See ponytailed Jack Nicholson play in a rock band! See Bruce Dern in a #7 Apache wig! Listen to the lurid, devil-may-care poetry of long-haired Dean Stockwell as he pushes Susan Strasberg into a dangerous, fire-and-brimstone trip!
Conceived by producer Dick Clark as an attempt to capture (and exploit) the drug culture of San Francisco youths, director Richard Rush mixed documentary-like footage with location and studio shots, and created an indelible cult film that captures a good deal of classic sixties pop art, fashion, and music - the latter ingredient rather new to a narrative exploitation film, since previous usage of contemporary songs and authentic bands tended to be showcased in vapid musicals, with a thin road-to-stardom quest and a tortured teenage souls as characters.
It's a kick seeing Nicholson sway on stage with fellow bandmates, while Strasberg ogles her protector while thugs and cops close in for revenge and justice, respectively, and the film's look is enhanced by a crisp anamorphic transfer with a decent mono mix.
There's a lot to this oddball favourite, and the custom featurette, "Love and Haight," assembles excellent interview material with Dick Clark, Richard Rush, Bruce Dern (who really worked just two days for the production), and cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs - answering a lot of questions regarding the casting (with Henry Jaglom appearing as a buddy who sees zombies in the first third, and a cameo from Garry Marshall as an 'uptight cop'), and Kovac's versatile lensing. Rush used lengthy takes, involving pans with his long lens, and myriad, smoothly rendered rack focuses, to create "critical focus" shots, including a dreamy sequence in the hideaway house, involving meters of colour beads. Rush also provides an amusing Hell's Angels story, and besides producing the film, Clark also distributed anti-nipple devices to satisfy the conservative Ratings Board.
Making sure the film doesn't come off as pro-drug, the trailer sways from a tripping utopia to bad happenings (likely an attempt by the studio to maintain a visual tie-in with their patented horror hybrids), and also includes unused shots from a clothing boutique 'fashion montage' set to the film's popular psychedelic songs.
© 2003 Mark R. Hasan