Roger Corman is arguably the most important filmmaker who bridged the gap between old Hollywood and the New Hollywood of the late ’60s and the ’70s. He discovered many of the directors and actors who would become synonymous with that era of filmmaking. The films he directed after his Edgar Allan Poe cycle are some of the first films to deal with the burgeoning counter-culture of the mid to late ’60s, the first of these films was The Wild Angels. The next however was an even more daring film in subject matter and cinematic form, it was The Trip which dealt with LSD which had only recently been criminalised in 1966. He also got a young actor turned screenwriter who had dreams of being a director called Jack Nicholson to write the screenplay who had a lot of experience with the drug scene of the time.
Peter Fonda stars as the TV commercial director Paul Groves who is having personal problems due to his divorce from his wife played by Susan Strasberg. He enlists the help of Bruce Dern who gives him some acid which is ironic since Bruce Dern was the squarest guy in Corman’s troupe of actors, he never drank let along do mild altering substances. The rest of film is basically Groves running about the streets and clubs of L.A completely off his tits trippin’ balls. Dennis Hopper speaking of druggy freaks shows up as another LSD guru, a role which wasn’t a bit stretch for him at the time.
The film’s real power comes from the experimental style Corman used to show the acid trip Groves experiences. The visuals to some extent were inspired by Corman’s own LSD experience, he didn’t feel he do a film on the subject justice without doing it once himself. Corman and a gang of others drove up to Big Sur and according to the man himself he had a great experience but knew due to censorship he would have to talk to people who had “bad trips” and incorporate in the film. He did however want to make a non judgment film on the subject even though the film has a slight cop-out ending which the producers demanded on.
The visuals were mostly inspired by the typical lights shows which the then current psychedelic bands like Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead had accommodating their sets. Corman used many individuals who were doing the light rigs to help him do the coloured lights which are throughout the parts of the film when Groves is trippin’. Corman even in a medieval part trip segment even reuses a matte painting from his Edgar Allan Poe film House of Usher. Corman also used radical quick cuts which were partially inspired by his own acid trip experience, european cinema and even the avant-garde films of Kenneth Anger.
The film’s score was done by the The Electric Flag who made sort of psych tinged blues jazz improve stuff who were led by Mike Bloomfield. The band however is the club scenes is in fact Gram Parson’s garagey country group The International Submarine Band but their music wasn’t deemed trippy enough so it was overdubbed. It sadly doesn’t have the garage rock soundtracks that the similar Riot on Sunset Strip, Psych-Out or Wild in the Streets had but it still works.
The film was refused classification four times in 1967, 1971, 1980 and 1988 in the UK. This was mostly down to the perceived pro-drug message of the film which is ludicrous to anybody who watches the film now and even in the ’80s notes they admit it was “dated” but still considered a film which might inspire people to take the drug. It was finally passed in 2004 for a DVD release. The Trip remains one of Corman’s most daring films and starts the beginning of the end of his solid run of directing films from the late ’50s throughout the ’60s and into the early ’70s where he would turn his hand to producing films more. It’s also safe to say without The Trip and The Wild Angels, Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider which starred Peter Fonda, Hopper and Jack Nicholson probably wouldn’t have happened.
Signal One Entertainment has a worldwide Blu-Ray debut here, the transfer is the best the film has looked and ever look for that matter. The disc is fairly loaded with features which include all the features from the Region 1 DVD which were never on the rather shoddy UK release. Roger Corman does a commentary track on the film but also on an original prologue and ending. The disc also has a short featurette titled “Tune In, Trip Out” on the film with includes interviews with some of the cast and crew. The cinematographer Allen Daviau talks about the film and he would later on shoot much of Steven Spielberg’s work in the ’80s. The disc is rounded off by a psychedelic light montage and a still gallery of posters, lobby cards etc.
Drama | USA, 1967 | 18 | Signal One Entertainment | 4th January 2016 | Dir.Roger Corman | Peter Fonda, Susan Strasberg, Bruce Dern, Barboura Morris, Dennis Hopper |Buy:[Blu-ray]