Review: Psych-Out (1968)

Director: Richard Rush | 101 minutes | drama, music | Actors: Jack Nicholson, Dean Stockwell, Susan Strasberg, Bruce Dern, Adam Roarke, Max Julian, Henry Jaglom, Linda Gaye Scott, I.J. Jefferson, Tommy Flanders, Ken Scott, Garry Marshall, Geoffrey Stevens, Susan Bushman, John Bud Cardos

Hear! Incense & Peppermints by the Strawberry Alarm Clock! “Psych-Out” is a flower power classic from 1968. Hippies, drugs and uplifting music pass by at a rapid pace. “Psych-Out” was initially dubbed “The Love Children,” but when this title was publicly tested, it was found that many people associated this name with bastard children rather than flower power. So the title was changed to “Psych-Out”, in order to sail a bit on the success of Hitchcock’s thriller “Psycho”, from the early 1960s.

Some concentration is required if you want to follow “Psych-Out” properly. The scenes follow each other in quick succession, the camera work is fleeting and the large amount of colors, beads and kaleidoscopic effects make it a chaotic whole. The film is very typical of the zeitgeist of the sixties and seventies. Flower power splashes off the screen. Everyone has sex with everyone, makes music, dances around, swallows what he wants and does what he likes.

One of the first questions that “Psych-Out” raises is whether they did not know in the 1960s that deaf people usually do not speak General American (the American version of Common Civilized Dutch) flawlessly. Susan Strasberg plays the role of the deaf girl Jenny. And although she can only understand people if she can read their lips, she does speak English without an accent. That is something most deaf people cannot manage anyway.

Jack Nicholson, still good looking at the time, is doing very well in the film as the unhinged singer Stoney. Nicholson was apparently born for this kind of role even then. Stoney lives with the people of his band in a big house with all kinds of other hippies. The people in the house act like annoying children of about eight years old, whose parents have been gone for a few weeks. They pull everything out of the cupboards, break furniture, do not wash, do not tidy up and go to bed late and only get up when the day is half over. Of course they sleep with someone else every night.

When Stoney sets eyes on Jenny, she is initially very flattered. The girl is not from the big city and finds all that attention interesting. She was raised in a protected way, so the rebellious Stoney and his friends make quite an impression on her. Little by little she also rolls into the hippie world and before she knows it she also gets naked. Nevertheless, she continues to wonder whether this is what she wants, after all this was not what she came to San Francisco for. She wants to find her brother, who, like herself, ran away from home because of their strict, rigid mother. The film also features a flashback about the childhood of brother and sister. Although the scene is definitely not intended to be funny, you probably have to laugh about it. The generation gap, children who rebel against their parents and upbringing, is the thought of that time. And in this scene that is made clear. It’s the parents who are the problem, they were unreasonable, strict and rigid, so that we have become hippies is only natural! In the end, Jenny cannot resist the world she has ended up in and the search for her brother fades into the background.

“Psych-Out” is certainly fun for those who grew up in the flower power period themselves. The colorful whole will be a fun psychedelic trip back to youth. However, the film is not recommended for people born after the seventies. It’s all so fast and the film seems to slip through your fingers like loose sand. But if you fancy a trip, leave that joint and watch this movie. The Ultimate Head Trip

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