The Acid Eaters If Ed Wood made movies that were so bad they were good, then Byron Mabe must have directed the Casablanca of crap. From the title alone, you'd think that the Acid Eaters
would be a tawdry treat of freak-out cinema from the heady set, ala East Rider or The Trip. We weren't expecting the method acting or the Hollywood royalty in this even cheaper production, but those at least offered views that were coming from the scenes they were depicting, rather than embarrassing impressions by out of touch old folks.
This David F Friedman production starts out with an exciting montage: It's 9-5 hell, clocking in and out, eating, crapping, and watching the clock. It gets to the point where the white toilet bowl and the white clock look the same; same shit different day, right? But when the Acid Eaters get off work, they grab their ladies, hop on their hogs, and head to the canyons near Malibu. The four couples decide to take a skinny dip, and "Chickie" (Pat, Barrington, Mantis In Lace), is the first one to show us her bosom buddies. Their loony but buffed out mascot, "Artie" (Buck Kartalian, who had recently appeared in Cool and Luke kicks off their Merry Prankster-like body-painting orgy, and they partake in a little dope smoking. Of course, some smooching is in order here, and that's where this film begins to live up to the exploitation genre (other than the initial milking of the drug movement); close-ups of more Sixties nipples, the go-go outfits they slip into, and then a cat fight which leaves one girl in the quicksand. Quickly forgotten about, our seekers go off in search of the "White Pyramid."
With the guys changing into matching red tee's they've transformed into a biker gang, and they're not afraid to take pull-off a random shake-down to get their dough for food and weed. For a second there, it's like Muscle Beach Party meets Hells Angels On Wheels, but not as cool as it sounds, and minus the wholesome Mousekateer. However, from the innocent fun to the camped-up ultraviolence, there's something bizarre going on here - it's like your parents friends (a few with bad boobs) talking about the clean fun they used to have hanging out with Charlie Manson. And the outrageousness continues when they reach their counterculture Mecca; a huge Styrofoam looking pyramid that is supposedly made up of LSD sugar crystals. Wow! Totally surreal and totally Land of the Giants ridiculousness.
The Acid Eaters has an excellent soundtrack, actually. Nothing too groundbreaking, but there's some cool west-coast-sounding jazz for the cruising scenes, and it sounds like they had a lot of fun with a Moog for the trippy stuff. The photography for the exterior scenes, while pretty basic, is engaging, and for people into seeing a 1968 Magnolia Blvd. street sign, the film has more merits than the filmmakers would ever know. In fact, you'll question how much about storytelling and continuity they knew to begin with, what with the stale humor and totally implausible characters. I understand that looking for a character arc in a C movie is a little ludicrous, but even Ed Wood's characters had "motivations." We're led to believe that our characters are weekend warriors, workin' for the weekend, kind of people - back at their hum drum jobs they get flashbacks of their "trip" - and we may understand the dame-swapping, but murder? Are they really more like Droogish sociopaths? Is this their weird Sixties version of fight club with a sock-hop twist? You then realize that before you're even finished asking yourself these questions, that the film will never deliver, and the short running time takes for-e-v-e-r.
If The Acid Eaters made you wonder whether you wasted your money or found the best of the worst of the Sixties, then Weed will make you forget the debate entirely. Worth the full price and a few dollars more just for this documentary alone, Weed is a counterculturists delight. In fact, it's a shame so much of this review was spent on the previous film. There's not too much that needs be said about Weed though, other than it is an absolute must for anyone doing research on drug culture, Vietnam, drugs and Vietnam, and the secret history of Ganja's presence the world over.
The documentary will also appeal to fans of vintage adult cinema as it was produced and directed in 1971 by porno pioneer, Alex De Renzy, years before he would get to Baby Face or Pretty Peaches. On the heels of President Nixon's Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, De Renzy decides for himself to get to the bottom of "The Great American Grass Problem." He interviews everyone, from park rangers to Pakistani hash mongers, and while there's always a sense of humor, he treats the topic with due diligence. Whether it's "Acapulco Gold" in Mexico, plain ol' grass in Canada, "Cambodian Red" in Nepal, or "Number One Cigarettes" in Vietnam, our narrator takes you inside of the drug trade. And as far as Nam goes, it's practically an addendum to Full Metal Jacket , Apocalypse Now -- all of 'em.
The DVD Video:
The Acid Eaters and Weed are both presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratios, which looks pretty good for the most part. Acid Eaters has the advantage, perhaps, because it was shot on 35MM verses Weed's 16MM, and even more obviously because the latter is a doc shot on the run. So you'll overlook the faded colors, choppy film, and other distortion. The former film looks impressive, especially the outdoor footage with its plush greens and golden yellows of the California terrain. Whatever remastering was done looks impressive, because the print looks almost too good for the content within.
Nothing much happening here, but the overall quality is still respectable. Presented in Dolby Digital Mono, it preserves both original soundtracks, even though it doesn't do too much for the field recordings in Weed.The dialogue is still clear, and the music is just ripe for hipsters to sample
Shorts: You get much more than a stingy nickel bag with this DVD! First, make sure you "drop" before watching the Sal Mineo narrated scare film, LSD: Insight or Insanity? Groovy baby. And Roy Norman's music fits right in with Rhino's Golden Nuggets catalog. Almost 18 min.
A Crutch for All Seasons is the other scare film included. Narcotics Education Inc. presents the family that drinks coffee together stays together. The message is that everyone has their crutch, but just make sure yours isn't dope because that's when inhibitions get lost, legs get opened, and all around teenage mayhem ensues. And watch out for the bad trip or you may end up like David Gurian ( Beyond the Valley of the Dolls ), who is just one of the victims of too much mind expansion. Whether you're daughters hot-boxing the weed after school, or your son is tying off at his job at the garage, parents in Sixties suburbia must know what they're up to. As the film encourages, you should go to your pastor or local cops for help.
"Kick Out The Jams Brothers and Sisters" screams a soul brother performing at "America's first Tribal Rock Musical Film." This trailer for Sign Of Aquarius is so dopadelic they it's filmed in "Loving Color."
This black and white number about how pot leads to nudity and holy shit, bongs hits through a paper towel roll. "When you blow pot," says the hype man, "you make it the best way there is..." Yeah, but you also get the munchies. The Hard Road is not a pretty picture, but a "behind the scenes look into to the lifestyles of the young and decadent." Cut to a man bitch-slapping his old lady in a motel room!
Advertised as "Hollywood first psychedelic sex freak out" the The Acid Eaters' trailer is amazing, right up Russ Meyer's alley. They promise motorcycle madness, and "a new kind of panty raid, they steal panties with the girls still in them."
Have You Ever Been On A Trip is an orgiastic, dirty, X-rated dirty flick that opens up with a Fender Rhodes version of the Beatles' "Rocky Raccoon," and that's not Billy Preston despite the fact that's it's still real funky. With a crazy masturbation scene, and they boast that it was banned until recent court rulings."
The Art of David F Friedman
A poster gallery of the Defilers Acid Eaters press book and more.
At the end of this long strange trip, this is a fantastic package, that in it's own way chronicles the transition from the beat era to the psychedelic era and beyond. The Acid Eaters should be checked out, but Weed should be treasured. The extras just bring more contraband to the party.
Why are our days numbered and not, say, lettered?