Peace, love and groovy, mind-altering drugs are the topics at hand in this San Francisco freak-out documentary. It's a crude but heartfelt time capsule, released in the summer of 1968, just before the Haight Asbury scene turned into one big, unwashed bummer. And even if director Jack O'Connell (SWEDISH FLY GIRLS, GREENWICH VILLAGE STORY) may not have made a great movie, he was at the right time, at the right place, and (most important) with the right tripped-out attitude... Much of the movie is random footage of the hippie phenomenon, while a cute, blond, 20-year-old runaway named "Today Malone" provides a (slight) framework to this ragged mess. And a bigger bunch of long-haired, wide-eyed freaks I've never seen -- crammed shoulder-to-shoulder, celebrating the summer solstice in the Golden Gate Park. God, the stench of patchouli must've been nauseating! Bands blast away, hippie chicks spin in circles, the lightshow begins, and it's the same old acid haze we've come to know and love. Along the way, some interesting tidbits sneak in, including firsthand tales of getting busted, posted notes to runaway children, Ms. Malone unsuccessfully begging passers-by for spare change, a middle-aged nun describing how she's similar to these "hippie girls," and a typical hairball asked if he worries about chromosome damage from too much acid (when it's obviously, already too late). Of course, what movie about drugs is complete without a few suited "experts" (including San Francisco's Director of Public Health and the thick-necked Chief of Police) warning about the evils of this new generation's chemical dependence. But in the long run, this is a refreshingly pro-drug, pro-hippie pic that pushes the joys of LSD when Today doses on camera, and flies off on its mind-altering effects (actually, all they do is sit around a room, rolling their eyes and feeling a peach). The filmmakers have all the bases covered. They document the oddest niches of Hippiedom, which appeals to the curious. There are plenty of groovy visuals, in case you're dosed. They even toss in some nude performance art to suck in the T&A crowd. It also features ragamuffin fashion at its worst (not as ratty as today's Squatter Chic look, but close), plus music by Country Joe and The Fish, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and The Steve Miller Band... Nowadays, this nonsense is impossible to watch without laughing at these naive, burnt-out rebels, and it's a reality check for folks who think the hippie subculture was exactly like PSYCH-OUT or THE TRIP. Unfortunately, real life was a lot less charismatic than reel life. And whenever one these wide-eyed innocents vows they'll never conform to The System, I'll give you odds that nowadays, they're somewhere in suburbia, selling Amway products and falling asleep to AMERICA'S FUNNIEST HOME VIDEOS.
© 1997 by Steven Puchalski.