The closing of Pandora’s Box, a tiny hippie club that used to stand on a concrete island in the middle of Crescent Heights, led to the Sunset Strip riots of 1966—the events that inspired Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” the Seeds’ “Pushin’ Too Hard,” and this cheapo 1967 exploitation classic, Riot on Sunset Strip. Aside from giving new meaning to the phrase “Van Nuys slumber party,” this rockudrama shows you Pandora’s Box, which fell to the wrecking ball later in ‘67, and documents smoking performances by the Standells and the Chocolate Watchband of Nuggets fame. (There’s also footage of a delightful garage band called the Enemies, who sing the song “Jolene.”)
Admission $2.50: Pandora’s Box
For about the first two-thirds of the feature, both freaks and cops are sympathetically portrayed. The bad guys appear to be—in art as in life—the Sunset Strip merchants and business owners who used the police to harass longhairs. Wise as Solomon, patient as Job, the paternal Lieutenant Walt Lorimer (Aldo Ray) is the movie’s hero. He tries to broker a deal between the establishment and the freaks, whose number includes his estranged (because mom is a lush) daughter Andy (Mimsy Farmer). If a well-meaning liberal had written an episode of Dragnet, it would look something like this part of the movie. But at 47:55, a hippie cad doses Andy’s diet soda, and the application of a phasing effect to the electric blues on the soundtrack signals that all hell is about to break loose; though slow to build, the freakout that follows is epic, in the sense that it is very long. Now, the movie turns into a regular episode of Dragnet: five wasted youths, who have degenerated through regular acid use to the level of rutting curs, rape Andy while she trips. (If you’re thinking it’s like that scene in Touch of Evil, guess again.) Lt. Walt, who hasn’t seen his daughter in years, finds her naked at the scene of the crime, and suddenly the wealthy businessmen of the Sunset Strip don’t look like the bad guys anymore. This is the movie the copy on some of the posters promised:
See for yourself their Mod, mad world… without law or license, morals or manners, God or goal!
“Grass is fast, but acid’s like lightning, man”: Andy’s lysergic hair-don’t
So much for the story. But you don’t have to be a connoisseur of crap drama to thrill to the sights and sounds of the Chocolate Watchband playing “Don’t Need Your Lovin’” at 38:27, you just have to have a pulse. Let’s make the Strip scene!