Film, Go To

GO-TO: The Trip (1967) dir. Roger Corman

Screening at Coolidge Corner Theater on 3/18


Watching a man trip on LSD for an hour might not be in Cosmopolitan‘s top ten acts of self-care, or even a movie lover’s recommendation for a guaranteed good time. However, one should acknowledge that making this kind of movie in the late ’60s has a different context than if this concept was done (or, let’s face it, remade) today. It’d seem like in the relatively early days of counterculture filmmaking, the experience of The Trip would be us dipping our feet in the water. But this was made by heavy-hitters; we are immersed in a community that knows its place.

Peter Fonda, a man who knows a few things about tripping on Sunset Strip, is introduced as Paul, a TV commercial director disheartened with his work and the impending divorce from his wife Sally (Susan Strasberg). He meets up with John (Bruce Dern), who offers LSD as a promising pick-me-up. Initially, John is by Peter’s side to guide him through the rough sailing of emotional processing while under the influence. But then Peter hallucinates that John is dead and crumbled over in his chair and decides to runs into the wild world of Hollywood, which prove itself to be even more dangerous.

There are the conventional flowery patterns that splash across the screen to illuminate, well, the trip, but as Peter’s mind descends into darkness, the vision becomes exuberantly isolating and borderline threatening. In the scene where Peter is imagining himself in bed with Sally, the manipulative swirls imprinted on their bodies (which turned out to be nothing fancier than body paint) came as a mesmerizing detail. Though Peter deludes himself into paranoia and mortal dread, there is something to be said about laying back and watch this bad trip unfold.

Does it make more precious that Jack Nicholson wrote the script? Though still a little green in his career, Nicholson’s forays into screenwriting had impressed directors that came across them. His first script, 1963’s Thunder Island, had cascaded his contributions as a writer down to his first considerable success, which happened to be The Trip. Director Roger Corman had praised Nicholson’s contribution, and although Fonda had reportedly disliked the script, it may have been an insignificant disapproval when Nicholson, Fonda, and Dennis Hopper (who stars here as Max, another drug-friendly companion) collaborated once again for the countercultural mammoth, Easy Rider, two years later.

Is The Trip a cautionary tale? Maybe if you’re under the impression that using mind-alternating substances are seedlings to uninhabitable thoughts. But for those who are game to watch this at a midnight showing in full decision-making capacity and without tripping, you’ll be just fine.

The Trip
dir. Roger Corman
82 mins

Screening at Coolidge Corner Theater on Friday, 3/18 @ midnight in 35mm!

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