Groovy movies YOU KNOW A GROOVY MOVIE WHEN YOU SEE one. Chicks dancing in miniskirts ... “liquid projection” backgrounds . . . quick-cut editing of wildly dancing youth at weird camera angles . . . seizure-inducing strobe lights ... generic rock with rude fuzz guitar over shimmering Hammond ... accoutrements like lava lamps, protest posters, peace medallions ... Of course, in any movie released between, say, 1966 and 1971, grooviness may occur on a dime. It could be a cop drama, a James Bond flick, even a Bob Hope movie. The protagonist — in search of a clue or a missing offspring or a drink — may stumble into a hippie nightspot, and suddenly, he’s bathed in that liquid projection. It happened all the time back then, and discovering these moments is like a treasure hunt. But I’m talking about movies that are groovy through and through . . . groovy to the core. Such as? Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Blow-Up” (1966) is a mod twist on Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window.” A fashion photographer in swinging London (David Hemmings) may or may not have inadvertently captured a murder with his camera. Adding to the swinging-ness is the Yardbirds (with Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page) wreaking Who-style destruction in a nightclub. The fact that Antonioni was an Italian director filming in England makes “Blow-Up” something of a voyeuristic experience. In Michael Reeves’ “The Sorcerers” (1967), 78-year-old Boris Karloff plays a marginalized senior citizen hobbling along the periphery of London’s youth-obsessed nightlife scene. When you see hipster Ian Ogilvy “chatting up birds” in a nightclub as a Yardbirds-like rock band performs in the background, you swear you’re back in Antonioni Land. Peter Watkins’ “Privilege” (1967) has Manfred Mann singer Paul Jones as a rock star who goes all cult-of-personality. Roger Vadim’s sci-fi comedy “Barbarella” (1968) sparked a debate: objectification of women or postmodern sendup? It raised eyebrows when Vadim’s then-wife, Jane Fonda, willingly bared all in what could be construed as titillation. When, in the opening-credits striptease, a weightless astronaut removes a glove, we realize that “he” is a she. More sections of the breakaway costume fall off as Fonda’s lithe figure comes into view, accompanied by a theme song worthy of Austin Powers, with lyrics like “You’re so wild and wonderful . . .” Fonda looks delectable, like cotton candy. The contoured cockpit of her spaceship — covered floor-to-ceiling in light
brown faux fur — is, shall we say, the opposite of phallic. Barbarella is a sex object, but Fonda deftly keeps the viewer in on every joke in this playful celebration of human desire. Old-schoolers Jackie Gleason, Carol Channing and Groucho Marx apparently sought to impress their grandchildren by appearing in Otto Preminger’s LSD-themed disaster “Skidoo” (1968). Christopher Jones is “punished” by a trio of randy gals in Richard Wilson’s “Three in the Attic” (1968). Blake Edwards’ “The Party” (1968) stars Peter Sellers as an awkward interloper at an elite hipster bash in an ultramodern abode. Lee H. Katzin’s “The Phynx” (1970) is a smartly written rock comedy with Leiber-Stoller songs and nods to “A Hard Day’s Night” and “The Monkees.” Plot: A government agency has spies embedded in various factions such as the Black Panthers, the KKK and the Boy Scouts. When old movie stars begin to disappear, the agency turns to a matronly robot, MOTHA (Mechanical Oracle That Helps Americans), for guidance. MOTHA’s plan: Form a band that becomes so popular, it can infiltrate enemy territory with ease. The old stars who cameo as themselves are a buff’s dream: Pat O’Brien, Johnny Weissmuller, Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Ruby Keeler, et al. See also Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg’s “Performance” (1970), with Mick Jagger as a faded rock star who enters an unlikely relationship with a gangster (James Fox), and Roger Corman’s “Gas-s-s-s” (1970), a farce set in a world where everyone over 25 is dead. Films set on college campuses often featured anti-war hippies: Arthur Dreifuss’ “The Love-Ins” (1967), Stuart Hagmann’s “The Strawberry Statement” (1970) and Jack Nicholson’s “Drive, He Said” (1971), with Michael Margotta as a college kid who takes psychotic drugs to avoid the draft ... to the point where he actually goes psychotic. Why else would you walk into a laboratory naked, and set all the lab animals free? I wasn’t kidding about Bob Hope. Even “Ol’ Ski Nose” made a groovy movie. In “How to Commit Marriage” (1969), Hope’s daughter (JoAnna Cameron) joins a real-life rock group, the Comfortable Chair, and follows the teachings of the Baba Zeba (Irwin Corey, sending up Maharishi Mahesh Yogi). Hope in mutton-chop sideburns, Nehru jacket and love beads is every bit as uncool as it sounds.
Jane Fonda with ray gun — or is that a hair dryer? — in “Barbarella” (1968). © Dino De Laurentiis Cinematografica Studios
Published on Mar 24, 2017
Published on Mar 24, 2017
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