RIOT ON SUNSET STRIP (1967).
Those "irresponsible" hippies are at it again -- rebelling against The Pigs in this camp cliche-fest which comes across like a schizophrenic mixture of PSYCH-OUT and DRAGNET. There's loads of great background details and drugged-out strangeness throughout this flick, but it obstensibly plays like a bad '50s morality piece. Director Arthur Dreifuss is no newcomer to this type of teen drama (he also helmed THE LOVE-INS and THE YOUNG RUNAWAYS), but his dated "Problem Youth" messages tend to get in the way of the fun after awhile... The setting is the infamous Sunset Strip, the established hangout for California's late-60s longhairs and weedheads, and the viewer is quickly introduced to a quartet of college kids who're heading to the with-it coffee shop, Pandora's Box (where "The Beat Go To Eat"). Too bad the mean-spirited Normals are always picking fights with these non-violent flower children. And when the cops arrive, guess who's blamed for any trouble? Yep, the innocent peaceniks. Meanwhile, we're shown a cross-section of the area's activities: A guy's arrested for smoking a joint, a mother rants at her daughters for their style of clothing, and our foursome is pulled in for breaking curfew. (Pretty dramatic, eh? Nope.) Aldo Ray gets star billing as the top cop covering The Strip -- on one hand he's dealing with the teenaged "invasion", and on the other, the local merchants want the kids tarred and feathered (not to mention crew-cutted). But instead of taking a stand on this incendiary social issue, the film would rather cut to the melodrama. And how dumb does it get? Are you ready for the saccharine story of a rebellious young girl (Mimsy Farmer) with an alcoholic mom, whose long-lost father is actually the head of the Hollywood Police (yep, Aldo himself!). The script tries to wring out the tears with this bathos, but just when you're ready to give up on the flick, it comes across with some solid, counterculture fun! Where else can you see The Chocolate Watchband in concert? And wait until the full-fledged acid freak-out, with Mimsy getting secretly dosed and doing the L.S.D. Erotic Dance of Self-Discovery as she revels in examining her hands and toes, while wriggling on the floor in her mini-skirt! It's just too bad this mind-boggling Maximum Weirdness doesn't last for more than a few selective scenes. It always cuts back to Law-'n'-Order Aldo's hysterics. As for the title "Riot", it only lasts about four minutes and all it consists of is some I.D. checking, protest placard carrying, and one ALMOST-beating. A pretty wimpy riot, if you ask me... A few GREAT moments and LOTS of tedious ones make this a strictly mainstream treatment of an era that definitely deserved something more subversive.
© 1989 by Steven Puchalski.