Riot On The Sunset Strip is a particularly baffling youthsploitation film from the good folks at AIP. The film features the great Aldo Ray, his salad days drawing to a rapid close, as the new Lieutenant of the Hollywood division. The Establishment types on the strip don’t take kindly to the hippies who have ensconced themselves on The Strip and turn to Ray in the hopes that he will beat the ever living tar out of some long hairs. But low and behold Ray is the reasonable type who seeks to understand the kids these days, causing no end of ill will between he and the rest of the establishment. In a parallel story the film also follows Ray’s wayward daughter as she hangs out with hippies, takes acid, gets raped and faces the assorted other things that happened to wayward daughters in 60’s cautionary tales (And really this has to be one of the greatest LSD freakout scenes of all time. I mean the dance she does it’s just… just…like wow man…)
The two story lines mesh into what can only be described as an extremely low rent precursor to Hardcore and things come to a head with the titular Riot On The Sunset Strip, though given that the title is in keeping with AIP’s hyperbolic marketing, perhaps A Mildly Rowdy Disturbance On The Sunset Strip would have been a more honest title.
The thing that keeps Riot On The Sunset Strip from being just the usual youthsploitation movie and launches it into the realm of the mystifying is the producer, writer and director responsible had all been making films since the 20’s, and their idea of Youth Culture was arrested sometime in nineteen thirty. It’s as if someone has vaguely described these “hippies” to them and didn’t do a very good job of it. As a result until the LSD rape the youth in Riot On The Sunset Strip have more in common with the opening scenes of Wild Boys Of The Road than say Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls. They hop in jalopies, talk about chow, and despite dressing like rejects from Andy Warhol’s factory always seem on the verge of going to the sock hop. Watching one anachronistic group of idioms play ventriloquism with another anachronistic groups of idioms is strangely disconcerting. Like watching Mickey Rooney fire up a joint.
Youth run wild movies tend to blend together. Particularly those made in the sixties. But if you do have a hankering for a good old fashioned battle between the freaks and the squares you could do a lot worse than Riot On The Sunset Strip. It features Mick Jagger’s non union Mexican equivalent (fronting a band called Chocolate Watchband) a few truly great slices of kitsch (including the best/worst portrait of alcoholism I’ve ever seen) and at 86 minutes manages to leave before it outstays its welcome. Bad movies are a dime a dozen, but films so completely off as Riot On The Sunset Strip are rare. It’s like the time your father got drunk and decided that he didn’t need the damn directions to assemble your new bicycle.