The Hippie Revolt
(a.k.a. Something's Happening)

Director: Edgar Beatty   
A bunch of hippies

I think that when most (if not all) people look back at the years they spent growing up, some of their most fondest memories will be with all the time they spent with the friends they had at the time. I know I do. I wasn't one of the more "cool" people in class, so the few friendships that I made I especially look fondly on. One of these friendships I enjoy thinking back on was with Curtis, who I met when I was in school. We did a lot of fun things together. One of the fun things we did was compose pages and pages of comics. We did them in an unusual way; I would write and draw one panel of the comic, then he would write and draw one panel of the comic. We would go back and forth like this and come up with some wacky compositions. One of them was Star Warts, a parody of Star Wars. It chronicled the adventures of "Puke Skyjacker" a long time ago in the near future (sic), and followed him as he met "Hand Solo" (get it?) and other protagonists as they battled the evil "Fart Vapor" and his deadly pimperial stormtroopers as the villains went around the universe with the deadly Breath Star (a giant acne-covered head that would destroy planets by exhaling bad breath on them.) We followed that with Fart Vapor Strikes Back, which was filled with even more nonsense, such as when Puke and Vapor got into a fartsaber fight, where Puke got much more than his hand cut off in the fight. We also did Traitors Of The Lost Fart, which had stuff like "Mary Ann" engaging in a cocaine-snorting contest in her bar instead of a drinking contest... I could go on for some time recalling all these comic memories.

I smile to this day recollecting the wacky things that went on between Curtis and myself. I remember posing this question to him: Would you want to have a flatulence superpower that would make you able to run very fast or be able to leap way up in the air? (He answered by saying he'd rather be like Superman and be able to fly.) I also remember many things he would ask me. One that especially comes to mind is when one day he asked me my birth date (he was a few years younger than me.) I told him the month and day (which I will not reveal, except to say that I share it with a certain pop music star who went insane years ago, and that it's also the day when Skynet will nuke the world), and also the year (which I won't even hint at.) Hearing the year, he exclaimed, "Oh, you were born in the summer of love!" I tried to deny this, partially because I didn't want to be considered that old. But I think deep down another reason why I didn't want to be associated with that period of time was that I didn't want to be associated with the youth of that time. I was not a "love child", thank goodness, but I'm also thankful that I was not a product of hippies. I think the main reason why I have a negative look towards hippies and the youth of the '60s comes from reading back issues of Mad magazine when I was young. Artists like Dave Berg would always draw them with impossibly long hair (wouldn't they be hot under all that hair?) and clothing that was ragged and laughable-looking. They were also usually portrayed as being idiots, with all their pot-smoking and constant proclamations of "Peace!"

Even though what I observed from Mad magazine and other sources about hippies repulsed me to that lifestyle, I must admit at the same time I was almost fascinated by it. Why would the youth of America suddenly have a problem about bathing? Why would they choose to poison themselves with stuff like marijuana, L.S.D., and ground-up banana peels? Why did they protest the war in Vietnam so heavily when there was ample evidence that communism brought about so much evil, which was made extremely clear at the time with countries like Russia, China, and Cuba? Why would they turn their back against the comforts that come with a good job and a good home, and decide to be unemployed and live in the worst of conditions, in old and broken-down apartments stuffed with other hippies and mattresses on the floor? I wanted to learn the answers to these and other hippie-related questions when I was growing up, but I didn't find much in the way of answers. I remember asking my dad if in the years before I was born, if he had any hippies in the high school English class he taught, but the answer I got indicated that my small hometown in British Columbia where I was raised was always hippie-free. Though when I grew up to become an adult and stopped thinking so heavily about these hippie questions I had, there was always a place in the back in my mind that made me curious. I decided to watch the documentary The Hippie Revolt in an attempt to see if I could get answers to my questions.

At the beginning of the documentary, we get a promise that we are going to see the real thing. The opening credits state that the movie was, "Written and told like it is by the hippies themselves." (Far out!) Though just a few seconds before that, you'll see a close-up shot of a hippie stating, "Karl Marx was f- [scratch on soundtrack] -ed up, too." From this, I guess we can assume that whoever did the sound editing for the documentary wasn't a hippie. (Bummer!) After the opening credits are finished, the documentary starts off in the famous Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco. We get a couple of garbled voices talking at the same time, blabbing something about acid. Then we get footage of hippie bongo players in a park, and a female hippie dancing to the beat. A voice on the soundtrack states, "Of course, it's a all different way of life. It's a whole different way of living. But more than that, it's a whole different way of thinking! I think this is probably why so many of the civilians have no concept. They look at the uniform, which is often bizarre. But it's fun to be bizarre!" Bizarre, yes. Maybe fun to the hippies. But as the segment goes on, and more hippies on the soundtrack start talking about everything from the health department to drugs, I started to get frustrated. What about Haight-Ashbury? Well, eventually we see Haight-Ashbury street signs, and a narrator saying there's 200,000 people in this eight to ten block area ("five square feet for every person," the narrator explains), and there's a housing shortage (No way, man!) But I never got an explanation as to why this area was such a mecca.

We next go to a group of people who call themselves "Diggers". Who are the Diggers? Well, the hippie narrating at the time on the soundtrack say they are what's good about Haight-Ashbury. "Those who are more than speed freaks. Those who are more than teeny boppers." It was about this time that I realized that this documentary was made for preaching to the choir, because the movie seems to assume its audience knows what a Digger is. From what I gathered from the narration, the Diggers were a kind of resource center for hippies, giving information about stuff like how to avoid "gang bangs" and how to survive without "bread". (Cool!) I tried paying attention to learn more about these Diggers, but the narration was both so monotone and the movie seemed to get off topic so quickly (cutting to more bongo playing) that I didn't learn anything else about these people. I trust my readers more than these narrators, so if anyone out there can tell me more about the Diggers, please e-mail me.

As a matter of fact, e-mail me also if you know more about "moonfire funerals", the next topic of the movie. A crowd is seen gathering in a park with signs stating "moonfire funeral", but what it is exactly is never explained. For one thing, the segment lasts less than a minute, and the hippies interviewed during this time only blab some incoherence about war and hydrogen bombs (and if we get rid of them, we'll have peace - whoa, dude!) From there, we next go to what appears to be a hippie wedding. It starts right off during the ceremony - we don't get pre-wedding interviews with the bride or groom, or even with the hippie minister. So as the ceremony goes forth, we don't learn why then during their vows they would agree that their mate could see other people and why, if the marriage goes sour, they can say "I divorce you" three times and leave their spouse. Yet at the next hippie marriage we see, the preacher has the couple take a vow that they will stay by their mate through thick and thin! Maybe it's Catholic hippieism this time, but a better explanation may be that these marriages look suspiciously phoney, in part due to the fact that more than one camera angle is used.

Next, we are taken to "A Love-In", according to the title card that comes up. Well, I was up to that, seeing how one of my favorite songs by the psychedelic rock group The Chocolate Watch Band is "Are You Gonna Be There (At The Love-In)". What is a love-in, in case you don't know? The first hippie narrator that comes up compares it to a "picnic", though I don't recall any of the picnics I have been to having people bobbing up and down to the beat of bongos, the first image that we get in this segment. As this segment goes on, we get hippie narration on the soundtrack talking about the police, drugs, but not much about exactly what a love-in actually is, and why hippies are so attracted to them. And the little that's said is overwhelmed by the absolutely poor audio that sounds like it was recorded in a bathroom. This sequence is so painful to watch that I desperately wanted to fast-forward through it. It must have bored the filmmakers as well, because eventually the movie cuts from all the dancing to stuff like traffic in the streets and a ton of bathroom graffiti - though this turns out to be even more boring.

Finally, the movie cuts to something new - though it turns out to be another way of boring the audience. We get several minutes of dancers dancing to the beat of a rock band playing a psychedelic instrumental song, as psychedelic lights and shadows shine down on the scene. (Whoa, the colors! It's padding, baby!) Eventually we get to the next segment, a look at a hippie commune called "Strawberry Fields". A hippie on the soundtrack gushes about the place, calling it "a gas", "out in the country, miles and miles of [pause] a real trip", and "nothing to get hung about." Why does this hippie think this way? Well, the acid trips he reports that he's taken here probably helped, but he also says "the games" here have been fun. What games? We never find out. A female interviewer is subsequently seen accompanying him and asking him questions. We do get a little information here - we see the the building he sleeps in, and he is asked a few questions like, "What kind of people come here?" and what the local townspeople think of the place. He's rambling in his answers, but at least we are given some answers. But just as this starts to get interesting, the interview ends, and we are then treated to footage of hippies in the woods while their monologues blab about unfair parents, the establishment, and (of course) drugs.

This narration by the hippies here only goes on for a few minutes, but it feels like forever. Finally we get to the next segment, which is called "The Acid Test Graduation". We see more hippies dancing around, though this time there are some Hell's Angels mixed with them. I thought that hippies and Hell's Angels didn't get along with each other, but here they are. We are shown hippies cooking something on the springs of a bed, though it's too dark to tell just what they are cooking. Maybe the hippies can tell us just what's going on here. A hippie narrator tells us, "What you have here is a gathering of the tribe, the acid tribe. Everyone's here been through the whole scene. Now most of them can get where it's at in their minds without acid. So we're going through a whole new plateau, level of consciousness, you know? The wheel of life keeps turning and you gotta chose." Uh. Okay. Then we see someone passing out diplomas and a hippie in a graduation uniform. Just about when we are about to get a possible explanation for all this, the footage of this ceremony ends. We are then treated to psychedelic visuals while we get even more muddy-sounding hippie narration (did I mention the sound in this movie is really bad?) about drugs. None of this rambling narration provides any insight (like: Why did they take drugs?), unless the purpose is to demonstrate just how stoned hippies were.

Eventually, we get to the next segment, focusing on body painting. I have never understood the appeal of body painting, whether you are a kid getting your face painted at some sort of festival right to painting your whole body. You are getting yourself dirty, and you'll eventually have to wash the whole thing off. A hippie narrator here says something about it being a glorification of the body and making a work of art, but I didn't buy it. The only reason there seems to be body painting (and why it's show here in this documentary) is to show nudity. (Woo-hoo......? If you ask me, the bodies on display here aren't very sexy, especially with all that paint on them.) The documentary then moves onto a peace rally. We meet one colorful protesting individual dressed in a military uniform named "General Hershey Bar". Who's he? The documentary seems to think that we already know who he is and what he does besides saying stuff like, "War kills people." A little later, we are treated to a confrontation between someone in the army and a group of hippies. I thought, now we'll get some serious discussion of the war from both sides. Maybe it was; I say this because the damn sound became muddy again and I could only make out a few words of the conversation. I also noticed this sequence soon cut to something else, possibly due to the fact the military man was stating his (garbled-sounding) opinions very confidently. A subsequent "interview" with someone in the navy going off to Vietnam in a few days is also cut, in this case before the man has the chance to state why he is going to Vietnam on his own free will.

Several minutes later, The Hippie Revolt comes to an end. And not a moment too soon. Although the movie only runs seventy-five minutes long, it feels like forever; I personally had to pause the movie several times in order to take a break so I could reenergize myself and face more poor audio, cheap film stock, and a rambling nature that made me learn next to nothing about its subject matter. I've seen plenty of worse movies, but if the field is narrowed to documentaries, The Hippie Revolt easily lands on my worst five I've ever seen list. Okay, you may be saying, you didn't like it, but what about others? What about those who grew up in that era? Well, I don't even see those people finding anything to like about it. They'll probably bemoan that there's no memorable music in the movie (remember, music is a big part of youth of any era), either top 40 hits or music sounding like hits of the era. They'll probably be annoyed that nobody in the movie seems to say any opinion in the movie without anything to back it up, with the movie makes them sound like stereotypes of the era. And I suspect that the activities shown in the movie will embarrass them as well, since they come across as stereotypical activities with no in-depth analysis. This is a movie with no possible audience. Maybe there was an audience for it at the time, but I suspect that audience was probably stoned out of their mind and didn't notice its shortcomings.

NOTE: After watching the movie and writing the above, I watched the movie again, though this time listening to the DVD commentary track hosted by Johnny Legend and Eric Caidin. A couple of the questions I had with the movie were answered in their commentary, and they provided a lot more information about the hippie lifestyle by the telling of their personal experiences. So if you watch the movie, I suggest you watch it with the commentary track on.

UPDATE: Mike Mueller sent this in:

"Dunno if DVD commentary includes this, but the Diggers were a gang of scraggly scroungers (hence the moniker) who attempted to nourish the hippie hordes in their ersatz utopia. Peter Coyote (worth catching in Roman Polanski's head trip, Bitter Moon) was among their rank ranks. His hippie days memoir, Sleeping Where I Fall, has long been in print.

"Digger exploits are also recounted in Emmet Grogan's Ringolevio, reprinted last year. As readable as Coyote's, but be advised that Grogan appears to be a liberal truthbender.

"Gen Hershey Bar was a street performer who derived his handle from a 60's Nam warlord. Similar sillies were General Wastemoreland and General Mills, hyuck hyuck.

"I once had long hair, but still enjoyed baths."

Check for availability on Amazon (DVD)

See also: Jabberwalk, Manson, Mondo Mod