Saturday, September 21, 2013

AN AMERICAN HIPPIE IN ISRAEL: Grindhouse Releasing Brings the Most Psychedlic Blu-ray Ever to Hold the Most Psychedelic Movie Ever Made

Grindhouse Releasing has helped to preserve some of my favorite horror films. Movies like Cannibal Holocaust, Pieces, Cannibal Ferox and The Beyond to name a few. Their care and devotion to maxing out the fan experience with good cover art, inserts and more extras than a disc or two should even have room for make their product highly collectible and damn near scholarly. Up until now Grindhouse Releasing has put out their movies on DVD, but with An American Hippie in Israel they toss their hat into the big Blu ring. We should only hope that the model for this release becomes the standard, putting themselves in line with many of the key players in the genre Blu-ray distro model and bringing the same attention to perfect detail and a smorgasbord of content to a higher definition format.

Synopsis from Grindhouse Releasing:

Machine gun wielding mimes, robots, blood thirsty sharks, free loving debauchery and poignant anti-war monologues by raving mad hippies, all this and more is present in writer-director-prophet Amos Sefer's allegorical independent film, AN AMERICAN HIPPIE IN ISRAEL. Far out! 

(which isn't so much a synopsis as it is a collection of things that are thrown together to create a trip of a movie watching experience... Far out is correct.)


Let’s talk a little bit about what An American Hippie in Israel is not. It is not a good movie. This lost gem of a movie is meant to be enjoyed in large groups with copious amounts of alcohol and narcotics available to loosen your cheek muscles into a smile so big your mouth will be ready for the munchies. Want proof of this? The disc contains an audio option for the “Beverly Cinema Experience”. This is like a 70’s laugh track for a sitcom recorded in the auditorium of Tarantino’s theater in Los Angeles. Having popped in the movie and not paid attention to the audio option upon my initial viewing, the sound quality had an echo, and I could hear laughing in the background. I simply thought that this was part of the “The Most Psychedelic Movie Ever Made” experience. Perhaps AHII was trying to fuck with me by creating an audio hallucinogenic cascade of sound. As I enjoyed the movie and laughed along with said track (yes, I enjoyed it) I realized that I was being party to a straight-outta-All-in-the-Family happening, and that the audio options actually allowed me to turn off the bit of Beverly Cinema that had made it’s way into my player. I decided to enjoy the experience, and I feel the movie benefit strongly from this audio option especially if you have to watch the film alone and sober. Consider it Novocain to ease the pain of the experience of watching a so-bad-it’s-amazing movie without the proper mood lighting ie friends or drugs.

In much the same way that Grindhouse Releasing bought us Massacre Mafia Style and Gone with the Pope, you’re looking at a non-horror film. This is the true grit and grime of 70’s low/no budget filmmaking with an eye on your wallet. That’s not to say that writer, director, producer Amos Sefer is heartless or is not burning to tell the story of Mike’s post-war adventure into the land of Hippies and promise. AHII is honest, and actually somewhat touching if you get around some of the unintentionally humorous dialogue, strange editing choices or dated clothing styles (or lack of clothing styles in some cases). Watching it without the laugh track/cinema experience yields a more serious tone even in the gonzo, off the wall hijinx of mimes showing up fully loaded. This mirrored my experience with Gone with the Pope when watching that at the Hudson Horror Show 7 back in June. These filmmakers wanna make a buck, sure, but they also have deeply seated ideals that they want you to understand better by watching their picture. You can actually see Sefer’s intent is to make you sympathetic to his protagonists. Of course immediately realizing that I was being sucked into a deep, meaningful story I popped the 5.1 Beverly Cinema Experience back on because a movie called An American Hippie in Israel is meant to entertain me. Perhaps if it went by one of its alternate titles, The Hitchhiker, I would have tried to take it more seriously. The three disc Blu-ray/DVD combo includes a separate, full though somewhat unpreserved disc of The Hitchhiker version of the film (somewhat unpreserved as it’s the only existing print of the film and is somewhat damaged) if you’re feel like you need a good cry or an emotional experience that does not involve the consumption of righteous intoxicants.

The Blu-ray disc itself is a nice transfer of a movie that probably had seen better days. Hell, it was in hiding for so long and only recently started receiving screenings starting in 2007. The effort by Grindhouse Releasing to put this picture out has spanned over a decade. The product shows their devotion to the original film. The newly commissioned cover art captures the iconic feeling of a film begging to be seen on 42nd Street. The disc includes a poster insert with notes from John Skipp who is as much a comedian as he is a lover of bad/good cinema. The extras are pure fan gold which include the original uncensored director’s cut of the movie, controversial deleted scenes, interviews with the stars Asher Tzarfati and Shmuel Wolf, the aforementioned audio track, Beverly Experience, still galleries, trailers and a featurette and even Hebrew subtitles.

Grindhouse Releasing has provided a key to a lost era in filmmaking with this very limited release of An American Hippie in Israel. To have access to two different prints of the movie and even a screen test, silent and 16mm is a treasure not afforded to most films of this quality or budget. These kind of goodies end up on the cutting room floor, and in the age before archival-everything, priced-to-own features, you’d miss out on a well rounded viewing. Is it as psychedelic as the advertising would have you believe? It’s not quite as surreal as a Jodorowsky flick, but definitely hearkens back to a different, freer age when you could wear hats and still get laid. This is the era that makes beards cool today.

Bonus Features:

Deluxe Dual Layer Blu-ray Edition + DVD Combo + Bonus DVD
Spectacular New Hi-Definition Digital Restoration Of The Original U.S. Theatrical Version
PLUS - THE HITCHHIKER, The Uncensored Director's Cut
Six Controversial Scenes Deleted From The Original Release
In-depth Interviews With Stars Asher Tzarfati And Shmuel Wolf
Asher Tzarfati - An Israeli Actor In Israel - Bonus Featurette
Interview With Production Manager Moshe Berman
Interview With Singer/Co-Star Susan Devore
Channel 10 Tel Avi News Segment
A Cult Is Born - Featurette On Revival In Tel Aviv
16mm Screen Tests
Be Careful Children - Amos Sefer 16mm Short Film
Bonus 5.1 Audio Track - The Beverly Cinema Experience
Liner Notes By Acclaimed Horror Novelist John Skipp
Still Galleries, Trailer, Filmographies
Optional Hebrew Sub-Titles
Grindhouse Releasing Prevues Of Coming Attractions

An American Hippie in Israel is exceptionally limited so if you haven’t found your copy yet make sure to do so before you simply can’t. Stop by Grindhouse Releasing and like their Facebook page. Also stop by DiabolikDVD to pick up a copy while they last. I recommend it as a movie that is as bad as you think it will be. For fans of the era and genre, this is a treat and for newbies who have no idea why they call em grindhouses… this movie comes with a cautionary warning that you can’t just digitize scratches on a movie and say it came out of the grind. This movie… straight out of the grinder, into the fire, out of the fire and into your pricey home theater.


No comments:

Post a Comment