Combustible Celluloid
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With: Peter Fonda, Susan Strasberg, Bruce Dern, Dennis Hopper, Salli Sachse, Barboura Morris, Judy Lang, Luana Anders, Beach Dickerson, Dick Miller, Caren Bernsen, Katherine Walsh, Michael Nader, Barbara Ransom, Michael Blodgett
Written by: Jack Nicholson
Directed by: Roger Corman
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 85
Date: 08/23/1967

The Trip (1967)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Nice Pad, Man

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Trip has been called one of the worst movies ever made, but I'd like to take a minute and discuss that.

Here's a movie that had a pretty good idea. It came out around the time that "underground" cinema was running amok, and director Roger Corman had already been making films for 12 years. He decided to radically stretch the cinematic boundaries he had been utilizing up to that point. He wanted to film an LSD trip. Although this style of filmmaking has been aped millions of times over on MTV and television commercials, it's still a pretty radical idea. (Oh, and by the way, Jack Nicholson wrote the screenplay.)

The movie starts with Peter Fonda (in a pretty good performance) as a TV commercial maker about to get a divorce. Then he goes to Dennis Hopper's house with Bruce Dern and picks up some LSD. He meets a blonde girl there. They both go back to Bruce Dern's place ("nice pad") and Fonda takes the acid, and puts on a blindfold. For a while we see some kaleidoscope colors. Then he takes off the blindfold, and starts running around the house while Dern asks him questions like, "what do you feel now?" Fonda imagines himself on trial while Hopper asks him questions about why he makes TV commercials. Fonda gets naked and swims in an indoor-outdoor pond, and experiences flashes about dying. We see him running through the woods being chased by men on horses and a blonde in a white dress. A midget gives him a bowl of water.

Dern leaves the room to get some apple juice and Fonda flashes on him dead in a chair, so he runs out the door. He runs around town while we see fast-cut images of signs and people. He goes into a club and watches topless dancers for a while. Then the cops come in, and he makes a run for it. He goes to Hopper's house, but Hopper kicks him out when he finds out about the cops ("you understand, man"). He finds the blonde and takes her back to Dern's house. They make love, and then he comes out of it.

Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers is a lot like this movie, but The Trip is not quite so repulsive. Corman actually had Hopper and Fonda help him through a trip of his own so that he knew what it was really like. The movie uses amazing colors and sets and editing, so that there's always something interesting to look at.

Corman had pretty good box office clout at the time. His movies always made money, so this movie probably got a decent release, whereas other "underground" movies didn't. Corman probably knew he was putting himself on the line by showing this movie to other people. It was a bold move for the director. I can see why some critics blasted the movie for its subject matter alone, but it really is a fascinating movie and a good period piece.

The music in the movie is really good. There's some rock music by a band called "the American Music Group" (not American Music Club), and there's some Ornette Coleman style free jazz, and some classic be-bop type jazz.

Of course, Nicholson, Fonda and Hopper went on to make Easy Rider and blew the movie industry apart, but The Trip came first and is much better.

In 2016, Olive Films gave The Trip a gorgeous Blu-ray release, really highlighting the striking colors and compositions of this weird 1960s gem. I'm not sure if this was a mistake, or if it's all part of the "trippy" theme, but the main menu doesn't have any words on it (at least on my copy), so that when you click on "play," "chapters," or "trailer," you can't see what you're doing, or where you're going.

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