What happens when you put a bunch of acidheads into an old school bus and let them drive from California to New York and back again? Well, if it’s Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters and you give them a camera or two, you end up with hours and hours of footage that, after forty years, has still not been edited together. Alex Gibney, director of documentaries such as Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer took the footage and found a way to put together an amusing and compelling film.
My favourite part of the film was from the early days of Ken Kesey’s drug taking life. As a college student, Kesey was an elite athlete training for the Olympics as a wrestler, when he participated in a government drug trial where he was given LSD. Played in the film are audio recordings from this trial, and it was amazing to think that people were used by the US government in this manner. But, having said that was my favourite part, there were so many favourite parts. From seeing rare footage of some of the most famous of the beat poetry movement including Kerouac, Ginsberg and Cassidy to seeing a bus full of people high on LSD and speed being let continue on their way because the police were unaware of these drugs and their effects.
The handheld footage can be annoying at times, but if you can ignore this, it is a cool little snapshot into a very famous event of the sixties.