The Scare Film Archives Vol.1 – Drug Stories – Blu-Ray Review

This release consists of a wonderful collection of anti-drug educational films made from the late ’60s into the early ’70s, most centred around LSD. The release includes 11 films, plus an edited mix of four of the films that keeps the most amusing bits while editing out some of the shorts’ duller moments. The shorts are occasionally a little baggy, so editing them down to their most essential, camp moments of misinformation on the subject of drugs is a smart move.

American Genre Film Archive, which compiled this originally, did a very good job with the edit, but some of the best films on the disc were not incorporated into the mixtape version. The best film in the set is probably Curious Alice, which, as it suggests, is a riff on Alice in Wonderland. In this case, Alice enters Wonderland through drugs, not following a white rabbit and falling down a rabbithole. It’s a mixture of live-action and animation, including some rotoscope. It’s an incredibly visually inventive film that probably achieved the opposite of its intentions, because it seems more like an advertisement for taking drugs. Full disclosure: I’ve actually used clips from this film in a music video I once made.

The other film that is quite inventive is LSD-25, which one I hadn’t seen before. It’s your typical scare film, but it’s all told through the perspective of LSD itself warning youngsters about its “dangers.” It’s completely false and ridiculous, of course, but it’s hard not to love a film with memorable lines of narration like “Today you’re just HIGH. Tomorrow you’re DEAD.” The mixtape version leans very heavily on this short, and it’s no wonder, because it’s one of the more interesting and enjoyable films in the set.

Another film worth checking out is Beyond LSD, which has a surprisingly progressive take on kids and drugs: it basically says parents are full of shit, they should shut the fuck up and listen to their kids or something terrible could happen. It does a very good job of explaining the generation gap that parents were facing in 1967—shame the parents didn’t listen. The Distant Drummer: A Movable Scene is a documentary about the hippie scene in the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco. The first half is your typical drug-scare stuff, the second is more of a great snapshot of the counterculture in the Haight-Ashbury, so it has some real historical value. It’s narrated by Robert Mitchum, who literally says “with marijuana comes eventual confrontation with the law”… Mitchum was the first movie star to have a highly publicized drug bust with marijuana.

The final film worth mentioning is LSD: Insight or Insanity, which was narrated by Sal Mineo and takes a more “medical approach” to the effects of LSD. It starts off with some groovy scenes of young people being rebellious, including an acid party. It adds a little bit of history about LSD and Albert Hofmann being the first to synthesize and ingest the substance. The crap that comes out of the doctors throughout the short is just as funny as the (presumedly) actors playing burnt-out hippies, it’s one of the funniest films in the entire set. 

★★★★

Ian Schultz

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