An American Hippie in Israel/Blu Ray Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
The Far Out Film Review
For the past 5 or 6 years, maybe more, there's been a film that has captivated me and many others in the film community: Amos Sefer's 1972 cult classic An American Hippie in Israel. This is because of the YouTube trailer which has received thousands of views due to its incredibly intriguing retro style and hilariously quotable dialogue. Grindhouse Releasing, the famous home video distributors who are known for acquiring some of the greatest exploitation films ever, have had the rights to the film for a long time. It's with great joy and WONDERFUL FEELING that I can now present our own review of this offbeat dusky little gem which was dug out of the caverns of B-movie history.
Israeli actor Asher Tzarfati stars as Mike, an American Vietnam vet turned hippie that since getting out of the service has been enjoying a life of leisure traveling around Europe and other places overseas. His latest trip is to Israel. When he gets off the plane he has no place to go and sits on the side of the road trying to thumb a ride. He's soon picked up by a young woman named Elizabeth (Lilli Avidan). Mike explains what he's been doing and the two end up at her home where they make love and decide to stay together awhile. Afterwards, Mike and Elizabeth breezily walk through town in search of more young people like themselves who want to live free of all the constraints of society, including the violence and war that goes on. Soon they form a small commune and stop at a deserted building to enjoy a festive musical performance by two women. Unfortunately their peaceful, wine sipping, pot smoking love-in is destroyed by two men that have been following Mike wherever he goes. They look like gangster mimes and they swiftly gun down all the hippies in the place. Luckily Mike, Elizabeth and two others, Como (Shmuel Wolf) and his girl Francoise (Tzila Karney) are left alive.
In the wake of this sudden massacre, Mike's plan is to seek out a small desolate island off the coast where he and his new friends can live in peace and freedom. Once they find the beautiful, pristine area they set up their own mini utopia. The joy, laughter and lovemaking goes on for awhile but when they discover their raft has disappeared the good mood quickly dissipates. Mike and the others then descend into a petty private war and things get very ugly between them. It's as if no matter how far away from the evils of modern civilization they trek, their imaginary love fest simply won't last.
What you'll notice right away in the movie is the dubbed voices by English actors. This gives it an oddly comedic quality much in the same way kung fu movies come across. That certainly shouldn't deter you from watching and listening with an open mind. Sefer's direction is nicely executed and you can see he was heavily influenced by earlier films like Easy Rider and Zabriskie Point (with a generous nod to Lord of the Flies), which took the 60s anti-establishment mentality onto the big screen. The same kinds of extended music montages and scenes of characters discussing their thoughts on freedom are there. The surreal quality is also present with bizarre dream sequences and wild emotions that go from extremely tranquil and happy to disturbing and violent throughout.
An American Hippie in Israel is a film that presents a sincerity and honest vision about the message it's trying to convey. It's all about the universal desire we share to find our own little piece of heaven on Earth. That idea is constantly thwarted by the fact that no matter how perfect we want things to be, something will always come along to destroy or soil it. What I found especially intriguing is how it depicts Hippie Mike's own psyche. While he wants to live and love his fellow human beings and be free, his time in war has obviously tainted his soul/mind so wherever he goes he can't escape his anger, demons and the life altering tragedy he was exposed to and forced to take part in.
The Hitch Hiker is the Uncensored Director's Cut of the film presented in (1.33:1) Full Frame. This version of the film is not remastered and has burnt in Hebrew subtitles.
The Beautiful Blu Ray Review
PICTURE: Presented in (1:78:1) 1080p Hi-Definition. The 1972 film has been digitally remastered and looks gorgeous, like the best 35mm film print you could find transferred right to your TV screen. Right On!
AUDIO: DTS-HD Master Audio English 1.0/Dolby Digital Audio English 5.1 (Beverly Cinema Experience).
- In-depth Interviews With Stars Asher Tzarfati And Shmuel Wolf (56:08) - The two stars of the cult film look back on their experience during the production and talk more about working with Amos Sefer, how they feel about the film today and the message it tried to convey.
- Asher Tzarfati - An Israeli Actor In Israel - Bonus Featurette (17:54) - Learn more about the man who played Hippie Mike from his childhood in Tel Aviv through to his professional acting days.
- Also includes: Six Controversial Scenes Deleted From The Original Release (10:05) • Interview With Production Manager Moshe Berman (4:00) • Interview With Singer/Co-Star Susan Devore (7:08) • Channel 10 Tel Avi News Segment (10:22) • A Cult Is Born - Featurette On Revival In Tel Aviv (4:39) • 16mm Screen Tests (silent - 9:11) • Be Careful Children - Amos Sefer 16mm Short Film (6:53) • Bonus 5.1 Audio Track - The Beverly Cinema Experience • Liner Notes By Acclaimed Horror Novelist John Skipp • Still Galleries (5:00), Trailer (3:02), Text Filmography and Biography • DVD of the Feature/Extras • DVD of the Hitchhiker • NOTE: This is limited to 2000 individually numbered copies!
- FINAL WORD: The beautiful people at Grindhouse Releasing have again celebrated a work of classic cult cinema with a stunningly groovy and visually pleasing home video package. The quality and care put into this release should satisfy all fans of the film completely and bring a WONDERFUL FEELING to them whenever they want to revisit it. It'll really turn you on baby.
Peter Roberts is the co-founder/editor-in-chief of the Grindhouse Cinema Database (GCDb) and contributor to the GCDb's sister site Furious Cinema. A Massachusetts native, he is an avid film fan that has been immersed in the world of entertainment and pop culture his entire life. He is currently majoring in Communications and Interactive Media Design.