There’s something specifically, quaintly wonderful about the counterculture movies of the late ‘60s: the costumes, the slang-y dialogue, the hallucinogen-inspired cinematography, the way the color temperatures have faded just so. Fans of the period are in for a treat this week, as Olive Films has debuted sparkling new Blu-ray editions of two key ‘60s indies: Roger Corman’s The Wild Angels and Richard Rush’s Psych-Out; in celebration of that release, a look at those films and a handful of others that best encapsulate the period (or, at least, cinema’s best attempts to capture it).
The Wild Angels
Producer/director Roger Corman kicked off the whole outlaw biker movie movement—and a new moment in the youth-geared cinema he’d been making his bones in since the ‘50s—with this 1966 cult classic, starring Peter Fonda, Nancy Sinatra, Bruce Dern, Diane Ladd, and (per the credits) “members of HELLS ANGELS of Venice, CA.” Casting the children of Hollywood royalty like Henry Fonda and Frank Sinatra gives the picture an undeniable subtextual kick, and the real Angels filling out the frame lend a documentary authenticity to the fights and parties. Corman’s picture has a rough energy and timely anti-authoritarian spirit, best dramatized in the notorious funeral scene, where Fonda’s “We wanna be free!” speech becomes something of a manifesto for the period.