Saturday, June 9, 2018

Captain Milkshake (1970)

          While the meaning of the film’s title is a mystery, Captain Milkshake is in many other respects a fine time capsule, capturing the mellow textures of the hippie lifestyle, the difficult interpersonal dynamics between Establishment and counterculture types during the Vietnam War, and the confusing experience of a young man who finds himself caught between these worlds. On a stylistic level, the movie brims with hot tunes by Quicksilver Messenger Service and other significant acts of the period, while also beguiling viewers with psychedelic visuals. Some scenes are in black and white, others are in color, many involve trippy superimpositions, and the much of the film unfurls like an extended music video, with rapid-fire edits timed to the beat of energetic rock songs. Sometimes the immersive approach works, creating a vibe almost as intoxicating as the weed that characters often smoke, and sometimes the approach seems enervated and repetitive.
          The problem is that for all of its slick photography and hip gimmicks, Captain Milkshake doesn’t have much of a script.
          Paul (Geoff Gage) is a Marine home from Vietnam on a two-day leave. Living in the shadow of his late father, who was also a Marine, Paul has an attitude that’s partly pacifistic and partly patriotic, so he’s conflicted about his role in the military. Listening to a racist uncle rant about how cool it is that Paul gets to kill Asians doesn’t help matters. Gradually, Paul becomes more and more involved with two hippies he meets by happenstance, fast-talking agitator Thesp (David Korn) and Thesp’s sorta-girlfriend, Melissa (Andrea Cagan). Over the course of his leave, Paul becomes sexually involved with Melissa and, without realizing it, criminally involved with Thesp—Paul tags along for a trip to Mexico, only discovering after the fact that Thesp smuggled dope across the border. Yet not much really happens in Captain Milkshake. There’s a lot of talk about planning a demonstration, for instance, but the demonstration doesn’t amount to much. Accordingly, the “shock” ending feels contrived and inconsequential.
          Still, Captain Milkshake gets lots of points for vibe. Excellent black-and-white photography grounds the picture in cinematic professionalism, providing a strong baseline for freakier visual elements. Some of the editing (credited to costar Korn) is also impressive, especially an exciting montage set to an acid-rock cover of “Who Do You Love?” That one scene, which has enough editorial whiz-bang for an entire episode of The Monkees, encompasses everything from lava lamps to motorcycles to sex. And even if the film’s acting is mostly quite tentative, some scenes land simply because the hippie ethos is conveyed so effectively. In one choice bit, Thesp imitates John Wayne’s voice during a speech while hippie chicks play “America the Beautiful” on kazoos.

Captain Milkshake: FUNKY


Eric Colin said...

The vibe of this film is pretty wonderful, as is the gorgeous Andrea Cagan - who went on to do a few other low budget features.
In addition the outstanding soundtrack you mentioned, West Coast psychedelic wonders, Kaleidoscope are also featured playing live in the club scene.

I always thought the title was a reference to the main character being extremely white-bread.

Guy Callaway said...

Have never seen, but sounds right up my alley.

Jett said...

I also enjoyed the late Darlene Conley (Sally on Hold And The Beautiful) as Melissa's stuck-up high society mother who only cares about keeping up with the Joneses,and the dirty old uncle who is always asking Melissa how her sex life is and telling her dirty jokes and how Melissa laughs at them all. Paul gets a motorcycle from a beer buddy of his after a night of partying and takes Melissa on a ride the next afternoon and they joke,rude shopping carts and make out. Paul likes Melissa and her hippie friends although he doesn't care too much for Melissa's open relationship anti-marriage total freedom bag. He goes along to a campus demonstration where These.keads an open theater parodying John Wayne and having the hippies strip and make out in an auditorium and then he has them sprayed with water. Paul is happy to go along with it until he is tricked into the MMexico trip where the door is bought. They successfully hide it from the border patrol and the cops,but at a party later,Paul starts to figure it out. He accuses Melissa of using him to get dope. She says they didn't tell him because they thought he'd get hung up. All his inner turmoil is stirreed up in a confrontation on the beach.He was ts to be with her on his last day. She wants them both to go to the demonstration. He can't accept that Vietnam is totally wrong.One of the hippies teases him as he storms off. Paul hits him and Melissa sneers that he should finish him off like the killing machine he's been taught to be.Paul leaves. The next day,Melissa goes to his house and his mother says he already left. Paul tries to find Melissa in the huge anti-war demonstration but he can't. She is there and a middle-aged couple speaks and says their son's death in Vietnam has turned them against the war.Paul takes a can to the airport and he heads about the demonstration on the cab radio. The driver scoffs at the hippies. When Paul says he's afraid they're right,the cab driver says the demonstrators are wrong "There have always been wars and there always will be." Paul replies there has to be a better reason for war than that.Paul goes back to Vietnam. Melissa walks around the beach.SPOILER ALERT! Paul is shot down in Vietnam and killed. Melissa lies in bed mourning him. Heavy!

Jett said...

Bold And The Beautiful. Sorry.

Jett said...

I meant Thesp.keads an open theater performance parodying John Wayne. Sorry. And I think he and Melissa kiss after Paul leaves

Jett said...

Thesp leads. Sorry again.