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The Pragmatic Rebellion of Roger Corman’s The Trip by Jessica Ritchey

By Yasmina Tawil

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Pre-production for a movie rarely involves dropping acid, yet in the spirit of due diligence, producer/director Roger Corman spent a weekend in Big Sur, California doing this essential prep work for his 1967 odyssey The Trip. At the time, Corman was one of the main forces behind American International Pictures (AIP), a powerhouse independent that filled drive-ins and neighborhood theaters with titles as diverse as Viking Women vs. The Sea Serpent and The Wild Angels. Corman had originally studied to be an engineer, and brought that background into the movies: Just as an engineer puzzles over objects to see if they can work more efficiently, Corman looked at B-movies and figured out how to produce them on even more stripped-down budgets and schedules.

It also meant that if he was going to make a movie about LSD, he had to try it first. Hippies, and their acid trips, were a subject that were often overly romanticized or condemned. Corman’s pragmatic remove from the counterculture and its recreational drugs runs through the finished film. And it means The Trip has aged a good deal better than many countercultural curios like Skidoo or The Strawberry Statement. Corman sympathizes with the youthful impulse to rebel, but he’s also keenly perceptive about what happens when rebels age into their 30s, and the growing pains, in work and in love, are more acutely felt. Expectations about careers and relationships that would sustain and fulfill them start coming apart at the seams.

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