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8 Jan 2013

THE TRIP (1967)

By David Lee Andrews   Posted at  07:30   ROGER CORMAN

The Trip Cover Wow man! Look at that up in the sky! It's a naked lady dancing with nine pink elephants. Yikes! Look at that behind you! It's a naked elephant dancing with nine pink ladies. My God! Look at that in front of you! It's a film Directed by Roger Corman; and Starring Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Bruce Dern, Susan Strasberg, and Salli Sachse. It was made in 1967 and lasted a whole 85 minutes. Cool!


The Trip


THE STORY:
Hey, cool cats. I have a question for you. Who's happy one minute, sad the next, and runs round with a glassy-eyed expression etched upon his face? No. It's not a politician whose been caught fiddling his own political funds. It my mate, Paul Groves (Peter Fonda), smashed out of his face on LSD!

Now you do know who Paul is, don't you? Paul's a groovy commercial executive that looks a lot like Fred from 'Scooby Doo', and has recently bought some 'good sh*t' from his hippy buddy, Max (Dennis Hopper), whilst his bearded buddy, John (Bruce Dern), looks over him, just in case he has a bad trip.

However, in hindsight, I'm afraid to say that Paul doesn't make it very easy for John to accomplish this holistic task. On a more positive note, Paul does start off his 'expedition' by hallucinating on some really 'far out' experiences -- like making love to his ex-wife, Sally (Susan Strasberg), for example, or getting the horn from the thought of canoodling with the buxom, Glenn (Salli Sachse), too. Whilst, on a more negative note, Paul gets 'freaked out' by visions of death over time, as well as what his true vocation in life really is

Ouch! Now I'm sure that you will agree with me when I say that all of this does sounds pretty heavy, huh? But I kid you not, it's not as heavy as when Paul pops a gasket and sees John lying dead in front of him -- stiff as a square.

But then again that's most probably why what next transpires truly begins when Paul decides to take a stroll in the concrete jungle. As children are stirred - laundrettes are deterred - night-clubs take a twist - and please remember, not all you can see can actually be kissed.




THE REVIEW:
Now before I give you my yadda-yadda-yadda on this surreal slice of sixties cinema, please allow me to present to you some 'Trip' related filmic-facts first. (1) This movie was released by 'American International Pictures' in 1967, and out of a $450,000 dollar budget, it's made $10,000,000 dollars back at the box office. (2) 'Little Shop of Horror's' screenwriter, Charles B. Griffith, wrote an early draft of this script, but he was quickly replaced by actor, Jack Nicholson, because at the time the director, Roger Corman, wanted to encourage Jack's experimental writing style. (3) This picture was rejected by the BBFC on four different occasions before it could be aired in England, as it was considered as 'adverse promotion' for the use of LSD. Thankfully, it wasn't until 2002, when the British satellite channel, FilmFour, broadcast an uncut version of this movie on television, which paving the way for it be released on DVD -- almost 37 years after its first submission. (4) At the beginning of this film you can see the 'International Submarine Band' strutting their musical stuff. But it wasn't them you could hear. Oh no. It was the blues / rock / soul group, 'The Electric Flag', who provided some of the music for this movie as well. (5) Roger Corman took some LSD prior to making this film, just so he'd know what it was actually like. However, because he had a 'good experience' with this substance, he had to ask the writer, Jack Nicholson, what it was like to have a 'bad experience', due to the fact Jack wrote the screenplay whilst taking LSD under controlled laboratory conditions. On a side note, actor, Bruce Dern, did not want to partake in this type of research whatsoever. (6) Originally Jack Nicholson wrote the part of John for himself, but Roger Corman wanted Bruce Dern instead. (7) This was the picture Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda both starred in prior to their 1969 classic road-movie, 'Easy Rider'. Although in this film they swapped roles aesthetically -- Peter as the paranoid one, where as Dennis was the calm one. (8) Allegedly Roger Corman edited this movie to conform to budgetary restraints, and to give the overall production a wilder and more surreal edge to it.


Peter in The Trip


OK, so did you take note of point 8 and point 5 of my trivia spurge, dear reader? Good. Then you might be able to hazard a guess at what I thought about 'The Trip'.

You see, as soon as I saw this flick, I nigh on guessed at two of the facts prior to researching them. Firstly, that Jack must have been on drugs whilst writing this piece -- because of the rather surreal and fractured narrative. And secondly, that most of the people involved with this movie must have taken L.S.D. during their lives as well -- because they all looked stoned out of their collective minds.


The Trip Film Poster


But hold on: there was another impression I took away with me after watching this picture too. Conceptually speaking, it reminded me of a reality based television program, in the way that the characters in this adventure walked around aimlessly as if they did not know what was going on from one moment to the next. Granted, this could be perceived as a good thing in retrospect-- i.e. acting without acting. Yet, I found that it did not help the story either -- for use of a better word.

Well, why should anyone care about what happens to any of the guys or the girl in 'The Trip', if you don't know anything about them apart from the rudimentary exposition? That's my main gripe with this piece. Not the acting. Or the message behind this film. Why aren't the characters given more scope and depth? Why not spill a bit of back-story here and there, just to make the overall 'journey' that much more relatable?

Now if I could relate, then I wouldn't want any of the characters to come to harm, would I? Also, if Peter's character was introduced in a more familiar manner, I'd understand why he wanted to 'open his mind', and on some level be more compliant towards his yearnings and desires.

Do you see what I'm driving at, dear reader? No depth to the roles, although an intriguing subject for film.


Dennis and Peter in The Trip


Still, all in all I would have to say that 'The Trip' a so-so slice of sixties cinema. The pretext is fairly captivating. The direction is very art-house. The acting is mannered yet placid at the same time. And the story isn't really a story; it's a way of life that's very alternate to say the least.   

 Like reality television. Say no more.

THE RATING: C+

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