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Incredibly Strange Films Excerpt: LSD Films

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Drugs have long been a favorite topic of exploitation films. They allow the filmmaker to include the seamiest kinds of sex and violence, while maintaining a facade of moral righteousness and social concern. Drug movies date back to the silent film era, when cocaine was still a new thrill and opium was smoked in the hidden dens of Chinatown. Regardless of the drug involved, the plots of most of these films follow a general pattern: young Dick and Jane are nagged by their “friends” to try a certain drug that is “the rage.” Being “good kids,” Dick and Jane resist at first but eventually yield to peer pressure, resulting in the total destruction of their lives. The classic example of this plot is Reefer Madness. In the mid sixties, when the world at large discovered the joys of LSD, people said they saw monsters, flew to the moon and touched the hand of God. Filmmakers attempting to recreate these images came up with a wildly creative new movie style that could be termed “garage surrealism.” Fisheye lenses, painted women, op-art patterns and multiple exposures became de rigeuer for any film illustrating the effects of acid. Once the drug became a household word, there was no stopping filmmakers from exploring its possibilities. In The Acid Eaters, a gang of office workers shed their establishment guises every weekend and hit the road in search of cheap thrills. Their quest is finally fulfilled in the form of a fifty-foot tower of LSD! The Weird World of LSD also examined—purportedly—the dangers of LSD, but lacked funds for much in the way of special effects. In one scene, a man hallucinating that he’s flying on the wings of a great bird is shown lying on a couch, grimacing madly, as a crude drawing of a chicken is superimposed over the scene! The mind-altering potential of LSD provoked much speculation: what secret depravities hidden in the libido might be released? In Alice in Acidland, a young woman discovers the joys of lesbian sex after taking the drug. In Wanda (The Sadistic Hypnotist) , lesbians again get the treatment, this time as sadomasochist leather freaks who have the tables turned on them after being forced to take the drug. The best “trip” movie is also the best known: Roger Corman’s classic The Trip. Written by Jack Nicholson and starring Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern, and Dennis Hopper (acidheads all), The Trip chronicled the adventures of a young director of TV commercials who, feeling that his life has no meaning, takes a hefty dose of LSD and spends the rest of the film hallucinating his brain away. Corman, to better understand the subject, actually took acid before making the film. Along with 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Trip became required viewing for anyone into LSD.

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