American Dope: Acid Dreams

Continuing with Al Profit’s American Dope series comes Acid Dreams, the history of lysergic acid diethylamide, otherwise known as LSD. Profit’s visual style and depth of research was discussed in my review of the White Powder, Black Powerso there’s no point in rehashing it here. Suffice it to say Profits style is a little rough but acceptable and his research is comprehensive.

In Acid Dreams, Profit opens with the creation of LSD in 1938 by Albert Hofmann and his research of lysergic acid found from a fungus grown on rye and other plants. In the 50’s, the C.I.A. began to experiment with LSD thinking that it would be useful in mind control. Profit illustrates this through the reenactment of the C.I.A. project known as MKUltra. One of the most famous subjects from the MKUltra experiments was the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.

While provided the desired hallucinogenic effects, LSD caused its patience to hear and see things that do not exist and spiritually remove oneself from one’s body. These out-of-body experiences and its perceived non-addictive side effects made LSD the first real party drug. It sat nicely on party platters of pot and shrooms for a night of existentialism and lava lamps. The most famous party animal was Timothy Leary, who embraced his role as the drug’s evangelist.

“These out-of-body experiences…made LSD the first real party drug…”

Leary’s influence leads to the formation of America’s counter-culture movement in Haight-Ashbury (San Francisco). Which brings us to Profit’s interview with Tim Scully, computer genius, famed LSD chemist, and an electronic engineer for the Grateful Dead. He believed LSD would bring peace to the world, but the heat turned up when LSD was declared illegal resulted in frequent raids and arrests.

Scully along with his partner Owsley Stanley was the preferred chemists in Haight-Ashbury. But in America, we hate monopolies. Not satisfied with a single production source, the formula was passed on to producers, specifically the biker gang Hell’s Angels. With amateur chemists and it’s illegal status, what started off as a drug of peace ended in criminal violence and prosecutions like all good drug stories.

Again, Al Profit has done his research and make liberal use of his reenactors to play out C.I.A. experimentation and a few good acid trips. Tim Scully comes along for an extensive interview bringing insight into the creation of the first party drug and his adventures on the forefront of the counter-culture movement.

American Dope: Acid Dreams (2018) Directed by Al Profit.

7 out of 10 stars

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