Monday, November 5, 2007

"Psych Out"(1968)d/Richard Rush

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This bizarre cult classic is the result of a script that Jack Nicholson wrote for director Richard Rush that Rush felt was too experimental for the mainstream.After being re-written as a San Francisco youth film dealing with "flower power" and drugs by other writers,Nicholson ended up in the lead male role,writing his own character's dialogue.The end product, which boasts of many big name actors in outrageous roles, was produced by Dick Clark(!).
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Stoney(Jack Nicholson) plus spleefie plus clip-on ponytail equals cinematic gold!
Jenny(Susan Strasberg of "The Trip" fame),is a teenaged deaf runaway mute arriving in the Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco looking for her brother Steve(Bruce Dern in a hippie wig),or as he's known by his followers..."The Seeker".She soon realizes this task is harder than it sounds,having only a postcard that reads "Jess saes" and "God is alive and well in a sugar cube." and being in the middle of a community of kooks.At a coffeehouse she meets Stoney(Nicholson),Ben(Adam Roarke), and Elwood(Max Julien),members of a local psychedelic band called Mumblin' Jim,who help hide her from the fuzz(one of which being Gary Marshall) who are asking around about her.They take her back to their happening crash pad,where hippies keep baby alligators in the refrigerator,talk to their pet louse(he's named...Manny),stare at crystals and web the place up in strings of plastic beads when they aren't making out or smoking grass,maaaaan.Stoney digs playing music...or rather holding his guitar while Hendrix rip off studio bands like The Storybook and The Boenzee Cryque pipe in music.His fretboard doesn't see much work as his hands never move,but like,who's paying attention,maaaan?Dave(Dean Stockwell in a hippie wig and groovy headband) is also in Mumblin' Jim,but considers fame a big plastic hassle,so he sits in a cardboard box on a rooftop,staring at the lone beam of light that shines through the top...because that's all there is,maaaan.
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Mumblin' Jim play Kalaideoscope...or maybe it's Red River Dream.
Now Stoney digs Jenny enough to help her look for her brother,even scrapping with a junkyard gang(when's the last time you saw a good junkyard gang?) when the hippies find The Seeker's burned out psychedelic Volkswagon in the local junkyard(Elwood,banged out on LSD sugarcubes,saves the day when he imagines himself a prince vanquishing a dragon after being a frog kissed by a,but Stoney's a real ladies man who likes his freedom,with no strings attached.Hell,chicks even pop up from under his bed looking to make it with him(remember,Nicholson wrote this).It's a real bad scene when Warren(director Henry Jaglom with paste on crepe wool mutton chop sideburns) the artist freaks out down at the gallery on an STP trip.When his usual hallucinogenic home remedy of snapping his fingers doesn't stop him from seeing a few things,he naturally tries to circular saw his own hand off.Jenny doesn't understand why people take powerful drugs,but Nietzche says...just don't judge people,maaaan.
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"Yeah, I'm...I'm fine. Now I've been seeing a couple things but.. I can come out of it anytime I want to. You know all...all...all I have to do is... is snap my fingers and I come out of it." Warren(Henry Jaglom),snap your fingers,man.
The hippies tackle Warren to the ground,saving him from his own twisted mind,when Jenny notices a statue of some tin foil flames that her brother made,taking her one step closer to finding The Seeker.Now in the meantime,Ben stages a mock hippie funeral in the park with garage rock legends,The Seeds, playing and a mock priest(?) with a crepe wool Amish beard giving last rites,culminating in some dame making it with him in his coffin.Stoney's pals know how to party,maaaaan.The inevitable happens,and Mumblin' Jim is booked to play the ballroom,on the bill with Strawberry Alarm Clock(who could forget their smash hit,"Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow"),so Stoney tries to coax Dave out of his rooftop box to play the gig with them,but Dave would rather groove with Jenny.At this point,Stoney catches The Seeker breaking into the gallery to steal back his tin foil flames statue which he needs....for meditation(huh?).Steve tells Stoney the sordid tale surrounding Jenny's dysfunctional childhood,causing her to spew black motor oil and worms out of her mouth(!),forever robbing her of her ability to hear(common medical condition,in those days).The Seeker promises to see her,but only after he's had a day to get his head straight.
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Bruce Dern IS...The Seeker.
The band play the ballroom gig,in true "Archies" fashion,but when Steve shows up,so does the lovable junkyard gang to stomp some sense into his hippie wig.There's a chase,but Steve sets a building on fire and prefers to die in it,grooving off the flames.Outta sight,maaaaan.In the meanwhile,Dave,in true chivalrous fashion,gets Jenny to drink a whole glass of STP with him,causing her to wander off into traffic,trapping herself between two lanes of speeding cars in the night.Stoney and the boys rescue her,but not before Dave gets knocked around like a human pinball,being hit by multiple cars,exclaiming,"Reality is a deadly place...I hope this trip is a good one.",before calling it a permanent day.Heavy,man,heavy.
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Julien,Nicholson,and Roarke,grooving.
I love throwing this one on every once in awhile for some good unintentional laughs.I doubt Jack Nicholson and Dick Clark were ever the finger on the pulse of the psychedelic hippie community,but their take on it,certainly makes for repeated bizarre viewings.MGM released this on dvd as a double-bill with equally far out Peter Fonda vehicle,"The Trip"(first acid trip,hmmm...I think I need Bruce Dern as a chaperone...yeah,bad idea.).Get out your favorite bubbler("medicinal" purposes only),some plastic beads,and a clip on ponytail,and return to those flowery days of sixties yesteryear with Dean Stockwell and his STP punch,You'll be glad you did.
Four out of four B.W.'s

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