Psych-Out Blu-ray review
“These are the pleasure lovers! They’ll ask for a dime with hungry eyes…but they’ll give you love—for NOTHING!”
So goes the tagline of PSYCH-OUT, released in 1968. The movie opens on Jenny (Susan Strasberg, a few years after earning a Golden Globe nomination for her turn in HEMINGWAY’S ADVENTURES OF A YOUNG MAN), her hair and scarf flying in the wind as she looks out the bus window at all that surrounds her: flowers, peace signs, smoke, people dancing, street musicians…It’s the Haight-Ashbury and the hippie movement is in full swing.
Jenny has come to look for her brother. Shortly after arriving in San Francisco, she meets Stoney (Jack Nicholson, one year before his breakout, Oscar-nominated role in EASY RIDER), a musician who is one of the many in the district giggling their way through the day and searching for the next score. He’s the first in town to be able to communicate with Jenny, who is deaf (although you wouldn’t know it based on how she speaks better than most of the Haight-Ashbury residents).
Through their wanderings (and sometime after she plays dress-up for members of Stoney’s band), Jenny comes across clues to her brother’s whereabouts. By this point, she’s gotten very familiar with the scene, experiencing all of the free love, drug use and groovy pads that make it so popular. She also starts a relationship with Stoney, meets an ex-band member named Dave (Dean Stockwell, Sidney Lumet’s LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT) and has a run-in with a gang of toughs who oppose the hippie lifestyle.
That’s not to mention the acid trips, shot with a kaleidoscopic effect that has the image spinning in various manners and accompanied by the sort of psychedelic tunes that would be common on a Nuggets compilation. (The soundtrack features the likes of Strawberry Alarm Clock and The Seeds, as well as a peculiar “Purple Haze” knockoff which is only slightly better than the one used in THE WONDER YEARS before the music rights were renewed.)
It’s scenes like that that make Richard Rush’s (biker exploitation essential HELLS ANGELS ON WHEELS; he would later earn an Oscar nomination for 1980’s THE STUNT MAN) picture what it is. It is, unashamedly, a means to promote the lifestyle (despite one sequence that shows a man on STP insisting he severe his own arm while on a bad trip). PSYCH-OUT (1968) fits in as one of the top hippie exploitation movies in its short-lived history, along with RIOT ON SUNSET STRIP, THE LOVE-INS (which took heavy inspiration from Timothy Leary) and THE TRIP (which was written by Nicholson and also features Strasberg, Dern, Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda), all of which were released in 1967.
With breaks to listen to and watch various trippers dance, dancers trip, trippers love and lovers trip, PSYCH-OUT is a showcase for all that defined the culture. It is essential viewing for advocates of the lifestyle.
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Details are fine, but there is still some damage in the print and the colors don’t pop as fans might expect.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Dialogue is audible and the soundtrack comes through without any major hiccups.
There are no special features on this release.