Blu-ray Review: Psych-Out



Released in 1968, Psych-Out, more than anything, gives us an interesting look at the late 60s San Francisco hippie drug culture. Filmed on location, the film gives us a glimpse of what that era in San Francisco looked and sounded like. You can even almost imagine what it might have smelled like!

What little plot the film has follows Jenny (Susan Strasberg), a deaf runaway in search of her brother. She meets up with a group of hippies including Stoney (Jack Nicholson), who all want to help her find her brother, cause, hey man, why not? They follow a series of clues that lead them to a junkyard where the find out a bunch of bro-ish type guys want to beat up her brother, who goes by the name The Seeker (Bruce Dern), for no specific reason. Dean Stockwell plays Dave, a guy who also seems to have eyes for Jenny.

When no focusing on the plot of the film, which is most of the time, we are given long glimpses into the world of hippie culture. There are many long scenes that focus on exposing this sub-culture, rather than move the plot forward. They make for curious scenes, but often tend to drag on a little too long. I found this interesting because this cut of the film is the 101 minute directors cut, which is a little over 10 minutes longer than the initial theatrical cut.

The performances are pretty solid. For such an obviously low budget film, all the main actors make you believe in their characters, and even the smaller rolls don’t seem particularly bad. Being that much of the film revolves around drug use, there are many visually trippy moments, which are kind of fun.

There are a few moments of pretty impressive special effects in the film. At one point early on, a guy who is having a bad trip on STP sees his friends who are trying to help him as zombies trying to attack him, and the zombie make up is better than some I’ve seen in bad zombie films. He then looks down at his hand, which he sees as decomposing and decides he needs to saw it off. Luckily his friends stop him before he can do that, but the hand is pretty gruesome looking. Later Jenny is having a bad trip on STP and everything around her is catching fire as she tries to run from it. It’s a very well done scene.

Living in the Bay Area, I perhaps found this film more interesting than most will, enjoying the moments of 60s San Francisco which graced the screen, but all-in-all I think anyone with an interest in the subject matter or Jack Nicholson’s early career should enjoy this film.

The film is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio and Dolby Digital audio. The is a really good looking and sounding film for the age and the low budget.

There are no special features.

I’m always interested in seeing early performances from established actors, especially when they are low budget cult films like this one. I was certainly won over by the footage of 60s San Francisco, but even beyond that, the film was an interesting look a unique subculture.

Olive Films presents Psych-Out. Written by E. Hunter Willett and Betty Ulius. Story by E. Hunter Willett. Directed by Richard Rush. Starring: Susan Strasberg, Jack Nicholson, Dean Stockwell and Bruce Dern. Running time: 101 min. Rating: Not Rated. Released on DVD: February 17, 2015.

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