Mike is a traveling hippie who finds himself being picked up by a like-minded young woman named Elizabeth in Israel and the two have an instant connection with the belief in love not war. They set out to find other people who want start their own community based on these ideals but two men who have been following Mike massacre everyone that they have gathered. Only Mike, Elizabeth and another couple survive the slaughter and set out to a small island off the coast so they can continue on with their plans.
Originally I came across "An American Hippie In Israel" by chance and a little luck by finding a copy through grey market resources. Don't judge me. When I had originally written this review, I had just finished my first screening and suffice to say I was not prepared for what I had witnessed…those sharks…Thankfully, Grindhouse Releasing seems to be running full steam ahead -- even with the unfortunate passing of Sage Stallone -- and finally released this once lost piece of insane absurdity in an impressive limited edition set. While I was a bit more prepared for what I was about to experience, my original views on "An American Hippie In Israel" haven't changed all that much.
A movie like "An American Hippie In Israel" could have only been made in the 70's because it is a movie that is so far gone from the norm; it is the only thing that comes close to demonstrating what a drug trip is without actually being on drugs. While created to be a statement towards the Vietnam War, corporations and the savagery of man, etc. "An American Hippie In Israel" is a disjointed mess that's loosely connected through hippie ideals and funky jam sessions. I'm positive that Charles Manson also had a major influence to the so called story as the movie deals with Mike, a world traveling hippie who manages to gain a large following of like minded folks after he gives one of his anti-government/corporation and free-love speeches. After his hippie cult is slaughtered by two unknown men dressed in black suits with top hats and armed with Tommy-guns. Mike takes his gal Elizabeth and the only other surviving hippie couple to a small island to live out their dreams. After they become stranded on the island when their boat drifts away and the waters being infested with sharks. The once loving free spirits become savages who foam at the mouth and viciously attack one another until there is only one survivor.
"An American Hippie In Israel" is a strange little film. It's one of those movies that's accidentally strange though. It borders on being avant-garde with the conflicting messages, surreal imagery, and odd but never explained characters that seem to control the fate of others. The movie gets to a point of being so bizarre that I thought they had actually spliced in another movie, especially when we see Mike climb to the top of a hill on a mountain with a giant sledge hammer where he proceeds to bash people who have tape recorders for heads. These bizarre moments are helpful in making the movie entertaining as not much occurs between the jam love-in sessions and speeches. Technically, the movie is both unintentionally weird and hilarious but thankfully so.
Given the time it was made it's not surprising that the movie's main object is to deliver a message in regards to war, government, and corporations. So what better type of characters to use other than hippies? The movie goes so far as to even break the 4th wall; in the very beginning of the movie Mike delivers a long winded speech about children being turned into mindless killing machines at the push of the button while he stares into the camera. The message seems to dissolve though as the movie goes along. Particularly when Mike gets to the island with his three followers where they eventually turn into savages, and I do mean savages. All form of dialect is lost as the men and the women are reduced to primal screams, growling and snarling while they foam at the mouth and throw rocks at one another.
For me, it seemed like it was hard trying to figure out what they were trying to say at this point. Is it that even those who believe in love can turn into savages without the aid of war? Violence isn't manufactured but part of man's nature? Or is that all bullshit? There very well could be no message and "An American Hippie In Israel" is nothing more than a bizarre little movie that's nothing more than a product of its time. Certainly I could watch some of the incredible supplements provided by Grindhouse Releasing to get a better idea but what's the point of regurgitating someone else's thoughts?
But I digress, I didn't know what to make of "An American Hippie In Israel" after I watched and after revisiting it I still don't. It's entertaining because what it actually is in comparison to what it wanted to be are two very different things. Again, maybe I'm wrong and the movie is the result of some kind of deranged genius at the helm. Unlikely, but fuck, who knows. Regardless, I'm not surprised that this movie had become "lost" over the years. It had to have been hard to find the audience for this movie; it's a bit too gritty with the exploitation elements of hippies being massacred and people beating each other to death with rocks for the arthouse crowd. While also being too philosophical with it's anti-government but pro-love ideals for the trashy cinema folks. It is an entertaining movie all the same: bad dubbing, bad acting, bad editing, freaky-deaky music, random moments and total insanity towards the end. It's a movie people should see for a number of reasons but mainly because they don't make them like this anymore. And probably for a good reason at that.