eye! Won’t someone think of the children!!?!?!’ — Acidemic
Charly (extract, 1968)
‘The psychedelic sequence, where a wounded Charly deals with Alice’s rejection of him by taking drugs, having orgies, and growing his hair long, is a goofy time capsule of 1968’s values, obsessions, and grandiosity. The Ravi Shankar soundtrack, that makes use of flutes, harpsichords, and sitar, is obtrusive in its shouting, “1968!”‘ — Danish Goska
Free Grass (a.k.a. Scream Free) (extract, 1969)
‘The film opens with swirly colored peace signs and psychedelic effects while the rock group “California Spectrum”‘ plays the title song. Then we see bad guys Phil and Barney (Casey Kasem and Warren Finnerty) driving a small camper and chasing a running longhaired hippie into a dead-end alley…where they crush him to death! Next we see Link (Russ Tamblyn) shooting up. Tamblyn must have been filming Satan’s Sadists at the same time because it looks like he walked right off that film set and onto the Free Grass set without changing his clothes or taking off his hat! Next psychedelic swirling lights, a dancing girl holding a snake and a room full of stoners smoking grass and playing guitar. Link tells stoner Dean (Richard Beymer) how to make some fast bread by smuggling grass out of Mexico. Hot chick Karen (Lana Wood, Natalie’s sister) asks Dean if he wants to take an acid trip. Next, lots of kaleidoscope trip effects.’ — The Video Beat
El Topo (trailer, 1970)
‘El Topo, a figure dressed in black and carrying his nude son on horseback behind him, uses his supernatural shooting ability to free a town from the rule of a sadistic Colonel. He then abandons his son for the Colonel’s Woman, who convinces him to ride deep into the desert to face off against four mystical gunfighters. All of the gunfighters die, but El Topo is betrayed, shot, and dragged into a cave by a society of deformed people, who ask the outlaw turned pacifist to help them build a tunnel so they can escape to a dusty western town run by degenerate religious fascists.’ — collaged
Trip to Where (1968)
‘US Navy film warning sailors against the use of LSD.’
Psychedelic Diaries (extract, 1966 – 1968)
‘Psychedelic Diaries is the title of the complete film works of Étienne O’Leary. Pillar of the underground and initiator of a new film language, Étienne O’ Leary shot his films in the effervescence of a Paris reaching May 68. The evanescent and incandescent images of O’ Leary films shows us many compatriots such as Pierre Clémenti, Jean-Pierre Bouyxou and Pierre Molinier appearing under dazzling lights.’ –– icpce
‘Tony is a retired mobster living in the suburbs with wife Flo and daughter Darlene, who has an unwelcome (to Tony) interest in dating hippies. A crime kingpin known as “God” pressures the ex-hit man into doing one last job—going undercover in Alcatraz to assassinate a stool pigeon. When Tony accidentally ingests LSD in the pen, his entire worldview is flipped and he decides to ditch the hit and break out of the clink; meanwhile, Flo and Darlene have taken it upon themselves to track down God with the help of a band of flower children.’ — 366 Weird Movies
‘Richard McGinnis 4 months ago: this is best watched on a 12 inch black and white television while tripping on 1.5 hits of blotter acid. don’t question just try it and within the first 5 minutes you will understand * Bryce Thibodeaux 6 days ago: +Richard Mcginnis That is idiotic. You need to watch this on a 40 inch flat screen and take 5 hits of acid. You want to immerse yourself in the experience and feel and breathe the colours and sounds. How can you do that on a black and white 12inch tv? * Richard McGinnis 5 days ago: the monochrome picture tube does wonders when you’re tripping, and at the beginning when he is swimming with the mermaids? hdtv got nothing on this’
The Psychedelic Priest (extract, 1971)
‘A group of teenage stoners spike Father John’s soda with LSD! Holy freak out! Father John trips his brains out amid images of religious motifs and becomes the Psychedelic Priest. Setting off across America on a journey of self-discovery, he finds love amidst hippies and heroin until hitting rock bottom on skid row. This dose of acid-drenched cinema is almost worth missing Sunday church for.’ — The Video Beat
The Hotdog (1969)
‘LSD Propaganda film. She tried the drug because she was pretty jacked-up on marijuana.’
Wonderwall (extract, 1968)
‘The movie is so freakish, it’s almost impossible to absorb. It’s hardly a “movie,” at least by the normal definition. Worth noting is that the director is the same guy who later did the fantasy sequences in the Led Zep concert movie The Song Remains the Same. If you liked that movie’s werewolves with tommy guns spurting psychedelic blood, you’d dig Wonderwall. The first thing that comes to mind, a few minutes after finishing the film, is “This must be what it’s like to do peyote, throw up, and then spend two hours staring at your vomit and marveling at how wondrous and beautiful your former lunch now looks….”‘ — San Diego Reader
The Acid Eaters (extract, 1968)
‘The bikers meet up by a lake, at a dock sporting a sign that reads, “Taking a trip? Go LSD… the only way to fly!” When they arrive, one of their members is already making it with his old lady underwater, emerging from the deep to gasp, “Welcome to the Submarine Club! You passed the test with flying colors!” There follows a long sequence of topless dancing and body-painting, then some lascivious rolling around in the grass, and then, inevitably, the slaughter of a passing motorist for pot money. (The gang’s resident artist hangs a sign around the victim’s neck, reading: “Here lies a man who lost his [drawing of donkey] so we could buy some grass.”)’ — The AV Club
Midnight Cowboy (extract, 1969)
The Big Cube (extract, 1969)
‘This amazing chunk of Mexican-lensed trippiness is a lost classic in Acid Claptrap Cinema! Kicking off with groovy credits, it’s another blast from the past, chock full of the hideous threads, hip slang, and idiocy which quickly made the late-’60s a joke. But it’s also graced with several familiar faces and a rabidly anti-LSD vibe. So prepare to turn on, tune out and laugh your ass off! An aging Lana Turner (in one of her last starring roles) plays Adriana, a famous stage actress who retires in order to marry wealthy financier Daniel O’Herlihy (currently starring in commercials for Magnavox, accompanied by a beachful of baby turtles). His teen daughter, Lisa (Karin Mossberg), is pissed off by the event, so she joins the local longhairs for an expedition to a trendy nightclub called The Trip, featuring “a new show from San Francisco” that has them dropping laced sugar cubes into their beer and blasting off. They also enjoy dosing other’s drinks (“I’m gonna cube that mother, but good.”).’ — Shock Cinema
The Hippie Revolt (extract, 1967)
‘A trail-filled trip through the world of hippie freaks in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district. Love-ins, communes, psychedelic ’60s acid-drenched fuzz guitar. The camera focuses on enclaves in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and a rural commune dubbed “Strawberry Fields.” Lots of stoner action in Golden Gate Park’s Panhandle and Hippie Hill. Psychedelic dance rituals, drug use, body painting and incoherent babbling. Terrific tripping scenes. The Hippie Revolt! Features music by The Warlocks aka the pre-Grateful Dead‘. — The Video Beat
Zardoz (trailer, 1974)
‘Hoity-toity and self-important to the point of supreme silliness, Zardoz is an odd artifact of a time in Hollywood when moviemaking and drug-taking often intertwined, to the benefit of no one but bad movie fans like us … a lushly photographed piece of psychedelic twaddle … a glittering cultural trash pile, and probably the most gloriously fatuous movie since The Oscar — although the passages between the laughs droop.’ — collaged
Mondo Mod (extract, 1967)
‘U.S. documentary. If you’re cool and outasite and like to be where the action is, then make the trip to this groovy movie where it’s all happening now! Flip out into oblivion with a mod look at the psychedelic sixties (1966 in particular) that includes stops at… The Sunset Strip, where the “Now Generation” buys their groovy & mod fashions and dances wildly in clubs like The Trip, Whisky-A-Go Go and Pandora’s Box; the beaches of Hawaii and Southern California, where beach boys surf; the road, where motorcyclists race their bikes; and the mind, where drugs like LSD enable you to turn on, tune in and discover how beautiful everything is!’ — The Video Beat
Magical Mystery Tour (trailer, 1967)
Psych-Out (extract, 1968)
‘For those interested in 1960s culture, Psych-Out acts as a rare time capsule of the 1967’s San Francisco and allows a precious glimpse into the world of the hippies at the time: from Free Shops to Guerilla Theater scenes; while trying to deal, at least superficially, with some of the issues of the era like the ideas of ego dissolution, mind expansion and bad trips. Even the talks about the STP-Fright seem highly characteristic of the time and place (STP was a major drug problem in the Haight-Ashbury around the end of 1967).’ — The Daily Psychedelic Video
Light Show (extract, 1967 – 1969)
‘Between 1967 and 1969, Ken Brown shot super 8 films to projected with the light show at Boston’s premiere rock club The Boston Tea Party. The resulting films were later edited together to make a longer untitled film, often referred to by the name Psychedelic Cinema.’ — Ken Winokur
Sebastian (extract, 1968)
‘Early in the production of Sebastian, somebody should have called a meeting to figure out what the movie was about. I guess nobody did. Strange interlude at a party, at which someone gives Dirk Bogarde LSD because the cameraman was complaining the movie was almost over and he hadn’t had a chance to try out his psychedelic special effects.’ — Roger Ebert
Curious Alice (1968)
‘This drug abuse educational film portrays an animated fantasy based upon the characters in “Alice in Wonderland.” The film shows Alice as she toured a strange land where everyone had chosen to use drugs, forcing Alice to ponder whether drugs were the right choice for her. The “Mad Hatter” character represents Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD), the “Dormouse” represents sleeping pills, and the “King of Hearts” represents heroin. Ultimately, Alice concluded that drug abuse is senseless.’ — Change Before Going
Invocation of my Demon Brother (1969)
LSD, I Hate You (trailer, 1966)
‘Producer/director Albert Zugsmith’s acid-therapy “comedy,” complete with a tinted trip sequence “in hilarious LSD color.” A suicidal film star named Honey Bunny is sent by her producer to a rest home run by an unhinged Dr. Horatio, who gives his patients LSD as a cure. The wacky patients include female impersonator Skippy Roper as an effeminate dress designer, a midget, a fat lady, and lots of actors, directors, and producers, including Zugsmith himself.’ — letterboxd.com
Wild in the Streets (trailer, 1968)
‘Max Frost and the Troopers are an extremely popular rock and roll group with all the teenagers. A series of events results in Max Frost becoming President of the United States. Everyone over 30 years old is sent to LSD camps. Psychedelic images and sounds.’ — collaged
The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart (trailer, 1970)
‘The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart is a 1970 American film made by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) about a confused college student’s experiences with sex, relationships, and drugs in late 1960s New York City. Although Richard Thomas was originally intended to play the lead role of “Stanley Sweetheart”, Don Johnson was cast after having been seen in the lead role (“Smitty”) of Sal Mineo’s Los Angeles stage production of the prison drama Fortune and Men’s Eyes. Robert Westbrook has stated that he did not like Johnson, considering him a “hustler of the worst kind” and “utterly miscast”, but was overruled by producer Martin Poll. Warhol superstar Joe Dallesandro was originally cast as “Danny,” Stanley’s older, more experienced counterculture friend, but clashed with the assistant director and was fired from the film after only one day. As reported by The New York Times and other newspapers in October 1969, MGM announced that Andy Warhol would make his commercial film debut in the movie, in his first-ever speaking role as a “freaked-out psychiatrist” in a hallucination orgy scene. It was further reported that Warhol superstars Ultra Violet, Candy Darling, and Gerard Malanga (as well as Joe Dallesandro) had also been cast in the film, with Ultra Violet playing a nurse during the hallucinated orgy scene. Candy Darling has an uncredited brief, wordless cameo reclining on a mattress in a room during the scene where Danny takes Stanley to an underground psychedelic performance. Neither Ultra Violet, Malanga nor Warhol appeared in the released film.’ — collaged
Go Forward! (extracts, 1968)
‘First there’s hidden diamonds and a mysterious girl with a big nose. Then, a sinister looking man in dark sunglasses sips milk from a straw—we see him regularly. He likes milk. There’s an airport briefcase mix-up. Lots of cool 60s mod op-art rooms and sitar music. Magical Mystery Tour-type “love child” fashions! The Spiders watch TV and see a cool garage beat group. During rehearsals for their big TV appearance, a dead guy falls out a speaker cabinet!’ — The Video Beat
Go Ask Alice (1973)
‘This is the true story of a shy, overweight teenage girl who, in an attempt to be popular, hangs out with the wrong crowd and takes drugs. In no time at all Alice goes from being a “nice girl” to comfortably fitting in with drug pushers, pimps and prostitutes. As Alice takes LSD we hear the Traffic song, “Dear Mister Fantasy.” The movie ends with a freeze frame of Alice poised to start a new school year as her mother’s voice-over informs us that Alice died of “an overdose of drugs” shortly after her 16th birthday.’ — collaged
Riot On the Sunset Strip (extract, 1967)
‘A police captain (Aldo Ray) is caught between businesses operating on the Los Angeles Sunset Strip who don’t like the punks hanging out, and his belief in allowing the kids their rights. But when his daughter (Mimsy Farmer) gets involved with an unruly bunch and gets hooked on LSD, his attitude starts to change.’ — IMDb
Performance (extract, 1970)
‘Even in an era of cinematic experimentation, Performance stands out as a visually daring major-studio film that deals with questions of sanity and identity rarely touched on in mainstream filmmaking. The elements of Performance certainly looked attractive to studio executives at Warner Bros. — a gangster on the lam hides out in the home of a reclusive rock star — especially since that musician was being played by Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones.’ — RT
Delphine (extract, 1969)
‘Delphine (Dany Carrel) is a country girl who travels to the big city in search of feminine emancipation and freedom. Attending wild parties and nightclubs, she meet a young rock star. She becomes pregnant by him and after she has an abortion, the singer could care less about her. Delphine is always followed by a little boy throughout the feature who constantly asks “what is your name?” She also confides in a boozing, middle-aged cynic who has given up on life but helps the young girl.’ — Unifrance
Fantastic Planet (trailer, 1973)
‘FP is an animated sci-psych-fi film directed by René Laloux in 1973. The story is based on the novel Oms en série, by the French writer Stefan Wul. The film depicts a future in which human beings, known as “Oms” (a word play on the French-language word hommes, meaning men), are creatures on the Draags’ home planet, where they are seen as pests and sometimes kept as pets (with collars). The landscape of the Draag planet is full of strange creatures, including a cackling predator which traps small fluttering animals in its cage-like nose, shakes them to death and hurls them to the ground. The Draag practice of meditation, whereby they commune psychically with each other and with different species, is shown in transformations of their shape and color.’ — PsyAmb
Mother Goose a Go-Go (trailer, 1966)
‘After a disastrous wedding night (i.e. no sex!), Tommy Kirk seeks help from a bikini-clad sex therapist who diagnoses LSD which causes soft-core hallucinations of scantily-clad incarnations of Goldilocks, Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White! Tommy Kirk croons several numbers including “Mother Goose A-Go-Go.” Barbara McNair sings, “Queen of Soul.” Set in Shoreham Towers (a deluxe Sunset Strip apartment house popular with the ’60s swingin’ singles set). In real life, Art Linkletter’s 20 year-old daughter Diane, plunged to her death from one of the towers’ upper windows while (rumor has it) tripping on acid.’ — The Video Beat
The Trip (1967)
‘The Trip has been called one of the worst ever made, but I’d like to take a minute and discuss that. Here’s a movie that had a pretty good idea. It came out around the time that “underground” cinema was running amok, and director Roger Corman had already been making films for 12 years. He decided to radically stretch the cinematic boundaries he had been exercising. He wanted to film an LSD trip. Although this style of filmmaking has been aped millions of times over on MTV and television commercials, it’s still a pretty radical idea. (Oh, and by the way, Jack Nicholson wrote the screenplay.)’ — Jeffrey M. Anderson
p.s. Hey. Trippy day two, as promised. The p.s. and I will be back to do what we usually do starting again tomorrow.
“Timothy Leary’s dead…” Haha. I like Israel Regardie’s quote, “I like to take it once a year to watch the trees.” Totally fun acid days. Been listening to Space Gun and the new NIN. Hope NYC was birthday cake.
Welcome back to the p.s.!
How are you? How is everything? Did you have the ‘PGL’ meeting? How’s ‘Them’? God, I wish I could go and see it!
Here, everything’s alright. Nothing special’s going on and yet I feel so utterly exhausted today, I can barely put two coherent sentences together. Geez.
I contacted the drag queen and she seems really nice. She’s into the idea of taking some pictures for SCAB. The only obstacle seems to be that she lives and works pretty far away from here (too far to visit her after work, for example) but we’ll figure something out.
I watched ‘Love, Simon’ yesterday because everyone says it’s good and sweet but I didn’t like it. I mean, it wasn’t unwatchable but it gave me nothing.
Ah, and yes! I finally bought my ticket to Amsterdam to visit my brother! It’s going to be a short trip, from the 30th of August to the 4th of September, but I’m super excited!
Okay, I can’t wait to talk to you again, Dennis! I hope everything’s amazing over there!!
I’m seeing LIFE AMONG THE ARYANS, a play by Ishmael Reed which envisions “a future in which the downtrodden among the alt-right decide they better off being black.” Not quite sure how that works, but I’m sure it will offer much politically incorrect humor.
I went to Generation Records, one of Manhattan’s few remaining record stores, and got used CDs of Godflesh’s SLAVESTATE, James Brown’s SEX MACHINE and Sade’s STRONGER THAN PARADISE. I am still startled at the store’s extensive selection of bootleg CDs by groups like Family and Man. In 2018, there’s enough of a bootleg CD market for them to carry 4 different boots by Family?
I’m sure most people know this, but GO ASK ALICE is total fiction, written by a middle-aged Mormon housewife who made a living cranking exploitative B-novels.
Here’s my take on the re-release of Godard’s LES CARABINIERS: https://read.kinoscope.org/2018/06/22/g-joke-jean-luc-godards-les-carabiniers/
Hi Dennis! I hope the shows have been success. I couldn’t make it yet for some reason I wrote over email, but I’m also too too busy. So much work to do. But will be there sometime this coming week. Ideally 25, I hope. I hope NYC has been treating you very well.
Nice compilation, but there is a jarring anachronism in the introductory essay: people didn’t have microwave ovens in the 1960’s. (Yes, the technology existed long before that, but ask anyone who was there).
Mimsy Farmer went to Europe after Riot on Sunset Strip and made More with Barbet Schroeder. Aldo Ray went on to make The Green Berets with John Wayne. So this movie helped them both, I guess. There was a reference to Diane Linkletter, who did jump from that balcony in 1969. But she almost certainly wasn’t on LSD as her father would claim (and promote). John Waters made a short film a year later depicting the event.
I’ve been searching for years for a TV show episode I saw when I was a kid in about 1965 – It was a TV series about the California Highway Patrol (way before CHIPS). In it, the cops were trying to apprehend a motorist who preyed on CHP officers – his car would drop things that would impede pursuit in various ways. He dressed in a clown suit I believe.
A doctor gives a CHP officer “an experimental drug that will speed up your reaction time tremendously”…..but the gist was it was LSD, not an amphetamine (the compound is never named AFAIK),
In the finale,the motorcycle officer follows the perp, who opens the trunk and dumps a bunch of logs and stuff, but due to the experimental drug, the officer is able to dodge the litter and catch the perp……anyone else remember this?
Imagine, a cop show using LSD as a law enforcement tool! Anyone else remember this?
It’s almost unbelievable now, but this was a popular show, and I remember being very impressed by it.