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4.2 out of 5 stars
Magic Trip
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87 of 91 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2011
As for the first review above, I won't take issue with the reviewer, that's his perspective. I have a different view. Maybe going in with certain expectations would make one wish for more and I can imagine this movie being different. But I certainly don't think "Keysey deserves better". Considering his wife and son were instrumental in the making of it, I don't see how someone could take this film as a disservice to him or the Pranksters.

If you're not familiar with Kesey, this review might not be for you. Go read up a little or talk to an old hippy friend. If you are and find that era interesting, take a peek.

In some ways, this movie mirrors Electric Koolaid Acid Test. There's a little before the trip. A little about the Acid Tests after, and a nice short post script about his life afterward in Oregon. It's not just about the bus trip, but that is the central focus of the movie. It's a documentary, but not in the sense that anyone familiar with the story will learn much new, rather, it's a long awaited peek into the actual event, told through the original footage and recordings taken on the trip along with some short recreations and narratives.
Most of the world has heard the story, many have read it, but most of this footage has rarely been seen. It puts a face on the characters, fills in some blanks not covered by the book, (while leaving much out) and is a truly nice, humble homage to one of the true psychedelic pioneers.
How many people toured the country on LSD, met with greats like Alpert, Leary, Ginsberg, while Dean Moriarty (actually Neal Cassidy in real life) is driving a LSD and drug fueled bus filled with proto-hippies across the US to see the Worlds Fair in NYC in 1964?
Only one man could have pulled it off, because only one did. And along with a group of freaky, non-conformist artists and heads, helped spark a flame.
If you can scrape up 10 bux and a few like minded friends, maybe a good beer or two, take a look.
It's worthy of your time and deserves two thumbs up.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2011
I always wanted to put faces and personalities to the names in the Electric Koolaid Acid Test, and this film does it wonderfully. And hearing Cassady's patter live was priceless. But what really surprised me is how crew-cut all the Merry Pranksters were! Take away quote from Kesey: "I've always been a fairly reliable straight-up the middle road citizen who just happens to be an acid head." Loved it!
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2011
I first read the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test not long after it first came out. Later I became aware of the fact that it wasn't entirely accurate. But it was accurate enough for me to get a pretty good understanding of what the movement was all about. Besides, I had the lyrics of groups like The Grateful Dead, John Lennon, and Jimi Hendrix as resources too. I don't blame Kesey and Owsley and others for being a little angry with Wolfe for getting a lot of things wrong; but people who didn't live in the San Francisco Bay area learned quite a lot from the book anyway, and mostly good things, in my opinion.

The most common criticism of the book, which apparently is fairly accurate, is that most of the book is written from the point of view of one Prankster: Sandy Lehmann-Haupt, who was a little crazy, and who had an ongoing disagreement with Kesey during the bus trip and after. But there are also other, non-Prankster, voices in the book. One of my favorite parts came from an interview with a woman who later became a journalist, if I rightly recall. She was at an acid test an accidentally took too heavy a dose. Luckily she bumped into a male friend of hers, and the two of them held onto each other to weather the psychedelic storm they were standing in the middle of. They pulled each other through, and the experience left an indelible impression on both of them. They became instant friends for life.

Kesey and Oswley and others resented Wolfe's mischaracterizations, whether they were inadvertent or not. Wolfe just didn't get it. He had no concept of what these states of consciousness were like and he never found out. I think he lived his whole life without even trying marijuana, which is fine. But he didn't have a clue to what he was actually writing about. His perspective was as a total outsider. He apparently tried to straddle the line between objective journalism and the kind of sensory detail that might be expected from a short story writer or novelist. But he really didn't understand the things he was trying to describe, so he got the Prankster perspective wrong in many ways.

Still, I've always enjoyed The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test in spite of it's errors, and I've reread it many times. I didn't know they were errors when I first read it. And later when I discovered it, it didn't much change my impression of Kesey and the Pranksters. I had a positive view of them then and I still have a positive view of them today. But this film corrects many of Wolfe's errors. Ever since I first read the book I've yearned to see the film footage and hear the audio recordings from that bus trip. It's been about forty years since I first read it, and finally that dream has come true.

In fairly recent years I grew to understand that the remaining footage was in very bad shape and poorly organized, and that it would probably never be stitched together in any presentable form. Then I heard about this movie and I almost couldn't believe it! Maybe that's why I wasn't expecting very much. I was well aware of the technical problems involved with editing the footage into a presentable format. Beyond that, the bus trip was an experience that defied any medium of expression anyway. It was clearly one of those cases where you had to be there to truly get the picture.

Not expecting much, I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. I loved it. Some of it was dramatic reenactments, but they were faithful to reality. For example, there's footage showing "Stark Naked" as she's being lead through the halls of the hospital she was detained in. Obviously Kesey and the Pranksters weren't there to take the film footage. It was staged---as was a few pieces, here and there, of the audio dialogue---to fill gaps in the story. But I think it was done perfectly. And it was necessary for continuity. It's fairly easy to tell the authentic footage from the few parts that were dramatized. It's just a matter of using common sense. Plus there's a commentary track on the DVD.

And although some of the audio dialogue was dramatized as well, it was based on transcripts of interviews. So despite these unavoidable necessities, the movie very accurately portrays the events it depicts. And many of Kesey's friends and family advised the filmmakers so it would be as true to actuality as possible. If Kesey were alive today I'm sure he would have a few criticisms of it. After all, the trip was his *creation*. He said he felt the bus trip was more of a creative accomplishment than his first two novels. He was more proud of the bus trip. But I think he would realize it's the best that could be done considering the technological challenges involved.

I think most of the people who knew Kesey well would probably love this movie, and the rest are dead. Besides, there's a whole generation of aging hippies out there who've waited long enough! LOL Don't listen to the naysayers. If you've ever read The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and liked it and wondered what the film and audio footage was like, this is a *must see* movie. Frankly, some of the film footage and still-photos were amazingly clear. The color was as vivid as if it had been shot yesterday. Some of it was a little shaky, and other footage was more grainy and washed out, primarily due to inadequate lighting when it was shot. But you have to take the good with the bad. Overall I was overjoyed with the finished product.

I also got a perspective on Neal Cassady that I never had before, based on what seems to be a very perceptive and poignant opinion of one of the female Pranksters (I forget which one). Back around 1989, Jerry Garcia gave an interview for Rolling Stone Magazine that I read as soon as it came out. When he spoke of Neal Cassady he said, "He could see around corners." The interviewer took his comment figuratively, and Garcia corrected him and said, "No, I mean he could actually see around corners. We'd be walking down a street and Cassady would say, 'I'll bet you anything that we bump into 'whatsisface' just around the corner, and he would always be right." [This is paraphrased, of course]. Apparently Cassady had some sixth sense. Anyway, one of the surprises of this film is that I think I understand Cassidy far better than I did before.

Thank God for Alison Ellwood and the whole film crew! This film is quite an accomplishment.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2011
You're either on the bus or off the bus. If you read and enjoyed the book by Tom Wolfe,"The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test", you will want to see this. It's like reading "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and then watching actual footage of Hunter Thompson partying with his Somoan attorney. This is the America I was born into, in living color, as it was about to change from Wally and the Beaver to Jimi Hendrix and Easy Rider. This is Ground Zero for the flower-power era. Kesey and his Merry Pranksters look surprisingly clean-cut for road-tripping acid heads. They weren't really Hippies; Hippies hadn't been invented yet. On one level, their adventures are ludicrous and anti-climactic...as the big trip is launched, the bus runs out of gas before they even make it off the property. They splash around in the water, they blow on instruments they can't really play, they try to make a movie with equipment they can barely operate.They decide to take acid while waiting for a tow-truck! Indeed,if you've never experienced psychedelic drugs, you'll wonder what all the fuss is about. If you HAVE tripped, you'll appreciate the wonder and evangelical zeal that Kesey felt, and witness America's mind being blown for the very first time. He looks wholesome and benign as he urges and encourages his friends to penetrate the farthest reaches of inner space. Sceptics will scoff, but Kesey was onto something...the possibility of living a self-defined life. Kesey actually did it. That is not a small achievement.There IS an element of half-assedness here. There is also the shining light of a holy fool.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on September 17, 2011
As someone who just missed the Summer of Love, I have always been fascinated by the Merry Pranksters. I think Ken and company helped change the world. Like Johnny Appleseed, he went around raising the consciousness of a generation of people. Those who did not partake could not help but be affected by those around them. Although this film is not perfect, it is a testament to a time and the footage is great fun to watch. I came away with an entirely different perspective from another reviewer here, to equate Ken and the Merry Pranksters with online porn is to miss the point of this film entirely. That reviewer could have easily pointed out all the positive steps society has made and blamed that on LSD, as well. Narrow minded? Too bad Furthur bypassed that reviewer's doorstep! I highly recommend you check out this film.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
----------------------------------------------------------
"Magic Trip"
(Magnolia Home Video, 2011)
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In 1964, novelist Ken Kesey became one of the forefathers of the 1960s' hippie scene when he and a bunch of friends took a beat-up old school bus, painted it in psychedelic colors, loaded it up with tape decks, sleeping bags, American flags, and an undetermined amount of mind-altering drugs (including lots of LSD, which was still legal at the time...) and set off on a cross-country voyage to discover America... or whatever. The trip was immortalized in Tom Wolfe's book, "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" which transformed their spaced-out meanderings into the stuff of legend...

What most Merry Pranksters fans didn't know from the book was that Kesey & Co. had brought along a bunch of film equipment and shot a bunch of footage on the road. They knew nothing about film production, and even less about film editing, and the project languished for years, and was abandoned for decades after the film was chopped up, chewed over and given up on. Contemporary documentary producers got wind of it in the 21st Century and convinced the owners to let them re-edit the footage (which was challenging in part because the original film and soundtracks were recorded out-of-sync...) They took dozens of hours of raw footage and condensed it down into a coherent narrative.

In many ways, this is a for-devotees-only production: if you've read Wolfe's book, you'll want to check out this documentary -- this is the actuality to his sensationalized account, the real images of the mythic adventure. Several things may be striking: first off, how normal and "square" the original hippies looked: they were the bridge from crewcut, Eisenhower-Kennedy America into "the Sixties" as remembered and imagined in popular culture. Then there's the general shabbiness of the bus and its occupants: the idealized version you saw in your head is replaced by footage of real people, they're tired, bored, young, stoned and goofy. Their older, adult voices talk over the footage, remembering the bus trip with fondness, incredulity, and frequently with cynicism or scornfulness. The Prankster footage is contextualized by archival footage of other events: Kennedy's assassination, the Civil Rights movement, Vietnam, the Beat scene and, most deliciously, a sampling of some of the anti-hippie propaganda on the late '60s, when the lines in the Generation Gap were drawn. We also see footage of the first early "acid tests" (drug parties where the rough-cut footage of the trip were often projected) and pix of the house band, The Warlocks, who morphed into the Grateful Dead. All in all, it's a strong historical document, one that both re-mythologizes and de-mythologizes the pioneering elite of the hippie scene. The film's last third, which charts the trajectory of the San Francisco area hippie scene, and Kesey's own escape to Oregon... Definitely worth checking out. (DJ Joe Sixpack, Slipcue film reviews)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 1, 2012
When I heard this DVD was out I immediately bought it. From when I first read The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Trip, through all the Grateful Dead years and biographies, The Bus Trip has been a part of the history I associated myself with. Did I experience any revelations watching it? No, but that doesn't detract from its importance as a documentary of the event. In fact, it puts it in perspective. It was cramped, there were fights, people dropped off along the way (I was very surprised one of the featured characters didn't even make the trip back). But it was cool to see, and in fact I would have liked to see more (I think they shot 30 hours of film). Frankly, seeing and hearing Neal made it for me. And the tiny glimpse of one of the Acid Tests. Now THAT I could have seen more of. If this era is important to you, buy it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 25, 2013
Seeing all the Pranksters, especially Kesey, Mountain Girl, Babbs, Hassler, and, of course Neil Cassady, aftewr all these years, was a treat to this 60-year-old...I was about 12 or 13 when I saw the Bus last...and I truly miss all those good folks...they were the family I wish I'd had. It took almost 50 years to complete it, but the Movie is finally out...and so is the truth! Peace!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 25, 2012
I liked this film for several reasons: (1) as a historical artifact; (2) as a window into the origins of the acid generation; (3) as a testament to the power of humour and spontaneity in holding together a situation -- A bunch of "Divine Losers" traveling cross-country to the World's Fair -- That was goofily productive and yet often untenable. Luckily for "The Pranksters" -- The Journey became more important the the Destination. Of course everything had to fall apart, everything had to deconstruct, everything had to melt -- Wasn't that the point of tripping? And yet most of the Merry Pranksters managed to hang on and complete the "The Magic Trip" -- That occurred at the verge of the 1960s metamorphosing into its true essence. In 1964 when this footage was filmed, the country was, as shown in this documentary -- "Still in the 1950s". Ken Kesey is introduced to the viewer as a Square -- An athlete married to his high school sweetheart -- Who ends up going back to a relatively normal lifestyle of a country guy (and writer) in Oregon once the afterglow of the trip has worn off. The Pranksters were also Squares when they started the journey -- And Hippies when they came back. Post-Journey -- The LSD flew out of the Pandora's Box (as witnessed in this documentary) -- Via the San Francisco Acid Test parties with the Warlocks (The Grateful Dead in their infancy) providing the soundtrack. Said acid then infiltrated the masses. As a child of the 70s -- Watching this film brought back childhood memories of going through my older brother's high school yearbooks, looking at the photos and imagining what it would be like to hang out with the "grown-ups" -- What were then the teenagers of the burgeoning Hippie generation.

A couple Beatniks have cameos on this DVD: On the one hand Allen Ginsberg -- Who relates to and participates in some of "The Magic Trip" -- And on the other hand -- Jack Kerouac. Kerouac, like Kesey, was another ex-high school athlete who found both artistic & commercial success in his youth -- Whose "On The Road" inspired Kesey to make the journey (also mentioned in this film) with the Pranksters and the painted bus "Further". Kerouac is shown in the picture as having become an "old man" at 42 and not being enthused by the Pranksters' antics. Kerouac remained stuck in the 1950s, unwilling to adapt to, or to accept, how everything was changing -- And then spiraling into self-destruction. Perhaps even more tragic is the example of Neal Casady as a kind of Life Force who was also a Lost Soul. As the film elucidates in a brief segment -- Casady couldn't commit to any kind of form, scene or sexual orientation -- And couldn't channel what he had into a tangible creative product. The aspect of the Pranksters occupying a special "Interzone" between the Beatniks and the Hippies is a key element of this documentary. They were, as other Amazon reviewers of this product have mentioned, despite their "Dobie Gillis / Beach Boys" inspired attire -- The Avant-Garde for the Flower Children. The Pranksters represented the "Changing of the Guard" -- Those who could Move towards the Light (especially with the help of LSD). PS -- 18 minutes of deleted scenes (along with a couple other features) are included as extras on this DVD that provide "Further" insight into this film.

Stephen C. Bird, Author of "Catastrophically Consequential"
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2011
What happened in the 1960's that made it so 60's? This film reminded me that the underworld of the 60's began with events and not dates; something happened that shifted culture, viewpoints, and created reverberations that we continue to experience at present. To those who don't mind watching scratchy, old film footage shot by amateurs and spliced together some 40 years later, this is an opportunity to experience an event that obviously sparked the classic flower power culture-up close and personal. Like many documentaries this priceless glimpse into an influential moment in time requires some determination, don't expect easy entertainment. I loved it for its time capsule significance.
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