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USA 1967
Directed by
Andrew Dreifuss
91 minutes
Rated R

Reviewed by
David Michael Brown
3 stars

The Love-Ins

Synopsis: During the peace-and-love years of the late 1960s, Larry (James MacArthur) and Pat (Susan Oliver) are the editors of their college paper. When they are expelled for criticising the system, their teacher Dr John Barnett (Richard Todd) resigns in disgust and instantly becomes a celebrity amongst the freewheeling hippies. Realising that there is money to be made, he transforms himself into a messiah who proclaims that everyone will benefit from a bit of LSD-fuelled mind expansion. Larry sees through the façade but Pat becomes obsessed and in turn pregnant by the now-demented prophet. Barnett shows his true colours and soon Larry has only one solution to stop him.

Set in San Francisco's Haight Ashbury district, The Love-Ins is a fun, colourful depiction of the free-living spirit of the purple-hazed Sixties. The film's glorification of LSD use got it banned on its initial release, its screening at the 2005 Sydney Film Festival screening being its first-ever cinema screening in Australia. Interminable dance and love-in sequences full of groovy dancing, oil lamps and psychedelic lighting seem designed purely for its presumably tripped-out audience. There is one hilarious scene where Pat overdoes the LSD and hallucinates that she is Alice in Wonderland as her fellow revellers transform into The White Rabbit and assorted teapots.

The film does try to make some serious social comments on generational conflict and the corruptibility of power but it never really hits home. The unhinged performances and improbable dialogue dilute the message but from another perspective, add to the film's entertainment value immensely. If the years that have passed since the film was made have not been kind to its efforts at social commentary The Love-Ins is nevertheless a wonderfully vibrant snapshot of the era, or at least a snap shot of what the filmmakers thought was happening for it plays more like an episode of the Brady Bunch on acid.

It certainly is bizarre seeing the clean-cut Richard Todd, his character obviously based on the infamously famous acid guru, Timothy Leary, chanting his mantra "be more, sense more, love more" as he exclaims the benefits of LSD whilst dressed in a toga. It's light years from his performances in films such as The Dam Busters. Producer Sam Katzman had also worked with director Dreifuss on Riot on Sunset Strip but it's quite bizarre that both men were both in their twilight years when they made these films. You can't imagine them connecting with the drug-tinged excesses that the film shows but then the guru does get his comeuppance so the moral majority wins out in the end.




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