One has to wonder how many of the multitude of drug scare films produced in the 1960s and early 70s actually managed to propagate the bad trips they were warning us about. Almost every depiction of the LSD experience committed to film has been negative, including movies made by so-called “heads.” Check out The Trip, Easy Rider and Psche-Out to see how Hollywood hipsters, who should have known better, demonized psychedelics. Easy Rider comes close to replicating an LSD trip but man is it spooky in that graveyard.
I am still waiting for the movie that reveals the truth about LSD and how it triggered one of the greatest leaps in consciousness since the invention of film itself. But that’s a whole other article for another time.
Right now, let’s peer into the dark side of psychedelia according to people who know jackshit about the subject at hand. Go Ask Alice was a 1973 TV movie based on a book of the same name. The book, like the movie, is a bunch of reactionary hokum that more than likely created more bummers than it prevented. Back in the day, teenagers were constantly bombarded with anti-drug propaganda and as a result went into the acid experience expecting the worst. And in many cases, the negative programming became a self-fulfilling prophecy. The idea of “set and setting” (be in the right mindset and in the right environment) as emphasized by Timothy Leary was basically ignored while TV and movies continued freaking kids out. I would venture to say that most bad trips were the result of bad pre-programming. But instead of teaching people how to take drugs responsibly, society chose the alternative of keeping people in the dark. I had the good fortune of reading Leary’s “The Psychedelic Experience” and various other texts on LSD before taking my first trip and knew that even the worst acid trips could simply be ridden out by breathing deeply and staying calm in the face of the cosmic storm.
It’s easy to laugh at Go Ask Alice now, but at the time it was broadcast on the American airwaves the movie probably did a significant amount of damage by promoting misinformation and outright lies. Unlike the fabricated Alices of the media world, when I was 16 years old and peaking on 250 mics of Sandoz I didn’t flip out when the telephone starting melting in my hand - a sensual, pulsating blob of red plastic. I kept talking, telling my mother how much I wanted her to share the lovely experience I was having in that moment. Yes, my first trip was transformative, profound, ecstatic. Go ask Marc. I’ll tell you all about it.
Go Ask Alice features William Shatner, Andy Griffith and future coke-fiend MacKenzie Phillips in an outrageously alarmist but entertaining exercise in ignorance. The shitty version of The Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” sets the tone for what’s to come.