Movies about drugs are kind of tricky. Aside from "Trainspotting" and Paul Morrissey's "Trash" when's the last time you remember a fun movie about heroin? I used to delight in watching audiences filing out of a screening of "Requiem For A Dream" looking like they had just been hit in the face with a shovel. But LSD movies were all about the visual- and filmmakers had a ball trying to translate that experience onto film. Director Roger Corman dropped acid before he made "The Trip" for authenticity. Otto Preminger tripped with Timothy Leary before he filmed "Skidoo!" and you know how that turned out. Here are ten films that will take you back to the era of free love, bell bottoms, sandals, love beads and strobe lights.
The Tingler (1959) Believe it or not, Vincent Price was one of the first actors to trip on film in this William Castle horror great about a doctor investigating "fear" who shoots up LSD and records his experience into a tape recorder. Within seconds his vision blurs, the room closes in on him and a skeleton in his lab has him screaming like a white woman.
The Trip (1967) Peter Fonda plays a TV-commercial director who decides to experiment with LSD. Bruce Dern is his "guide" for this journey of self discovery. But when Fonda starts tripping his brains out he runs from the house and goes into nightclubs and a laundromat where he grooves out on the dryer.
Psych-Out (1968) "Listen to the sound of purple" screamed the ads for this enjoyable movie produced by Dick Clark (!). It stars Susan Strasberg as a 17-year-old deaf runaway who arrives in Haight-Ashbury at the height of the hippie scene. Searching for her lost brother she runs into a guitarist Stoney (played by a young pony-tailed Jack Nicholson) who takes her under his wing and drives her around in his ugly psychedelic painted van. They enlist the help of Dave (long-haired Dean Stockwell) who lives in a box on a roof and says things like "It's one big plastic hassle, man." When they find her brother (Bruce Dern) he is a self-styled holy man who lives at the city dump and preaches "God is alive and well in a sugar cube." A fabulous uncut Blu-ray is now available on Olive Films.
Wild In The Streets (1968) Christopher Jones plays a messianic rock star who becomes President of the United States on the platform that 52% of the country is under 25 and 30 is over the hill. He puts his own mother (Shelley Winters) in an "acid concentration camp" and Richard Pryor doses the DC water supply. Former Brady Bunch star Barry Williams plays a terrorist in this mind-blowing satire.
Riot On Sunset Strip (1967) This was filmed during the actual teen riots in L.A. and footage was incorporated into the movie. Aldo Ray plays a police captain trying to keep the peace on the streets while his rebellious daughter (Mimsy Farmer) hangs with a bad crowd who like to break into stranger's homes and party. She is slipped LSD and goes into a fabulous elongated freak-out dance that goes on and on and on until your brain explodes.
The Hallucination Generation (1966) George Montgomery (with a cheesy medallion around his neck) is Eric, a self-styled guru, amateur chemist, and scumbag drug dealer who gathers kids at his swinging pad and slips his homemade concoctions into their drinks. A young drifter whose parents cut him off comes under his spell and slides into a life of crime and drugs. There are funny psychedelic sequences in this movie whose ads screamed: "Tonight you are invited to a pill party!" Why, thank you!
The Big Cube (1969) Lana Turner trips!! Yes, in this howler, Lana plays a famous stage actress whose daughter Lisa (Karin Mossberg) has been hanging with a druggy crowd at a club called the Trip. Lisa hooks up with a groovy fortune hunter named Johnny Moss (George Chakiris) and they conspire to lace mom's sedatives with LSD to drive her insane and inherit her money. The jaw-dropping finale has Lana's LSD experience reenacted on a stage in front of an audience, and George Chakiris crawling across the floor of a seedy apartment swallowing cubes of acid and babbling to an ant. A must see!
Mantis In Lace (1968) A bizarre film (also known as Lila) about a psychotic go-go girl who lures men to an abandoned warehouse while freaked out on LSD and hacks them up with a meat cleaver. The cinematography is by Laszlo Kovacs (Easy Rider) and the DVD out on Something Weird Video has over 100 minutes of never-before-seen outtakes.
Skidoo (1968) Otto Preminger made a counter-culture LSD musical starring old people. Jackie Gleason plays an ex-mobster who escapes from prison by dosing the prison with acid and flying off in a hot-air balloon. Carol Channing screeches out the title song in a Rudi Gernreich-designed admiral's outfit. There are cameos by Mickey Rooney, George Raft, Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith and Peter Lawford. And the final credits are entirely sung by Harry Nilsson while Groucho Marx (as God) sails away smoking a joint. This will scare you away from drugs forever. I love this mess and it's on Blu-ray in The Otto Preminger Collection from Olive Films.
Blue Sunshine (1978) Another terrific film from director Jeff Lieberman with a really wild premise featuring people losing their hair and going on homicidal killing sprees. Zalman King plays a young man falsely accused of one of the murders racing around trying to clear his name. All roads lead to a batch of LSD that was taken at Stanford University over 10 years ago. Mark Goddard plays a sleazy politician at the center of this oddball mystery. Who knew that if you dropped acid you would become a hairless psycho? Movies do teach you everything. Far out!