There are very few musicals that I don’t enjoy or appreciate. I grew up in a home that embraced song and dance. Residing in a small East Texas town, it was rare to have the opportunity to see a performance live on stage. But in those moments where we did take a road trip to a legitimate performance center in the big city, I quickly fell in love with musical theater.
When I was an adult, I saw HAIR in New York City. Not counting the extremely uncomfortable nudity (we’re talking full frontal people) I thought the entire thing was a hot mess performed by cute boys. It’s no surprise that United Artists’ depiction of the original musical was just as outrageous.
Chuck Bukowski (John Savage) is an Oklahoma farm boy bound for an Army recruiting meeting in New York City. I was able to convey this in one sentence even though it took the director 15 minutes of the opening montage to get this important piece of irrelevant information across. Looking clean cut and corn fed, Bukowski stumbles upon a band of hippies in Central Park who practice free love, partake in drugs of the psychedelic variety and most importantly for our story…oppose the Vietnam war. The group’s leader Berger (Treat Williams) is bound and determined to expose this cowboy to his carefree counterculture.
After an unexpected run-in with the wealthy Sheila (Beverly D’Angelo), Berger also makes it a priority to crash her debutante ball in order for Bukowski to have one final fling before joining the Army. In a matter of 24-hours, our cast of hippies climb on elegant tables, smash expensive china plates, get arrested and are thrown in jail all while singing and dancing under the tripped out influence of LSD.
Bukowski finally makes it to basic training in Nevada. His beatnik friends, steal a car, puff some mushrooms and road trip it to break him out before he’s sent off to war. Sheila seduces her way into scoring an officer’s uniform which Berger wears to infiltrate the camp. Bukowski explains to a confused Berger that he wants to serve his country and will not be returning to New York with them. Berger switches clothes with Bukowski so he can go to the woods where his freewheeling friends wait, in order to say goodbye. In a weird twist, during the hour Bukowski is gone, Berger is shoved on a plane bound for Viet Nam. He later returns home in a casket.
Perhaps because I am a child of the ‘80s, I’m not able to fully appreciate the provocativeness of the film. As a music lover, I found myself humming along to “Let the Sunshine In” and “Aquarius” with no regard to what the lyrics actually were saying.
I was also distracted by the completely awful wardrobe and fact that everyone had an afro with something feathery or leafy stuffed in or hanging from a leather rope around their forehead.
Maybe if I had one of those “sugar cubes” that nice Asian lady was passing out at the park, I would see things differently, but I just didn’t enjoy the movie. The singing, dancing and acting paled in comparison to the stage production, which was mediocre at best.
Video (1080p High Definition 2.39:1): You can definitely feel the ‘70s vibe from the video. Great picture.
Audio (5.1 DTS HD Master Audio): Enhanced the crazy music even more!
Theatrical Trailer: It’s a 30-second tripped out version of the movie.