The Trip (1967 film)
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|Directed by||Roger Corman|
|Written by||Jack Nicholson|
|Produced by||Roger Corman|
|Edited by||Ronald Sinclair|
|Music by||Mike Bloomfield, The Electric Flag|
|Distributed by||American International Pictures (1967, original)|
MGM (2003, DVD)
|August 31, 1967|
|Box office||$10 million|
The Trip (1967) is a counterculture-era psychedelic film released by American International Pictures, directed by Roger Corman, written by Jack Nicholson, and shot on location in and around Los Angeles, including on top of Kirkwood in Laurel Canyon, the Hollywood Hills, and near Big Sur, California in 1967. Peter Fonda stars as a young television commercial director named Paul Groves.
Paul Groves (Peter Fonda), a television commercial director, takes his first dose of LSD while experiencing the heartbreak and ambivalence of divorce from his beautiful but adulterous wife (Susan Strasberg). He starts his trip with a "guide," John (Bruce Dern), but runs away and abandons him out of fear.
Experiencing repetitive visions of pursuit by dark hooded figures mounted on black horses, Paul sees himself running across a beach.
As Paul experiences his trip, he wanders around the Sunset Strip, into nightclubs, and the homes of strangers and acquaintances. Paul considers the roles played by commercialism, sex, the role of women in his life. He meets a young woman, Glenn (Salli Sachse), who is interested in people who take LSD. Having learned from Paul recently that he would be taking LSD, she has been looking out for him. Max (Dennis Hopper) plays a role as another friendly guide to his trip.
Glenn drives Paul to her Malibu beach house, where they make erotic love, interspersed in his mind with a kaleidoscopic riot of abstract images intercut with visions of pursuit on a beach, a scene that is a sly homage to Ingmar Bergman's film, The Seventh Seal (1957). Driven into the surf by his pursuers, Paul turns and faces both of them, and they reveal themselves to be his wife and Glenn.
As the sun rises, Paul returns to his normal state of consciousness now transformed by the trip and steps out to the balcony to get some fresh air. Glenn asks him whether his first LSD experience was constructive. Paul defers his answer to "tomorrow." His face is frozen in close-up, and his image cracks like glass through an animation special effect.
- Peter Fonda as Paul Groves
- Susan Strasberg as Sally Groves
- Bruce Dern as John
- Dennis Hopper as Max
- Salli Sachse as Glenn
- Dick Miller as Cash
Corman wildly edited some scenes for The Trip, particularly the exterior night scenes on the Sunset Strip, to simulate the LSD user's racing mind. The Trip features photographic effects, body paint on seminude actresses to lend atmosphere, and colorful patterned lighting, during sex scenes and in a club, which imitates LSD-induced hallucinations. Finally, Corman included inscrutable fantasy sequences including one where Fonda is faced with revolving pictures of Che Guevara, Sophia Loren and Khalil Gibran in a wildly lit room. For no apparent reason, a little person riding a merry-go-round in the background blurts "Bay of Pigs!!" The story plays over a musical backdrop of improvisational jazz, blues rock of the band The Electric Flag, plus an exotic musical score with an organ and horn-drenched theme.
Roger Corman did research by taking LSD himself. Charles B. Griffith wrote the first two drafts of the script—the first one was about the social issues of the sixties, the second one was an opera. Corman then hired Jack Nicholson to write the eventual screenplay. Corman encouraged Nicholson's experimental writing style and gives between 80 and 90% credit to Nicholson for the shooting script in the director's commentary appearing on the DVD of this film. Corman slightly modified the story to stay within budget.
Whilst most of the music actually used in the film was by Mike Bloomfield's Electric Flag, the early visuals (e.g. the band in the club at the start of the film) are of Gram Parsons and the International Submarine Band, one of the earliest country-rock bands. It had been Fonda's original intention to use the ISB's music on the soundtrack but, in the event, their contribution was deemed insufficiently "psychedelic" or trippy to warrant inclusion and the Bloomfield/Buddy Miles/Nick Gravenites Electric Flag is what is actually heard in the film.
Released on 31 August 1967 at the pinnacle of the "Summer of Love", the film had a huge cultural impact and grossed $6 million - a massive sum for a movie that cost $100,000.
The film encountered censorship problems in the UK and was refused a certificate four times by the BBFC. A cinema classification was rejected in 1967, 1971 and 1980 and again for video in 1988. It was eventually released on DVD fully uncut in 2004.
The movie holds a 39% "Rotten" score on Rotten Tomatoes based on 23 critics with the consensus: "The Trip's groovy effects and compelling message can't overcome the rough acting, long meandering stretches, and pedestrian plot."
Samuel Z. Arkoff said American International Pictures (AIP) stopped making "dope pictures" soon after The Trip because he sensed the cycle would exhaust itself quickly. In 1974 he said "everybody else picked it up; and as late as last year they were still coming out with dope pictures. And there isn't one single company that made a buck on dope pictures. The young people had turned off."
In 2015, the MGMHD channel broadcast a newly-constructed "Director's Cut" of the film, which removed the opening disclaimer and the "shattered glass" ending imposed by AIP, as well as restoring additional footage to the opening party scene and exit music previously clipped on home video releases. This alternate version was later released on Blu-ray in Region B by Signal One films that year, and on Region A Blu-ray by Olive Films in 2016. The Signal One Blu-ray retained special features created for the previous MGM DVD, including a Roger Corman commentary track, and offered the AIP-mandated scenes (with Corman commentary) as bonus material. The Olive Blu-ray did not port any of the special features, but did include the original trailer.
- Mark McGee, Faster and Furiouser: The Revised and Fattened Fable of American International Pictures, McFarland, 1996 p255
- "The Trip, Worldwide Box Office". Worldwide Box Office. Retrieved February 26, 2012.
- Aaron W. Graham, 'Little Shop of Genres: An interview with Charles B. Griffith', Senses of Cinema, 15 April, 2005 accessed 25 June 2012
- Roger Corman & Jim Jerome, How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime, Muller, 1990, pg 153.
- "All-Time Film Rental Champs", Variety, 7 January 1976, pg 46.
- Strawn, Linda May (1975). "Samuel Z. Arkoff". In McCarthy, Todd; Flynn, Charles (eds.). Kings of the Bs : working within the Hollywood system : an anthology of film history and criticism. E. P. Dutton. p. 265.