Wow, this is cool. Everyone who’s read Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test or just knows a little bit about the origins of the 1960s counterculture knows that Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, while on their legendary LSD-fueled road trip from San Francisco to New York, taped the whole thing. In fact, filming it was sorta essential to the experience -- just like rigging the Furthur bus with all kinds of sound equipment was.
Now unfortunately, afterwards nothing was ever done with the film material. Until now. I’m pretty excited about this, because apparently, some people have gotten together and created a documentary about the 1964 Magic Trip based on loads of original raw material never seen before. This means that all those characters -- Kesey himself, Neal Cassady (the driver in On the Road and (!) the bus driver), Babbs, Mountain Girl, Ed McClanahan, Sandy Lehman, etc. -- are in there. And it’s in color too.
Wow. I wonder if the Merry Pranksters’ encounter with the other psychedelic pioneers of that time -- the East Coast based Harvard professor Timothy Leary and his followers -- is in it as well. Apparently, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg are in it too.
Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood’s MAGIC TRIP is a freewheeling portrait of Ken Kesey and the Merry Prankster’s fabled road trip across America in the legendary Magic Bus. In 1964, Ken Kesey, the famed author of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” set off on a legendary, LSD-fuelled cross-country road trip to the New York World’s Fair. He was joined by “The Merry Band of Pranksters,” a renegade group of counterculture truth-seekers, including Neal Cassady, the American icon immortalized in Kerouac’s “On the Road,” and the driver and painter of the psychedelic Magic Bus. Kesey and the Pranksters intended to make a documentary about their trip, shooting footage on 16MM, but the film was never finished and the footage has remained virtually unseen. With MAGIC TRIP, Gibney and Ellwood were given unprecedented access to this raw footage by the Kesey family. They worked with the Film Foundation, HISTORY and the UCLA Film Archives to restore over 100 hours of film and audiotape, and have shaped an invaluable document of this extraordinary piece of American history.