10 Films that shaped TRIP CITY

CLINT EASTWOOD at the Pigeon-Toed Orange Peel in COOGAN’S BLUFF circa 1968

I don’t remember the exact date that my brother Bernard got a VHS VCR — but I’m guessing it was in the late 70s. And he recorded every movie he could off the Telly  — fastidiously editing out the commercials when he found the presence of mind to do so. Between that and us going to the cinema on Oxford Road or the big old Odeon together — it was Bernard’s interest in films that got me interested and then hooked.

I think that the first psychedelic nightclub that I saw was The Pigeon-Toed Orange Peel in the Don Siegal film COOGAN’S BLUFF with Clint Eastwood from 1968. After that came Michael Apted’s Jim McClaine redux with STARDUST. Then “Soylent Green is people” which is obviously in SOYLENT GREEN. Bernard took me to see both CHRISTIANE F when it was first released, also BREAKING GLASS with Hazel O’Connor.

I found other films along the way, like the seminal HOLY MOUNTAIN. The often-overlooked MAGIC CHRISTIAN. And Michael Moorcock’s THE FINAL PROGRAMME with John Finch and Jenny Runacre — which I watched ‘on acid’ with Sean McLusky in a Soho screening room.

This amazing concoction  —  in which I also have to include WHERE EAGLES DARE, which I regularly watched with my dad, are ALL present in TRIP CITY to either lesser or larger extents. I borrowed imagery from some of these movies. Others I re-interpreted dialogue and sometimes elements of characters.

Over 30 years later, movies are more present in the text of TRIP CITY than ever before for me. So, below is a version of my movie Top Ten — or should I say the top ten movies that in some ways influenced my process… If you click on the names — there are links to Amazon…

  1. THE HOLY MOUNTAIN — You can’t get anything more visionary than this. It’s Jodorowsky in his finest hour and most psychedelic. In my Transcendental Meditation practice (thanks to DLMFA at MIU), I sometimes try to delve deep into consciousness. Jodorowsky does that effortlessly as he explores the realms of Tarot, Christianity and a constellation of planets. The look and feel of this movie is mind-boggling — featuring goats, shaman and satanic iconography that might even keep Lil Nas X and Montero guessing… When I got old enough, I bought a tall black hat — just like the one in the movie.

2. STARDUST — An amazing romp through British rock and roll, the failure of the American dream and a descent into the insanity of fame. David Essex is breathtaking — as are the clothes and haircuts. Watch out for the incredible cameos from Larry Hagman, Paul Nicholas and Keith Moon.

3. BREAKING GLASS — In my opinion, one of the great, forgotten Punk Rock (or New Wave movies). Rock Against Racism is featured early on, as are terrific tunes and performances by Hazel O’Connor, Phil Daniels and a young Jonathan Pryce (as the deaf saxophone player).

4. SOYLENT GREEN — 70s Sci-Fi at its’ most stylized and moderne. Heston and Eddie Robinson turn in fine, dystopian performances. But the euthanasia scene cut to classical music is mesmerizing — both baroque and bitter-sweet. Maybe my green designer drug FX is actually an homage to the original Harry Harrison novel MAKE ROOM! MAKE ROOM! — published in 1966.

5. DANGER DIABOLIK — Who can forget John Philip Law in the black catsuit and mask? Or Marissa Mell rolling around on that round bed, bathing in Diabolik’s filthy lucre? This was the first Mario Bava movie I ever saw. Made me go on to watch his horror classics BLACK SUNDAY, BLACK SABBATH and KILL BABY KILL!

6. THE FINAL PROGRAMME — What a compelling and strange cultural oddity this is. Robert Fuest of DR PHIBES fame wrote and directed this highly unusual adaptation of Michael Moorcock — where we explore a ‘trippy’ multiverse alongside an all-star cast that includes Jon Finch, Jenny Runacre, Sterling Hayden, Harry Andrews and Patrick MaGee… Is THIS the end of the world, or the beginning of a new galaxy? I guess you should probably be on drugs to watch this — especially if you attempt to unravel any hidden meaning.

7. THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN — Off the hook with Terry Southern, Peter Sellars, Ringo Starr and Racquel Welch. In this unfeasible exploration of London and the British class system, eccentric billionaire Sir Guy Grand (Sellars) adopts a homeless young man (Starr) to prepare him for life lessons and an inheritance. Beyond that, logic ends and drug-fueled mayhem (at least from the writers) ensues. Totally mental!

8. WHERE EAGLES DARE — This reminds me of my dad, as we watched it so many times and also my pal Michael Holden as we would often quote “Broadsword calling Danny Boy… Broadsword calling Danny Boy!” Make no mistake, this is muchMORE than a war film. And Richard Burton with young Eastwood is just a joy. Maybe I borrowed the switcheroo and double-cross at the end of this movie for the denouement of TRIP CITY? Perhaps borrowed is too strong a word, though. I took elements. I took the thrill of it, possibly?

9. CHRISTIANE F — I remember this being one of the bleakest, most visceral and sexy movies I ever saw. Part of me was scared sh#tless — the other half wanted to run away to Berlin and live like one of the junkie kids. The concert footage of David Bowie in the middle of the movie is incredible. Apparently Amazon remade it as a series called WE CHILDREN FROM BANHOF ZOO. Go figure?

10. COOGAN’S BLUFF — Back to Clint Eastwood and the first psychedelic club I ever saw in a movie: The Pigeon Toed Orange Peel… Years later, I would try and re-enact similar dance moves with Derek Delves and Wildcat Wil at The Wag Club on Wardour Street. Later, Derek and Wil would do the legendary Tongue Kung-Fu nightclub and perform as THE SANDALS. Every time I watch this movie, I think of those guys, my brother with his VCR and ALL the mind-bending happenings we collectively lived through.