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TRIP, THE(director: Roger Corman; screenwriter: Jack Nicholson; cinematographer: Arch R. Dalzell; editor: Ronald Sinclair; cast: Peter Fonda (Paul Groves), Susan Strasberg (Sally Groves), Bruce Dern (John, guru), Dennis Hopper (Max), Salli Sachse (Glenn), Katherine Walsh (Lulu), Barboura Morris (Flo), Luana Anders (Waitress), Dick Miller (Cash); Runtime: 85; American International; 1967)
“It sugarcoats the acid experience.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This film, a Roger Corman exploitation B-film, is a relic of the 1960s and its only value might be in helping sociologists discover what went wrong with that era’s visions of universal love. It’s a good as opposed to a bad trip movie, scripted by none other than Jack Nicholson. It sugarcoats the acid experience and promotes it as if it was a commercial for a product seen on TV. The film itself was a trip in visual clichés. It was also comical without trying to be, as I lost count of how many significant groovies, mans, and wows were said. The film was a naive work by those who weren’t as sophisticated as they thought they were about the drug scene. They just didn’t seem to know what to do with Fonda while he was on the trip and tacked on questionable and uninteresting images. The result is a film that looks and feels stilted and untrue. It should be an embarrassment for those who participated in it because of its fake Sixties hipsterisms. To try to give the film authenticity, Allen Ginsberg’s Howl is the featured book in the dealer’s groovy bookcase.

Peter Fonda is a commercial director for TV. In his private life he’s going through a divorce with Susan Strasberg and impulsively decides to take an acid trip to find something out about himself. The chick he tells this to says, “acid takers are groovy.” Well, there you are, that’s what the film is saying.

Bruce Dern acts as a guru for Fonda’s initiation into LSD, telling him “I’m gonna be here, man, trust me!” The scene is in a psychedelic decorated pad with a group of hippies passing around a joint and with Dennis Hopper dressed as a hippie-like Mexican Indian, who can’t stop saying ‘wow’ and ‘man.’ Dern and Fonda will soon leave the group and go upstairs for the LSD trip.

When the acid hits, Fonda is saying things like everything is alive, I feel energized — I’m into some beautiful stuff. He looks at a grapefruit and imagines he is holding the sun in his hands. At one point, Fonda hallucinates that Dern is dead and in his fright he runs out of the house and through his neighborhood, entering a house to talk with a little girl who wonders who he is. Fonda will later go to Sunset Strip and find himself in a psychedelic night club, but he will run away when he sees the police. He will envision a barrage of naked women images and of hooded women chasing him on horseback, sort of a Knights Templar experience.

Upon returning to drug dealer Hopper’s pad Fonda will scare him with news the police are after him, and he will be sent back to the Strip where he will talk inanely to a woman sitting in a fast-food place.

None of Fonda’s acid experiences seemed to be anything but trivial and hedonistic; the scene in the laundrymat was the only one that made me laugh. Fonda goes into the laundrymat to talk to a lady dressed in curlers doing her wash and gets involved in watching the machines spin around and annoys the lady by pulling her still wet clothes out of the dryer.

Fonda’s trip went back and forth between bouts of euphoria and a helpless feeling of dread. But when he comes down from his high, Fonda says he found what he was looking for — love. This AIP cheapie looked cheap, as even the garish visuals — which should have been super, were flat and mind-bending in the wrong way. There was nothing on this trip worth seeing. It offers a false sense of nostalgia. For those who were into acid, they should get a good laugh at the expense of someone else’s groovy trip.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”