Director Richard Rush throws deaf 17 year old runaway Susan Strasberg into the Ashbury scene in search of her long lost brother played by Bruce Dern. She meets up with musicians Jack Nicholson, Adam Rourke and Max Julian who look after her and help scour San Francisco in search of her acid-addled brother. During their search they promote their band, calm down a flipped-out friend with a circular saw, play some tunes with the Strawberry Alarm Clock, fight a bunch of hard-hat types and indulge in some downright hilarious dialogue.
While wallowing in a pile of cliches, this film (unlike many of its era) is more realistic than some and the performances are uniformly excellent. Dean Stockwell playing a groovy guru, Jack Nicholson looking hilarious with a ponytail as he belts out a version of 'Purple Haze', Max Julian conveying an all too realistic chemical state of mind and Bruce Dern as the brother who calls himself 'The Seeker' and lives in a garbage dump. The film also benefits from the cinematography by Lazlo Kovaks and would make a great double feature with Roger Corman's "The Trip".
Perhaps no 1960's hippie "exploitation" flick has more realism than 1968's AIC feature: "Psych-Out". With very explicit scenes of drug use and drug-induced, trippy "hippie revelations", as well as a scene of a bad LSD trip in progress, the film does not take either side of the establishment/anti-establishment debate of the time. The film is both an exceptional period piece of life as it really was in the Ashbury heyday, as well as an excellent study of the disillusionment of the dropped out youth of the Vietnam era. With the one exception of Jack Nicholson being poorly cast as Stoney, the remaining performances by the others in the cast are all excellent. A must see film for any 1960's counter cultural buff.
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