If the movie trailers are any indication, Tim Burton’s vision of Alice in Wonderland looks to be the most trippy celluloid adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s characters yet, and that got me thinking about other films that have been influenced in some way by the use of mind expanding drugs.
So tune in, turn on and drop whatever else you thought was more important for the next few minutes as I present, “7 Movies and the Drugs That Made Them.”
Dennis Hopper uses dialectic physics to explain to the captured military assassin, Capt. Willard about the absurdity of fractions. What good are fractions, he contends; you can’t land a spaceship on Venus on one-quarter or three-eighths. If you just understood the logic of the previous sentence, it’s probably because you’re stoned out of your gourd, grooving to the haunting vocals of The Doors and living on an island where severed human heads pass as ambiance.
Many are familiar with the night Mary Shelley dreamed up the story of the Frankenstein monster. Gothic, starring Gabriel Byrnes as Lord Byron, Julian Sands as Percy Shelley and Natasha Richardson as the creator of the reanimated monster takes that story night one step stranger.
After drinking liberal amounts of laudanum (an alcoholic opiate concoction) Lord Byron’s guests decide to wake the dead. Soon everyone’s drinking blood, watching naked men scamper about on the roof of the castle and a woman opens her blouse to reveal a pair of ample breasts–complete with winking eye nipples. To top off the genuine weirdness, the film is scored by Thomas Dolby. (He of the ‘80s synth hit, “She Blinded Me With Science.”)
It’s never a bad idea to watch Ralph Bakshi animation while under the influence of your favorite drug of choice. That drug may simply be the sugary-sweet addiction of a heaping bowlful of Lucky Charms as you pop in a bootleg DVD of his mid-‘60s classic, Mighty Heroes.
Of course your mind-altering substance might be something a little harder and much more illegal should you choose to undertake one of Bakshi’s always underfunded flicks like Fritz the Cat, The Lord of the Rings, Cool World, or Wizards.
While there is no overt drug usage in the movie Wizards you’re still fairly likely to leave that movie thinking you either have just taken a dose, or that you now really need a dose.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
There has never anything subtle about Hunter S. Thompson’s love of psychotropic stimuli. The Ralph Steadman-inspired movie poster alone clues you in you’re about to embark upon a psychedelic journey, and the pages of the book itself should give you further hints if needed.
“…2 bags of grass, 75 pellets of mescaline, 5 sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers […] and also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether, and 2 dozen amyls” are hardly enough to keep Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro satiated during their brief visit to Sin City.
If the movie disappoints, maybe you just need another blotter of acid.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Monty Python and the Holy Grail is considered by many a word-for-word reciting Python-worshipping comedy nerd to be the “Holy Grail” of intelligent satire. The film itself is utter perfection, but the actual filming was apparently anything but idyllic. Python member, and lead actor, Graham Chapman, was a notorious alcoholic and that difficult fact caused more than a few problems during the production of the movie.
Consuming a reported three bottles of gin a day, Chapman still somehow managed to perform to arduous task of starring in a major motion picture while alternately being bombed off his rocker, or going through the DTs.
In 1977, Chapman, a licensed physician, gave up drinking completely and starred in Python’s second classic, Monty Python’s Life of Brian.
We are left to wonder how two Terry Gilliam directed films have made it on to such a relatively short list.
John Lennon was always quick to point out his song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was inspired by his young son Julian’s drawing of a fellow nursery school classmate and was not a subtle nod to a popular drug of choice by many of the counterculture of the time.
Many Beatles fans to this day however still refuse to believe the surreal visual imagery conjured up by a tune whose very initials “L.S.D.” are mere coincidence.
It’s even tougher still to convince them that the animated musical, Yellow Submarine contains absolutely no drug references, when the Beatles themselves, as well as many other major artists at the time, spoke openly and honestly about their drug use–both positive and negative.
The Blue Meanies themselves can be interpreted as the narcotic division of the police department–always out to ruin everybody’s good time with their silly laws.
The term “yellow submarine” is slang for a sedative/hypnotic sleeping pill, and if you care to take it another step, a submarine can take you on a “trip” (much like a Magical Mystery Tour bus) through your “sub” conscious.
Movies that also fit very nicely into this category would be The Who’s Tommy, Pink Floyd’s, The Wall, and the Monkees movie, Head. Seriously, Head is great. (Pardon the obvious entendre.)
Oh look it’s Dennis Hopper again. Are we spotting another trend? Easy Rider has long been both revered and vilified as a movie that featured real drug use both off and onscreen.
The movie begins as a couple of drug dealing, but otherwise all-American bikers, drop off a load of contraband cocaine to their connection, whose name happens to be, Connection, and is played by long-time drug abuser and convicted murderer, Phil Spector.
The soundtrack contains suitably titled druggy songs as “The Pusher” and “Don’t Bogart Me.” Musical artists include such well-known experimentalists as Jimi Hendrix, Roger McGuinn and David Crosby.
If there’s a lesson to be learned in this movie it’s don’t take L.S.D. in a New Orleans cemetery with a couple of hookers. It will surely lead to a bad trip, and you’re likely to have a premonition of your own untimely death.