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FREE GRASS [a.k.a. Scream Free!] (1969).

Russ Tamblyn and Richard Beymer have both hit their share of career potholes. They've both recently spent time chewing the scenery at TWIN PEAKS, but their careers were on the skids in the late '60s. Everything looked golden after they both co-starred in WEST SIDE STORY, but eight years later, they were reunited in this psychedelia-tinged poverty-row ozoner from director Bill Brame (THE CYCLE SAVAGES). And these bottom-of-the-barrel hippie flicks just happen to be one of my favorite schlock genres, with their dated duds, trippy trappings and groovy lingo. Tamblyn stars as a manipulative drug-dealer -- wearing a floppy hat to hide his electroshock perm and permanently-dilated pupils; Beymer is a friendly hipster who falls into the seamy world of drug running; and Lana Wood is 'Snow White', a cubehead chick in a microskirt who falls for the beaded Beymer. During the not-very-action-packed story, Beymer and Lana fall in love, discuss how super drugs are, and take in some acid atmospherics with the local flower children. Oh yeah, Beymer also practices his 'peace and love' philosophy by pummelling a cop. Since he's on the run from The Man anyhow, Beymer takes Tamblyn up on his offer for one last border run, so he can make enough cash to retire to Dayton, Ohio (?). Beymer freaks out when a couple Feds are shot during the deal, and Tamblyn chills him down by spiking his drink with LSD. So fasten your cerebellum belts, kids! It's Bad Trip Time! Whoaaa! And don't you love it when a film is packed with hallucination sequences obviously conceived by people who've never dosed in their lives, much less had an original idea? The movie also has its brutal edge (including a rape, execution-style killings, an immolation, et cetera), but the ending is solid silliness, with Beymer and Tamblyn whacked off their brainstems and experiencing lots of downer, TRIP rip-off light shows. The reason for the title? At the end, Beymer gives away all the illegit booty -- l00 kilos of free grass -- to every slobbering stoner in town. Most of the cast plays it straight, except for Tamblyn, who seems to be the only one in on the unintentional joke. Or maybe he has just fucked up on the set? And clean-cut music industry annoyance Casey Kasem co-stars as the most laughable dope dealer imaginable. Despite some tedious stretches, it's recommended for anyone into counterculture nostalgia, or members of the Russ Tamblyn Fan Club.

© 1990 by Steven Puchalski.