Psych-Out, made in 1968, was one of the many cinematic attempts to cash in on the hippie/drug culture/teen rebellion thing of the 60s. Even at the time most of the movies that focused specifically on the drug culture were pretty embarrassing, Roger Corman’s The Trip being one of the better efforts. Psych-Out falls into the more usual trap of trying much too hard to be hip while at the same time delivering a moral message on the evil of drugs.
It is however quite entertaining in a campy sort of way. Susan Strasberg is Jenny, a deaf girl who arrives in San Francisco looking for her missing brother. The brother is on a quest of his own, to find God and the meaning of life and all that sort of thing. She falls in with a bunch of hippie musicians. After that, very little actually happens. But with Jack Nicholson as the band’s guitarist Stoney and Dean Stockwell as Dave, a seriously drug-addled former member of the band who now serves them as a kind of guru/spiritual advisor, there’s plenty of delightfully entertaining over-the-top hamminess. Dave appears to have split from the band when there seemed to be a danger they might achieve actual success, which would of course mean selling out and having to deal with the nightmare of having lots of money and lots of sex-crazed groupies. This is a risk that Stoney seems to regard as being worth taking.
Things get weirder (and the acting reaches new heights of badness) when Bruce Dern turns up as the lost brother, looking a bit like Jesus. Towards the end Jenny naturally decides to drop some acid and learns at first-hand that drugs are really really bad.
There’s some truly appalling psychedelic rock courtesy of the Strawberry Alarm Clock, the drug freak-out scenes are moderately interesting, and the dialogue is what you’d expect with lines like “it’s all just one big plastic hassle man.” Psych-Out is silly fun if you’re in the mood for such things.