The Trip (1967)
There is an old expression, "you had to be there". Basically it refers to an event or situation that a person would have difficulty in comprehending as a result of as lack of a common point of reference. It is particularly applicable when considering the movie ‘The Trip’. Its theatrical release was in 1967, the year of the turning point of the post-WWII generation. This was a time usually remembered for mottos such as "Sex, drugs, and rock and roll", "don’t trust anyone over thirty" and "'hell no I won’t go, but if you were born after the digital revolution than they are more than likely meaningless. I guess you had to be there. ‘The Trip’ is the sort of movie that is inexorably entwined with the generation that created it. its star, Peter Fonda was a couple of years away from becoming an iconic symbol of the sixties with his appearance in ‘Easy Rider’, the first counter-culture film to gain mainstream recognition with a pair of Academy Awards. ‘The Trip’ is nowhere near the quality of cultural significance of that film but it highly descriptive of the zeitgeist of its generation. The youth were actively rejecting the control and values of their parents. The generation gap was in full effect and campuses were the site of protests against the Vietnam War. This film, as the title clearly notes, is about the predilection for the youth to experiment with drugs, especially those capable of inducing an altered state of consciousness; Lysergic acid diethylamide, better known as LSD or simply acid. In the social environment as explored in the movie drugs represented a significantly greater part of the counter-culture than merely getting high. It represented rebellion of the status quo and the rejection of the adult’s conceptualization of what the future should hold for their children. There is actually a necessity to this prologue as a precursor for any realistic consideration of the movie.
Paul Groves (Peter Fonda) earns his living as a director of television commercials. . While not artistically satisfying it does make ends meet. Paul is depressed and is in the process of getting a divorce from his wife Sally ((Susan Strasberg), who has a predilection for adultery. Craving a new experience removed from his current circumstances he arranges to take LSD. Not wanting to take the trip on his own he relies on the assistance of an experienced guide, John (Bruce Dern). He goes to the home of his friend, Max (Dennis Hopper) to pick up the drug before going to meet up with John. During his trip Paul the end is around the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. He drips into various nightclubs as well as homes of acquaintances and even strangers. The psychedelic experience brings Paul to consider a number of rather weighty topics such as commercialism during his part as direct TV ads. His mind drifts through the women in his life in the various roles they play. During this time he meets a young woman, Glenn (Salli Sachse), who has an interest in people who are taking LSD curious as to what is driving the growing use of this drug. Previously Paul had expressed his plans to experiment with acid she has been out looking for him that night.
The film was directed by the Grand Master of the ‘B’ flick, Roger Corman. He is literally made hundreds of films as producer director and writer. He was also a major contributor to the underground film movement that gained stance are influenced during this time period. His informal ‘Corman Film School’ hello has produced some of the most well-respected and award-winning filmmakers including Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, James Cameron and Francis Ford Coppola. He taught a generation of actors and directors how to best use their talents and expand their artistry. He also infused in his protégés the importance of remaining on schedule and coming in under budget. This film is an example of that philosophy having been made with an estimated budget of $450,000 engrossing over $10 million of the beginning of 1970. This is an extremely important consideration for filmmakers of this era were searching for different ways to express themselves exploring innovative use of lighting and color. It wanted to film and LSD trip in this movie represented his attempt to do so. Some may be surprised to learn that Jack Nicholson was a screenwriter this movie. In order to prepare for the film Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson took LSD together. Jack Nicholson had previously taken LSD under controlled conditions in university laboratory. Much of his experiences form the foundation of the story. Several aspects of Mr. Nicholson’s life found their way into the storyline as he was also getting a divorce and his first wife. Not to be left out Roger Corman also feeling the only way could honestly portray an acid trip was have personally experienced it. Details of the storyline serve only as a scaffold to help define the characters from the audience.
Paul is a man who works for the establishment specifically an advertising agency. His job was to create commercials that would induce people to embrace consumerism by purchasing even more material objects. To use the vernacular of the time Paul sold out to the materialistic establishment turning his back on using his talent for purely artistic expression. By taking an acid trip Paul was hoping to tap into his inner creativity and to expand his consciousness to better appreciate it. Much of the film are a series of thrilling colors and shapes accompanied by bizarre images that encompass a bizarre sights as chased through the woods by men on horses, a blonde young woman in a white dress and a little person offering him a bowl of water. I remember back in the film was released people were debating the meaning of such images and what they could reveal about Paul’s inner personality. The soundtrack by ‘The American Music Band’ reflected the growing trend in psychedelic influences in popular music. The visual effects truly showcased imagination of cinematographer Arch R. Dalzell. Working with Mr. Corman managed to create some sense of what people would expect from an acid trip. He might’ve identified with the character of Paul to some degree considering that most of Mr. Dalzell’s career was as a director of photography various television series including many of the 50s most popular genre, the western as well as a couple of exceptionally popular comedies, ‘Mister Ed’ and space ‘The Addams Family’. The imagery used in this movie was on the vanguard of a trend that would permeate through similar almost the next decade. I had the DVD addition of this movie was rather lackluster with the software color palette and rather bland soundtrack but this was rectified completely with its upgrade to high definition by Olive Films. They have become the go to source for a growing number of cold classics being released on Blu-ray.