Watch: A trippy re-creation of Ken Kesey’s first acid trip

Pin it

Documentary film director Alex Gibney, an Oscar winner for 2007's bleak Taxi to the Dark Side, is known for works featuring cynical plotlines such as Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, and Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer. Gibney's new film, the significantly more upbeat Magic Trip, hit theaters on Friday, and details the cross-country bus trips taken by author Ken Kesey and his blissed-out chums in the sixties.

You're probably familiar with Kesey from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (whose film adaptation Kesey hated, incidentally, because it took the viewpoint away from Chief Bromden), or Sometimes a Great Notion, but you may not be aware that Kesey, as a Stanford grad student in 1960, was a volunteer subject for a CIA-financed research project which tested a number of hallucinogens, including LSD, which was legal at the time. The project was known as MKULTRA, and took place at the Menlo Park VA Hospital, where Kesey worked, so it's not hard to see the influence on Cuckoo's Nest.

Magic Trip recounts the adventures of Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters on their psychedelic odyssey in the legendary bus known as "Further." The trip would later inspire Tom Wolfe's book, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. (LSD-spiked Kool-Aid was kept in the bus' fridge.) Gibney incorporates old footage, animation by Imaginary Forces studio, and old audio recordings that he found in an Oregon barn into the movie.

The clip is an excerpt from the film which tries to vicariously reenact that first inner voyage of Kesey's, by combining the rediscovered audio with tripped-out motion graphics, which aren't computer-generated but are actually hand-drawn digital composites. And that microphone definitely does resemble a shaver.