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The penultimate cult horror film utilizes public anxiety perfectly and gives us drug-induced killers with indelible appearances.

Ten years after taking an experimental strain of LSD, former Stanford students lose their hair and become stark-raving mad killers. Let’s dig into 1978’s BLUE SUNSHINE, directed by Jeff Lieberman!

As I See It

The title is a play on the widely popular and distributed analog of LSD, the problem child of Albert Hofmann, called Orange Sunshine, which was created by autodidact chemists Sand and Scully.

Without going full MK Ultra, the gist of the context of this film is the government used a hallucinogen that was discovered by a Swiss chemist (Hofmann) while researching the medicinal effects of ergot (a fungus that grows on rye and wheat). That drug made its way into the free-loving, unrestricted, drugging hippie movement, which of course, the government could not suffer. Their solution was to launch a campaign of disinformation and fear-mongering.

There lies the premise for the film. What if the fear-mongering was a legitimate warning?

Using hair falling out as the mechanism to indicate someone is “infected” is tidy, clever, and humbly brilliant.

Nowadays, you could pick up a number of books and be filled in on the history of LSD’s dissemination through college campuses or the CIA’s recruiting and operations based in those institutions as well as many others. That makes it all the more real that Lieberman was able to stage such instances in his drama accurately within a University like Stanford back in the seventies.

Composer Charles Gross’s score was released on vinyl back in 2014, which featured artwork by the subtly brilliant Jay Shaw and distributed by Mondo, the high integrity pop culture company that was just gutted by the low quality, junkyard filling, market share whore, Funko.

Famous Faces

Zalman King (Jerry) who is a bit of a Sean Penn look-alike, featured in the Roger Corman-produced, cheese-ball sci-fi horror Galaxy of Terror alongside horror heavyweights Robert Englund and the late great Sid Haig.

Mark Goddard (Ed Flemming) played Major Don West in the original 1960s Lost in Space TV series.

Of Gratuitous Nature

I really don’t have anything to scoff at. The scene where Wendy chases the kids around with a kitchen knife is, of course, unsettling but therein lies the horror. Additionally, Wendy being thrown from the balcony mirrors the death of Frank Olson, which could be seen as low-hanging fruit.

Heartthrob

Even with a bald cap, Ann Cooper (Wendy) can’t be denied her genetically advantaged bone structure and sweet, soothing voice.

Ripe for a Remake

Too good to tarnish.

Spawns

The consensus is that Lieberman’s 1988 film Remote Control is an unofficial sequel or remake, at least in spirit. Unfortunately, based on the synopsis, Lieberman could not catch the tiger by the tail twice as VHS did not have the same effect on society as LSD.

Where to Watch

Distribpix released a Blu-Ray in 2016, which was restored and put out in 4k with hands-on involvement from director Jeff Lieberman. You can stream it on AMC+ or Shudder.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 4


THE DAILY DIG
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