Some films should only be watched while you’re fully baked. Often being in an altered state is the only way to fully appreciate these ultimate trips.
While we at Geek would never condone the use of psychotropic drugs, some movies give you approximately the same effect and have inspired some memorable drug-induced freak-outs on their own.
2001: A Space Odyssey
Some would argue that Stanley Kubrick’s maddeningly non-narrative 1968 space epic just can’t be appreciated with a clear head, from its wordless, war-of-the-apes look at primal man in its opening scenes to its lengthy “stargate” climax: 20 minutes of blinding, psychedelic slitscan effects photography. And what’s with the old guy in the hotel room at the end?
You can force it to make sense by reading Arthur C. Clarke’s novelization, but trust us, just absorbing one of the most visually stunning movies ever made in a theater in 70mm is the way to go. Sixties hippies were famous for tripping out in the front row on all sorts of exotic pharmaceuticals during the film’s original theatrical run (hence the insinuating advertising line “The Ultimate Trip”), and recently someone revived this great tradition during a 70mm screening at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, causing an awesome panic and actual fisticuffs, all immortalized in this clip.
Writer Paddy Chayevsky cut out the middleman by actually starting his film about the wonders of isolation tank experiments with his lead character (played by William Hurt) ingesting psychedelic mushrooms with some indigenous shaman in South America — all an excuse for famously nutty director Ken Russell to let loose with some of his patented, hallucinatory (and often obscene) imagery.
Make-up effects expert Dick Smith engineered some amazing prosthetic effects showing Hurt’s character’s body doing some pre-CG morphing as he begins to control his existence on a cellular level, leading to some very 2001-like trippy visual sequences and a hair-raising climax as Hurt’s naked scientist lover Blair Brown fights the universe itself to reclaim Hurt from the abyss. Add an awesome rampage earlier as Hurt reverts to primitive ape-man form and you’ve got kind of a 2001 for the ADD generation.
The Angry Red Planet
We try not to subject Geek readers to too many cheesy sci-fi films made well before they were born, but if you’re an aficionado of trippy cinema you really have to check out this typical “weird monsters on Mars” movie. Comes complete with a by-the-numbers band of intrepid explorers that includes a mellifluously-voiced scientist, a tough-talking, 12-pack-a-day hero, a Titian-haired female scientist everyone flirts with, and a goofy, comedy relief sidekick who’s always whispering sweet nothings to his atomic ray gun.
Once this ragtag bunch of misfits lands on Mars, the film goes from Technicolor to “Cinemagic,” an eye-searing, double-exposed, monochrome pink look used to frame the film’s Martian wonders, which consist of an endless ocean populated by a Martian city and a roving, tank-like blob topped by a wacky rotating eyeball, and the infamous, 40-foot-tall “bat-rat-spider-crab,” which looks exactly like its name. You’ll need a sensory deprivation tank to recover.
In the ’70s we were very paranoid that computers would somehow take over the world. Now we just accept that they are always watching us. Maverick filmmaker Donald Cammell directed this weird mix of S&M and science fiction in which a computer named Proteus, charged with operating its creator’s fully automated home, instead decides to imprison and impregnate the guy’s poor wife (Julie Christie). Yes, we said impregnate. Capturing her with a remote control, laser-armed wheelchair, the computer eventually develops an insane self-actuating body made out of pyramid-shaped, reconfiguring metal modules – and a metal version of the organ it needs to do the impregnating with. I know, gross.
Since every movie like this needs an acid trip scene, the actual impregnation is apparently so orgasmic it’s accompanied by five minutes of abstract, trippy visuals. But that’s nothing compared to the climactic baby-birthing scene. Playing the shockingly neglectful computer creator, Fritz Weaver makes a serious case for being the worst husband in modern film history. Demon Seed is always a little hard to find — it’s not streaming on Amazon or Netflix, but the DVD is available from both services.
What other Ultimate Trips in film form need to be experienced? Let us know in the comments section below!
Images: Warner Bros., American International Pictures, MGM