Join us as we explore the wild and offbeat cinema that played the roadshows, drive-ins and grindhouses.
While the counterculture was tuning in, turning on and dropping out, the world of cinema was undergoing a change as well. The studio suits were scrambling to try to tap into the popular hippie movement and get all the longhairs into movie theater seats. What they produced was some of the trippiest low budget genre movies in drive-in/grindhouse history. The swingin 60s was a time when flower power was all over the silver screen both in b-movies and in the mainstream. This edition of The History of Exploitation Cinema is dedicated to all those groovy, far out freaksploitation films. Dig it!
AIP's WILD IN THE STREETS is a true explosive product of its time, coming in at the height of the counterculture/Vietnam/civil rights era. Christopher Jones (who was being fashioned as a 60s hippie James Dean) plays a rock star named Max Frost who starts a youth rebellion against anyone over 35. The movie mixes politics with rock n' roll and the burgeoning flower power lifestyle.
In the 1968 cult classicPSYCH-OUT Susan Strasberg plays a deaf runaway who arrives in San Francisco's Haight Ashbury, searching for her missing brother Steve (Bruce Dern) aka "The Seeker". A local garage rock band called "Mumblin Jim" (Jack Nicholson, Max Julien and Adam Roarke) come to her aid and the groovy adventure begins. It's a rollicking and trippy snapshot of the peace and love era in all its acid induced psychedelia. The film's title was created by AIP's Sam Arkoff, who, in true exploitation fashion, was so impressed by Hitchcock's Psycho-re-release, he wanted to capitalize on it.
Another AIP film that brought the counterculture into theaters was Roger Corman's 1967 film THE TRIP. The Wild Angels star Peter Fonda plays a straight laced TV commercial director (based on Corman) who decides to drop acid for the first time. Let's just say this movie is one far out experience man. It's basically a 90 minute long hallucination inside the mind of Peter's character. Co-starring Bruce Dern and Dennis Hopper.
THE LOVE-INS (1967)was loosely based on 60's hippie guru icon Timothy Leary. The story concerns a college professor turned cult figure (Richard Todd) who introduces the youth to LSD. This was another prime example of studios exploiting the fad of love-ins and drugs. Variety magazine called it a "good exploitation film of San Francisco’s hippie movement…a solid, if standard story, fringed in fine style with love-ins and hippie happenings…art direction is slick and colorful."
The hippie exploitation film posters were designed to grab the attention of moviegoers by visually conveying the themes of Drugs, Love-Ins, Riots and Rock Music. They were filled with colorful and weird imagery. Dig.
By the late 60s, the counter-culture that started with hopes of changing the world eventually lost control. The end came when Charles Manson and his brainwashed followers committed several high profile murders that sent shockwaves across the country. The peace and love flower power party was officially over. In the next decade things would change yet again both in youth culture and in the world of low budget exploitation and major studio films...
Russ Meyer's 1970 cult classic Beyond The Valley of The Dolls was one of the films that depicted the sheer craziness and darker side of the Hippie Hollywood 'peace, love and rock n' roll' era. Co-written by Roger Ebert.