Magic Trip | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Magic Trip

A colorful doc revisits the infamous Ken Kesey "acid" bus trip of the 1960s

It was 1964 when counterculture icon and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest novelist Ken Kesey and his Merry Band of Pranksters began their seminal, LSD-fueled bus trip from Oregon to New York and back. Inspired by On the Road -- and with Kerouac pal Neal Cassady behind the wheel -- they were on a mission to free their countrymen's consciousness from conformity and routine. The movie they shot along the way was never completed, so filmmakers Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) and Alison Ellwood have excavated the footage and audio tape and fashioned a sort-of recreation. The vintage color motion pictures and stills are supplemented by actors' voiceovers and ex post facto interviews. But what sticks with you are details like Cassady's nasal, machine-gun chatter from behind the steering wheel -- and the episodic spectacle of these beautiful, nutty young people (Kesey was 29) cavorting across Middle America in a psychedelic 1939 International Harvester school bus. (Another brilliant find is documentation of a trip that preceded the bus journey -- audio of Kesey's mad jabbering during a government-sponsored LSD experiment.) Magic Trip includes cameos by Allen Ginsberg, Ram Dass and Kerouac himself, and a reminder that the Pranksters' unlikely cross-country destination was New York's World's Fair. The film also covers the famed Acid Test that followed the bus trip. (Cue Grateful Dead cameos.) Did the Pranksters change America? A little, probably -- but, as Kesey says, if nothing else they were "divine losers." Fri., Sept. 9-Mon., Sept. 12. Melwood

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