Thursday, 24 June 2021

Pick-up (1975)

Pick-up is a 1975 Crown International release so you should adjust your expectations accordingly.

Chuck is driving along in his bus when he picks up two hippie chicks. The bus is actually a bus converted into a mobile home and Chuck’s job is to deliver it to Tallahassee. Carol is anxious to go along with Chuck because she digs him. Maureen has a really bad feeling about the whole thing because for starters Chuck is an Aries. Once she does a tarot card reading she knows it’s going to be a bad scene but Carol is determined that they’re going to go with Chuck.

They run into a bad storm, there are road closures and they have to take a detour. They end up in a swamp. Chuck and Carol are pretty zonked out on drugs by this time.

Now at this point you’re probably expecting the film to veer into sex and violence and territory but it doesn’t. This movie is much much stranger than that.

You’d think that this trio would be kind of worried about being lost in the middle of the Everglades but they really don’t mind. They think it’s kind of groovy. There are trees and birds and things. It’s nature, man and nature is really cool.

Chuck and Carol decide that the best response to the situation is to have sex. A lot. Maureen starts having visions and stuff. She meets a priestess of Apollo who seems to have a mission for her.

They all start having flashbacks. Carol flashes back to losing her virginity. Chuck has a flashback to being hassled by his over-protective Mom who was stifling him so he left home. Maureen has a flashback to being seduced by a priest. Maureen has an encounter with a US Senator who is wandering the Everglades handing out campaign literature. And she meets a sinister clown.

We’re heading into surrealist territory now and we keep going deeper into that territory.

Maureen tries to give herself home-made stigmata by burning her hand. Chuck and Carol have more sex and frolic hand-in-hand through the swamp. Chuck hunts boar for food.

And things keep getting stranger, especially when Chuck and Maureen decide to have sex and they find a convenient temple in the swamp.

There are various ways you could interpret this movie. It could all be Maureen’s crazy visions. Or when they took that last detour, the one that led them into the swamp, maybe they left the real world. Or maybe there are occult influences at work that cause all three to imagine stuff. Or maybe Maureen is some kind of witch. Or maybe Chuck is the devil. Or maybe all three have just done too many drugs.

The movie doesn’t answer any of these questions, which is on balance a good thing. It just keeps ramping up the weirdness while the audience is left to try to figure out what the hell is going on.

Bernard Hirschenson directed and this seems to be his only directing credit. He also co-produced and edited the film and did the cinematography. Jack Winter co-produced and wrote the script and this also seems to be his one and only writing credit. It’s actually a pity that their careers began and ended with this movie. It’s particularly sad that Hirschenson didn’t go to make more movies. He has no idea how to pace a movie and no idea how to construct a coherent narrative but he does know how to provide interesting imagery that is subtly disturbing without ever becoming too obvious or blatant.

This is clearly a very low budget production but that’s not a problem. Hirschenson manages the surreal stuff effectively without having to resort to special effects or fancy sets. This is surrealism on a zero budget but it’s more effective than many much more expensive efforts.

There’s lots of nudity to keep drive-in audiences happy but anyone seeing this movie and expecting a standard hippie skinflick would have been in for a surprise. This is more an art film than a skinflick.

This movie is included in Mill Creek's Drive-In Cult Classics 32 Movie Collection. The transfer is (surprisingly) 16:9 enhanced. Image quality is OK but not great. The colours are a little bit muted but it’s perfectly watchable.

Pick-up is not a good movie judged by conventional standards but it is different and it is weirdly fascinating. If you’re looking for a trippy surrealist movie that will play with your head then it’s worth a look.

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