The Trip (1967 film)

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The Trip
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRoger Corman
Written byJack Nicholson
Produced byRoger Corman
CinematographyArchie R. Dalzell
Edited by
Music byThe American Music Band
Distributed byAmerican International Pictures
Release date
August 23, 1967
Running time
82 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$10 million[2]

The Trip is a 1967 American psychedelic film released by American International Pictures, directed by Roger Corman and written by Jack Nicholson. It was shot on location in and around Los Angeles, including on top of Kirkwood in Laurel Canyon, the Hollywood Hills, and near Big Sur, California, over three weeks in March and April 1967. Peter Fonda stars as a young man who experiences his first LSD trip.

Released during the Summer of Love, The Trip was very popular, particularly with members of the era’s counterculture. It became one of AIP’s most successful releases and was important in the later development of an even larger cultural touchstone in Easy Rider, which involved many of the same personnel and appealed to the same young demographic.[3]


Paul Groves, a television commercial director, takes his first dose of LSD while experiencing the heartbreak and ambivalence of divorce from his beautiful but adulterous wife. He starts his trip with a "guide", John, but runs away and abandons him out of fear.

Experiencing repetitive visions of pursuit by dark hooded figures mounted on black horses, Paul sees himself running across a beach.

As Paul experiences his trip, he wanders around the Sunset Strip, into nightclubs, and the homes of strangers and acquaintances. Paul considers the roles played by commercialism, sex, and women in his life. He meets a young woman, Glenn, who is interested in people who take LSD. Having learned from Paul recently that he would be taking LSD, she has been looking out for him. Max is another friendly guide to his trip.

Glenn drives Paul to her Malibu beach house, where they make love, interspersed in his mind with a kaleidoscopic riot of abstract images intercut with visions of pursuit on a beach. Driven into the surf by his pursuers, Paul turns and faces them, and they reveal themselves to be his wife and Glenn.

As the sun rises, Paul returns to his normal state of consciousness, now transformed by the trip, and steps out to the balcony to get some fresh air. Glenn asks him whether his first LSD experience was constructive. Paul defers his answer to "tomorrow."




I wanted the picture not to be a pro-LSD picture and not to be an anti-LSD picture because my trip was very good, I had no bad effects in my trip at all. It was wonderful. Yet I felt I really shouldn’t be accused of proselytizing for LSD, and at the same time I knew people had had bad trips, so I was trying to be neutral, and I had to ask people what had happened on their bad trips, and incorporate some of what they had experienced into it to make it neutral.[4]
Roger Corman, 2003

Corman on set of The Trip

The film was first announced as early as July 12, 1966 in Los Angeles Times with Daniel Haller considered to direct, although Corman soon took over the project. Peter Fonda's agents had warned him against taking the lead role, as he already had a bad reputation with drugs including a recent arrest for marijuana; Fonda was adamant, however, and even performed for a reduced salary. Nancy Sinatra, who had starred with Fonda in The Wild Angels, was also briefly considered for a role.

Corman did research by taking LSD himself. Charles B. Griffith wrote the first two drafts of the script; the first one was about the social issues of the sixties; the second one was an opera.[1][5] Corman then hired Jack Nicholson to write the eventual screenplay. Corman encouraged Nicholson's experimental writing style and gives between 80 and 90% credit to Nicholson for the shooting script in the director's commentary. Corman slightly modified the story to stay within budget.

On using Nicholson as a screenwriter Corman said, "I hired him because I knew he was a very good writer. He had written several scripts before. His career wasn’t really doing that much at that time. I knew he had experience with LSD, so I hired him as a writer. I was thinking of possibly using Jack for the role that Bruce Dern played. But I wanted to repeat some of the casting, particularly Peter Fonda and Bruce Dern from The Wild Angels, so I went with Bruce for that reason."[6]

Filming began on March 29, 1967 and lasted approximately three weeks. The interior of the house with the indoor/outdoor pool where Fonda takes his LSD trip was located on Blue Heights Drive near Laurel Canyon and occupied at the time by Arthur Lee of the band Love. According to Corman, most of the intensely psychedelic decor seen in the house had already been set up by Lee with little additional decoration needed. The house can also be seen in the promotional film for Love's 1968 single "Your Mind and We Belong Together". The large circular main room of the house seen at the beginning with Dennis Hopper was shot at the San Souci Culture Temple on Ardmore Ave., which had been renamed "The Psychedelic Temple"; it would also be used as the gallery in Psych-Out.

Roger Corman wildly edited some scenes for The Trip, particularly the exterior night scenes on the Sunset Strip, to simulate the LSD user's racing mind. The Trip features photographic effects, body paint on seminude actresses to lend atmosphere, and colorful patterned lighting, during sex scenes and in a club, which imitates LSD-induced hallucinations. Many of the special effects in the film were developed by Peter Gardiner, who had caught the attention of Fonda just days before filming began. Finally, Corman included inscrutable fantasy sequences including one where Fonda is faced with revolving pictures of Che Guevara, Sophia Loren and Khalil Gibran in a wildly lit room. For no apparent reason, a little person riding a merry-go-round in the background blurts "Bay of Pigs!!" The story plays over a musical backdrop of improvisational jazz, blues rock by the band The Electric Flag, and an exotic musical score with an organ and horn-drenched theme.

Whilst most of the music actually used in the film was by Mike Bloomfield's The Electric Flag, the early visuals (e.g. the band in the club at the start of the film) are of Gram Parsons and the International Submarine Band, one of the earliest country-rock bands. It had been Fonda's original intention for ISB music on the soundtrack, which resulted in ISB recording the song Lazy Days to be used in the film.[7] However, Corman felt the song was insufficiently psychedelic or trippy enough to warrant inclusion,[8] and the Bloomfield/Buddy Miles/Nick Gravenites Electric Flag (aka "An American Music Band") is what is actually heard in the film. The Electric Flag's soundtrack to The Trip features some of the earliest use of the Moog synthesizer on a pop/rock record.

Salli Sachse recalled working on the film:

Roger was a very linear director–everything went from A to B to C. He was very serious. You didn't goof off or kick back while working with him. You had to be very on-task. It was a stricter atmosphere than I was used to. Roger felt that there had to be a distinction between Susan Strasberg's character and mine, so he wanted me to appear as a blonde... The Trip didn't deserve all the bad press it received. There was no drug use going on during filming–it was strictly professional. Maybe after hours, but I couldn't talk for anybody else.[9]


Advertisement from 1967

Released on 23 August 1967 during the "Summer of Love", the film had a huge cultural impact and grossed $6 million against a budget of $100,000. Corman commented on the popularity of the film, "I think that one of the reasons that the audience came in such large numbers was out of curiosity. They didn’t really want to take LSD, but the reviews and comments said this came somewhat close to an LSD experience, so they could take it without taking it".[10]

The film encountered censorship problems in the UK and was refused a certificate four times by the BBFC. A cinema classification was rejected in 1967, 1971 and 1980 and again for video in 1988. It was released on DVD fully uncut in 2004.


Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote, "Is this a psychedelic experience? Is this what it's like to take a trip? If it is, then it's all a big put-on. Or is this simply making a show with adroitly staged fantasy episodes and good color photography effects? In my estimation, it is the latter. And I would warn you that all you are likely to take away from the Rivoli or the 72d Street Playhouse, where the picture opened yesterday, is a painful case of eye-strain and perhaps a detached retina."[11]

Time magazine wrote, "The Trip is a psychedelic tour through the bent mind of Peter Fonda, which is evidently full of old movies. In a flurry of flesh, mattresses, flashing lights and kaleidoscopic patterns, an alert viewer will spot some fancy business from such classics as The Seventh Seal, Lawrence of Arabia, even The Wizard of Oz... The photographer's camera work is bright enough, and full of tricks, without beginning to suggest the heightened inner awareness so frequently claimed by those who use the drug."[12]

Gene Youngblood of Los Angeles Free Press wrote, "Corman’s film is not fine art; more precisely, it’s not refined art. But it is possibly the purest cinematic exercise ever to come out of Hollywood. Here, for the first time to my knowledge, Hollywood gives us a truly cinematic experience: a visual film, structured literally of pictures that move; a montage that is brisk and relatively arbitrary; a storyline that is appreciably abstract, and, most important, a film that pays tribute to the power of the image over the word — this from an industry in which most movies are merely photographed radio scripts."[13]

The movie holds a 39% "Rotten" score on Rotten Tomatoes based on 23 critics with the consensus: "The Trip's groovy effects and compelling message can't overcome the rough acting, long meandering stretches, and pedestrian plot."[14] Nonetheless, the film retains a strong cult following, particularly in Europe where it is hailed for its application of various New Wave cinema techniques within the Hollywood system.

Box office[edit]

The movie was very popular: Corman says it took $6 million in rentals during its initial release.[15] According to Variety, $5.1 million was in North America, and total revenue is estimated at around $10 million.[16]

Despite being one of American International Pictures (AIP) most profitable films, Samuel Z. Arkoff said they stopped making "dope pictures" soon after The Trip because he sensed the cycle would exhaust itself quickly. In 1974 he said "everybody else picked it up; and as late as last year they were still coming out with dope pictures. And there isn't one single company that made a buck on dope pictures. The young people had turned off."[17]

Home media[edit]

The Trip was released in a Region 1 DVD by MGM on April 15, 2003 as part of their Midnite Movies series doubled with a similar film, Psych-Out, on a double-sided disc.

In 2015, the MGMHD channel broadcast a newly-constructed "Director's Cut" of the film, which removed the opening disclaimer and the "shattered glass" ending imposed by AIP, as well as restoring additional footage to the opening party scene and exit music previously clipped on home video releases. This alternate version was later released on Blu-ray in Region B by Signal One films that year, and on Region A Blu-ray by Olive Films in 2016. The Signal One Blu-ray retained special features created for the previous MGM DVD, including a Roger Corman commentary track, and offered the AIP-mandated scenes (with Corman commentary) as bonus material. The Olive Blu-ray did not port any of the special features, but did include the original trailer.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Mark McGee, Faster and Furiouser: The Revised and Fattened Fable of American International Pictures, McFarland, 1996 p255
  2. ^ "The Trip, Worldwide Box Office". Worldwide Box Office. Retrieved February 26, 2012.
  3. ^ Mavis, Paul (December 6, 2017). "The Trip' (1967): As in, an acid trip, man". Movies and Drinks.
  4. ^ Stiles Rhuart, Britton (2020). "Hippie Films, Hippiesploitation, And The Emerging Counterculture, 1955-1970". p. 140.
  5. ^ Aaron W. Graham, 'Little Shop of Genres: An interview with Charles B. Griffith', Senses of Cinema, 15 April, 2005 accessed 25 June 2012
  6. ^ Nastasi, Alison (2015). "Flavorwire Interview: Legendary Filmmaker and "King of the B's" Roger Corman on Feminism, Poe, and the State of Independent Filmmaking".
  7. ^ Unterberger, Richie (2020). "Peter Fonda, Rock's Easy Rider".
  8. ^ Spiardi, Dana (2015). "Mr. DeMille, He's Ready for his Close-up: Gram on Film".
  9. ^ Lisanti, Tom (2001). "Fantasy Femmes of 60's Cinema: Interviews with 20 Actresses from Biker, Beach, and Elvis Movies". p. 230.
  10. ^ Stiles Rhuart, Britton (2020). "Hippie Films, Hippiesploitation, And The Emerging Counterculture, 1955-1970". p. 140.
  11. ^ Crowther, Bosley (August 24, 1967). "Screen: 'The Trip' on View at 2 Houses: Film Tries to Simulate Psychedelic Visions". The New York Times. p. 0. Retrieved February 4, 2023.
  12. ^ "Cinema: Turn-On Putdown". Time magazine. August 25, 1967. Retrieved February 4, 2023.
  13. ^ Youngblood, Gene (September 15, 1967). "'The Trip' Makes It Sexually, Cinematically". Los Angeles Free Press. p. 13. Retrieved February 10, 2023.
  14. ^ "The Trip". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
  15. ^ Roger Corman & Jim Jerome, How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime, Muller, 1990, pg 153.
  16. ^ "All-Time Film Rental Champs", Variety, 7 January 1976, pg 46.
  17. ^ Strawn, Linda May (1975). "Samuel Z. Arkoff". In McCarthy, Todd; Flynn, Charles (eds.). Kings of the Bs : working within the Hollywood system : an anthology of film history and criticism. E. P. Dutton. p. 265.

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