The Trip (1967)

AIP, 1967
P/D: Roger Corman, W: Jack Nicholson

Dateline, March, 1967: The Riot on Sunset Strip (Nov. 1966) was history, and all of the Teen Beat and Garage Punk Sensations that defined the era were fading fast with the hip clubs either changing face or waiting for the wrecking ball and the bands trying to hold on tight to the changing scene. There were new bands that were on the rise, with The Doors already making waves, and the Hippie scene turning into a major trend after The Gathering of the Tribes in SF made news, with one of the major drugs of choice being LSD…made illegal in California back in Oct. 1966 and a major news item.

Roger Corman, then in his most happening era in Exploitation film making with plenty of Hipsters to work for him in their rise to fame, was there at the right time. While he was not the first to use LSD as a part of a film’s story, as HG Lewis already beat most to the punch by including it in the plot for the aptly titled Something Weird back in 1966, Corman made the best Acid Exploitation film of them all. Along with scenester Jack Nicholson, who would later write the script for the legendary Head for the Monkees in 1968, and star Peter Fonda, who was riding high with The Wild Angels being a major Drive In flick that ushered in the Biker Film, the scene was set for a perfect film that captured the mood and of the time as well as the fears of the Status Quo thanks to a tacked-on warning at the start and the infamous added-on-by-AIP “Window Crack” effect at the end.

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Meet Paul Groves, successful Commercial Director (Fonda), already wrapping up a shoot for a Perfume ad with the only guy “who could walk well on water,” and it’s not a Biblical reference (The line must have heated up the Ultra-Conservatives in the audience just after the fury over John Lennon’s “The Beatles are more popular than Jesus Christ” remark). He’s about to get divorced from Sally (Susan Strasberg), and while he’s putting on a brave face, things are about to crack just a bit, but in true Corman style there’s no time to waste as the scene take up to where he meets his “Guide,” John (Bruce Dern). This immediately brings the viewer to a ride down The Strip, once heavy with Swingers, Teenyboppers, and Mods now being almost barren until the night hours, all the way down to a big house near Downtown LA known that was one of it’s most noted Hippie hangouts.

Dick Miller, Bruce Dern, Peter Fonda

Dick Miller, Bruce Dern, Peter Fonda


The Psychedelic Temple, Downtown LA

The Psychedelic Temple, Downtown LA


Dennis Hopper as the Hippest Host in the City

Dennis Hopper as the Hippest Host in the City

Max (Dennis Hopper) is the host of a Hippie Hang-Out, and tells a tale that possibly holds the record for saying “Man!” in a record amount of time as the smoke gets passed around the circle with John oddly passing up on it. Relaxing among the Hippies, Paul gets comfortable and walks around meeting up with the hot, more Mod like Glenn (Salli Sachse) before finally going on “The Trip” which takes up the rest of the film. The viewer is starting to wonder about John by this time…he’s rejected the joint, seems more like a straight Psychiatrist in a wanna-be hip beard, and seems not to be really with it…oh well, one could see the lack of Hip in John adding onto the psyching out that will commence through the film, and that’s only adding on to the classic freaking out.

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Holding court at what was known as the house of Arthur Lee (Of the legendary band Love, who were by then in their Da Capo era), John tries to guide Paul on his Trip, and already he has a flash of Glenn. Taking a rest, he lets the colors fly by until he sees himself on a shore, thinking about Glenn and his soon-to-be-Ex, until he views himself in something resembling one of the Poe films that Corman made earlier in the decade. With the trip visualizing some Medieval era, then some heavy reflection on his relationship with Sally, Paul starts to freak when he imagines himself dying.
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With moments that suggest that Paul and Sally had a Miscarriage and that they were unfaithful to each other (Michael Blodgett later of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is in a cameo with Strasberg), it’s no wonder why he’s in a middle of a crisis, and sadly John is not really the one to offer any help with or without chemicals. More helpful is the vision of talking to Max in a Psychedelic Carnival setting, the point where Hopper stands out in this film, serving as a main point in this story where the Commercial maker is faced with the nature of his work (“Lies”) and the falling down of the relationship. Back in the real world, freaking out by the closet (Famed with Arthur Lee fans as the place where he stored food for his dog), the so-called Guide does an unthinkable action considering that Paul is already on what many would call today a meltdown by walking away, allowing Paul to leave the house and walk all over LA in a drugged mania.

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Strolling into a Middle Class family’s home, teaching the lesson never to leave the doors unlocked, he meets up with the child daughter, and although there was nothing evil about the stroll in, it did wake the parents up enough for them to call the police. Running around The Strip, and even grooving with the Dryer in the laundry mat as he sees images of his wife, he manages to walk into the club we saw at the beginning and getting a talk-down by the waitress. Noticing the cops, he starts to see a dancer in a cop helmet and starts to run away as Glenn walks in, and while the police miss him, he finally meets up with his new love back at Max’s pad.

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After driving back to her place, Glenn and Paul for one final sexy moment on the come down, where a final image flight happens, where it’s realized that Sally and Glenn were the women chasing him on horses through the trip. the next morning, Paul wakes up, feeling refreshed, and then we hear the infamous added on final “Well what about tomorrow?” conversation with the “Cracked Window” effect that was never supposed to be there. It obviously was a square-up for the Squares, making it easier to play, and it was not really needed, but when all is done, the Trip remains one of the best Drug Exploitation flicks of the day.

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With classic Exploitation Cinema Freak Out music by a band who would turn out to be The Electric Flag, a script that was influenced by a personal break-up and a controlled condition experiment with LSD, some of the cast (Notably minus Dern, who was not really with the scene as future interviews admit) and Corman taking the drug during it’s production, and classic visual effects by a team that included Allan Daviau (Now a noted Cinematographer who’s credits include E.T., Van Helsing, and video for The Doors’ LA Woman) and Roger George (Who’s work in Special Effects has stayed in touch with Corman through the years including Rock and Roll High School among many others), it’s a classic of it’s kind, and look for the line-up at The Whiskey a Go Go that shows it’s Post-Riot Soul era. The August, 1967 release was perfectly timed for the fears of the world of the Hippie in Middle America as it started to know more about it thanks to constant reports and features as well as some of the best hits of 1967, and the exploitation for the film added onto it’s marque value (A Lovely Sort of Death was the well-known ad line). The Trip remains one of the most visual films of it’s era, living up to the hype instead of being a Exploitation film that’s strictly made by Squares for the Squares, and still plays well as a time piece featuring the great work of future stars of The 70’s and beyond.

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~ by screen13 on August 8, 2009.

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