Magic Trip: Drug Fuelled Road-Trip Documentary
Allen GinsbergJack Kerouac...
Too young to be beatniks yet too old to be hippies, Magic Trip is the result of an attempt to salvage Ken Kesey and his
Merry Band of Pranksters’ footage of their cross country trip to New York in
1964. The forty hours worth of footage which was never utilised and almost
destroyed, has restored and edited into this off-beat documentary.
For a documentary that focuses on acid heads, Magic Trip is remarkably straightforward. It follows the road-trip
chronologically and any drug fuelled escapades are generally left to the film’s
subjects. One notable exception though was Kesey’s very first LSD trip which
was part of a CIA experiment in which he was a lab rat. As part of the
experiment, Kesey’s voice was recorded as he rambled on, under the influence.
This audio is accompanied by a transcript of his hallucinations combined with
psychedelic animation. And while this may sound like every other film portrayal
of an acid trip, this one is actually super cool. It conveys the mood perfectly
and really adds to the atmosphere created by Kesey’s words and intonation.
Stanley Tucci provides the documentary’s narration disguised in the
format of an interview. This allows the story telling perspective to jump from
one person to another in a very clear structure despite the amateur footage. None
of the Pranksters had any idea how to use a camera or the various equipment
that filmmaking entails, yet the home video effect makes it seem all the more
This reviewer’s primary interest in this documentary was seeing actual
footage of Neal Cassady; the inspiration for the character of Dean Moriarty
in Jack Kerouac’s beat generation Novel On
the Road. Cassady joins the pranksters for the ride to NYC and shoulders the bulk of the driving
responsibility while still managing to look like an over-caffeinated Energizer
bunny. You really get a feel for the guy who inspired a classic and who was
able to irresistibly draw people to him despite being the definition of a self-centred
livewire. We also get brief glimpses of some of the rest of the On The Road gang when the Pranksters
make it to New York, namely Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.
This is a documentary for people obsessed with the hippie, psychedelic
side of the 60s. If you’re into Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, Woodstock etc.
than this documentary is right up your alley. As for everybody else, Magic Trip may seem a tad indulgent.
You’re not going to learn anything new about the era but watching it unfold is
fascinating nonetheless .