Synopsis by Mark Deming
In 1964, Ken Kesey was an author who had published two popular and critically acclaimed novels, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Sometimes a Great Notion. At the same time, Kesey also had a strong bohemian streak and in the late '50s had been a volunteer in a research experiment sponsored by the United States military on the effects of an unusual new drug called LSD. Kesey came to believe the LSD experience had the power to reshape America's psychological and spiritual landscape, and he continued using it with a handful of trusted friends and colleagues. In 1964, Kesey and several of his fellow psychedelic explorers -- including Neal Cassady, a close friend of Jack Kerouac who helped inspire the book On the Road -- bought a 1939 International Harvester school bus, fixed it up with bunks, painted it with bright, abstract designs, and set out on a cross-country voyage to explore America and share their new vision with those they met. In time, Kesey and his "Merry Pranksters" were credited with launching the counterculture revolution of the 1960s, and as they traveled from place to place, they documented their adventures on 16 mm film. However, due to sound synchronization problems, the footage was never edited into useable form, but filmmakers Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood have used this material as the basis for a documentary on the journey of the Pranksters and its cultural influence. Magic Trip: Ken Kesey's Search for a Cool Place explores the history behind Kesey and his group, offers a look at their experiences on the road, and includes footage of some of the friends they encountered en route, including Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and a rock band called the Warlocks who would later change their name to the Grateful Dead. Magic Trip received its world premiere at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.
LSD, psychedelic, road-trip