Hallucination Strip (1975), the latest obscure Italian film released on home video by boutique distributor RaroVideo USA, explores the troubled ins-and-outs of Italy’s counterculture in the 1970s. Made by first-and-only-time director Lucio Marcaccini, Hallucination Stirp focuses on a group of young political activists living (and dying) in Rome, but in doing so paints a picture of Rome that’s far removed from its portrayal as a rough-and-tumble city of bloodbaths as it is in many other poliziesco films I’ve seen. Yet this Rome is still a place where amoral people do very bad things. And foremost among them is a student named Massimo, played by Harold & Maude star Bud Cort, whose thievery and drug dealing, well-intentioned though it may be, finds his clique in a heap of trouble with the law.
The narrative is an odd, meandering sort with no single, clear focus. And you can immediately see why Marcaccini would never be asked to direct another film following this schizophrenic potpourri, which is part heist movie, love story, drug trip, gangster movie, and even police procedural. And tucked into the middle of the whole affair is a surprisingly lengthy psychedelic freak-out sequence, featuring undulating lizard women and a guy turning into a plant, when the central gang of Roman students comes together for a drug party. Hallucination Strip may be as manic and misguided a work of art as I’ve ever seen, but it does have a certain undeniable naïve charm I can’t resist. And that charm’s amplified tenfold by the unlikely presence of Bud Cort, who’s most certainly out of place amongst the rest of the cast, but that honestly only makes his performance here that much more captivating.
If you’re into psychedelic pictures or poliziesco or both, you’ll definitely want to check out Hallucination Strip (or, as it was originally, awkwardly, and inaccurately titled: Roma drogata: la polizia non può intervenire). The film is now available on Blu-ray and DVD from RaroVideo USA, featuring a new HD transfer from the original 35mm negative, and the release most notably includes a lengthy and illuminating interview about the film with Editor Giulio Berruti in addition to the usual trailers and full-color booklet with liner notes.
This recommendation comes with one caveat, though, as there’s a problem I have with the picture that I know I’m not alone in. Typically, people who watch foreign films watch them in their original language and subtitled– rather than dubbed into English– in order to view the film the way it’s meant to be seen. When it comes to Italian cinema, though, one has to keep in mind that even the Italian-language track is dubbed over, as those in the Italian film industry once dubbed all audio in post-production. This means that even Italian-speaking actors are dubbed into Italian in older Italian films. The problem with Hallucination Strip is that both the original Italian-language dub and the English-language dub are difficult to endure. Though I would typically say don’t even bother with the English dub, being a language purist myself, the actor they found to dub Bud Cort has a voice some two octaves lower than Cort. It’ll no doubt prove endlessly distracting to anyone familiar with Cort, especially any Bud Cort fans who happen to be drawn to the picture. That said, Cort was clearly speaking English on set and the English dub features Cort (or someone who sounds awfully like him) dubbing himself back into English. Unfortunately, the rest of the voice-over work on the English dub is incredibly stilted. So be aware that you’re going to have to choose the lesser of the two evils when deciding between language tracks for Hallucination Strip. Personally, I prefer the dub where Bud Cort sounds like Bud Cort, but then, I am a huge Bud Cort fan.