Psych-Out (1968)

Dude, Richard Rush has sure made some disparate movies. There’s Thunder AlleyHells Angels on Wheels and The Stunt Man, then there’s Air America and Color of Night. But he also made this, which reminds me that if I was alive in 1968, I would have died young.

Jenny (Susan Strasberg) is a deaf girl looking for her brother Steve, who left behind a note that said, “Jess Saes: God is alive and well and living in a sugar cube.” That leads her to Haight-Ashbury and the band Mumblin’ Jim, led by Stoney (Jack Nicholson).

Henry Jaglom, who wrote My Lunches With Orson: Conversations Between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles, is an artist that does the band’s posters. When they go to see him, he’s so messed up on 2,5-Dimethoxy-4-methylamphetamine that he thinks everyone is the living dead and threatens them with a saw. But that’s where Jenny sees some of her brother’s art and learns that he’s become a traveling preacher known as The Seeker. Dave (Dean Stockwell), who left the band, offers to help them find him, but everyone nearly dies in the junkyard when the gang — look for John “Bud” Cardos — attack.

The Seeker shows up and yep, he’s Bruce Dern. He reveals that Jenny was beaten so badly by their mother that she had a stroke and went deaf. He wants to be clean from drugs when they meet. Meanwhile, his sister is caught between Stoney and Dave.

This movie ends as all hippy films must, in death and fire, as Stoney sets his shrine ablaze and Dave saves a tripping Jenny from a car coming right at her by sacrificing himself, remarking that he hopes death will be a good trip as he dies.

Dick Clark produced this and like a true square, he wanted the drug message to show how wrong it was to get hooked. Ah, I’m being mean.

Let’s be nice — the stunts and special effects are by Gary Kent, whose adventures make up the documentary Danger God. The Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Seeds and The Storybook made most of the music in this and the concert scenes are worth watching the entire film. Plus, Garry Marshall plays an undercover cop!

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