An American Hippie in Israel (1972) Blu-ray Review: The Rocky Hebrew Picture Show

A mind-warping lump of coal that has magically turned into gold.
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At first glance of the title, An American Hippie in Israel seems like some sort of joke. And indeed, it was - on the investors who shelled out the cash to produce this flick back in the early '70s. The film, known in its native land as Ha-Trempist (The Hitch Hiker), started out as a social commentary by one-time filmmaker Amos Sefer before being shelved completely on account of its complete lack of any aptitude whatsoever. That, however, did not stop the film from becoming something of a popular item in Israel - much like The Rocky Horror Picture Show's still active success in America several decades after the film failed to make any sort of impact upon its initial release.

Of course, An American Hippie in Israel is still relatively new to the scene - having only emerged into the world in the last couple of years after being completely forgotten for a small eternity. Rescued from the sands of time from an eager group of curiosity seekers, the movie's rediscovery soon became an Israeli midnight cult phenomenon, with crowds dancing along to the feature, performing musical numbers, and shouting back at the absurd dialogue. Naturally, An American Hippie in Israel will probably never get anywhere close enough to overpower The Rocky Horror Picture Show in terms of cult status - mostly because Hippie is way too fucking weird for your average Rocky crowd to comprehend.

In fact, I think it's way to fucking weird for anyone to comprehend.

The movie begins with our titular character, Mike (Asher Tzarfati), arriving in Tel-Aviv in his ongoing quest to find his head. He soon meets up with a nice young actress (Lily Avidan), who offers the happy wanderer a ride. En route to her home, a black sedan darts out and two bizarre mute characters who resemble well-dressed mimes appear out of nowhere. Mike knows these guys, as it turns out: they've been following him around the entire world since the government transformed him from a peaceful fellow into a cold-blooded killing machine in the Vietnam War. A short while later, Mike and his gal pal hook up with two more freedom lovers (Shmuel Wolf and Tzila Karney), and begin to build a commune of free love and folk music when the big bad mimes - armed with machine guns - break up the party and mow everybody else down.

That's just the first act of the film, kids. It gets weirder. From there, our foursome head out to the coast to find their own Shangri-la - but the party quickly turns sour once madness, starvation, a baby goat, a weird-ass dream about unlikely robots, and two of the least-convincing sharks ever built for a motion picture begins to harsh their buzz. Truly, you have to see this film to believe it (or disbelieve it, as it were). It's a deliriously awesome trip into the annals of dejected psychedelic celluloid; "The Rocky Hebrew Picture Show", if you will. Or, if one were to go all punny-like with the film's literal English translation - The Hitch Hiker - this could very well be the Israeli cinematic equivalent of Vogon poetry.

Needless to say, it's the incompetence and direct absence of coherency or beauty (save for a lot of the naked bodies featured in the movie) that make it so worthwhile. And the fact that it was filmed in English (with ADR artists looping the dialogue in post-production) only adds to the fun.

Better still, this mind-numbing lump of coal that has magically turned into gold has now been given new life for the rest of an already-confused world to enjoy courtesy the cinemasochists at Grindhouse Releasing. While the Blu-ray and DVD discs included in this Limited Edition 3-Disc set give us a slightly cropped, slightly trimmed cut of this truly jaw-dropping experience, the third disc presents us a less-perfect open matte and uncut look at Sefer's original, feverish vision - and not only contains a couple additional seconds of somewhat more violent material, but also has the final frames of the insane ending that will send you in orbit!

Sadly, the aforementioned cut of the third disc (which is under the international The Hitch Hiker title) contains burned in Hebrew and French subtitles and is of a less-desirable quality. That said, the A/V aspects of the Hippie cut (heh, "Get your hair cut, hippie!") are vastly superior, and present a High-Definition restoration of the film in a 1.77:1 aspect ratio with a 1.0 DTS-HD MA lossless mix and removable Hebrew subtitles (because fair's fair, right?). A true highlight of this release is an optional bonus audio track, the Beverly Cinema Experience: a 5.1 audio recorded at the 2010 American premiere of the film in Los Angeles, wherein a bewildered crowd found a new false idol to worship.

Additional bonus materials for this must-have cult classic include a number of interviews with the film's amazed stars, several deleted scenes (which are included on the third disc's cut), several featurettes, still galleries, and trailers for this and other Grindhouse Releasing titles (and I would just like to take this opportunity to beg very pathetically-like for Grindhouse to please release Duke Mitchell's Gone with the Pope ASAP: I must see that movie!).

All in all, this is a genuinely amazing bad movie that has been given a royal release. My hat goes off to Grindhouse for not only releasing this delectable drivel to an otherwise unsuspecting public, but for enabling me to replace Dünyayi Kurtaran Adam (aka Turkish Star Wars) as the official bad movie selection whenever company comes over.

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