Saturday, May 03, 2003

Acid is Fun: Blue Sunshine (1976)

Long coveted by psychotronic film aficionados, Jeff Lieberman’s Blue Sunshine is a cranked-up psychotic bad trip that starts out twisted and only gets tighter as it goes along. Starring future soft-porn movie czar Zalman King, Sunshine examines what happens when a group of former college friends, who in the heady 1960s all took a bad batch of LSD known as Blue Sunshine, are now reaping what they’d sown. And man, it isn’t pretty. Blue Sunshine may take ten years to peak within the user, but it definitely makes up for lost time. Users of the drug (a reporter, a housewife, a political aide, a cop) turn into complete homicidal maniacs. Oh, and their hair falls out also, making them appear like Manson Family members, albeit more culturally conservative ones. Blue Sunshine may be a seriously whacked-out exploitation film, but its satire of American consumer culture is nevertheless dead-on. Like the films of cult film auteur Larry Cohen (God Told Me To, It’s Alive!, The Stuff), the early films of David Cronenberg (Shivers, Rabid, The Brood, Scanners, Videodrome) and George A. Romero’s classic living dead trilogy, Lieberman deftly skewers strip malls, suburbia, television, advertising, and most of all, the so-called Me Generation of daft “experimenters” who for one brief moment believed that there would be no repercussions for their downward spiral of collegiate decadence. Zalman King, as the “hero” of the film, is completely over-the-top. I’m still not sure whether he’s brilliant or the worst actor of all time. Perhaps he’s a little of both. On a scale of one to ten on the hysterical meter he rates an eleven and a half, just a little behind Steve Railsback’s totally bizarre performance from Tobe Hooper’s unjustly-maligned science fiction bomb Lifeforce. But to tell you the truth it’s too close to judge accurately. Previously, Lieberman had directed the Nature Run Amok drive-in classic Squirm (1976) and the Hillbilly Run Amok film Just Before Dawn (1981). Both have their value, but Blue Sunshine is definitely the one to see. Nostalgic baby-boomers, neo-hippies and disco-cogs should stay away, though. Everyone else should dose.

Blue Sunshine is available on DVD from Synapse Films. The Special Edition disc contains a short film called The Ringer, director’s commentary, the requisite theatrical trailer, and for a limited time only the original soundtrack CD.

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