Psychedelic Oldies – Pre-1945 hallucinogenic videos

27 Apr

For its 3rd birthday the DPV is featuring a series of psychedelic videos specials which will run between the 22 and the 28 of April 2013. Stay tuned for more of our psychedelic specials.

felixIt is surprising how many of the earliest films contained psychedelic elements. In the field of animation especially one finds not only many psychedelically styled videos, but even 1920s videos focusing on the mind-altering effects of drugs. And while these films don’t feature the fancy CGI effects of today’s videos, they have a special kind of charm.

Emil Cohl – Fantasmagorie (1908)

“Fantasmagorie” by French caricaturist and animator Emil Cohl,“the father of animated cartoon”, is considered by film historians to be the first animated cartoon.

Watching Fantasmagorie today, the inherently psychedelic character of animation becomes even clearer.  The film make me think about how it must have been for the first viewers of this video, one of the earliest of animations, when they watched it more than a hundred years ago. How did they react to the fantastical world on the screen in which things appear out of nowhere, and bottles of wine are transformed into flowers? Interestingly, it is right after our hero, who removes many hats worn by the lady in the front, arrives at a smaller hat, which makes the woman look like a mushroom (0:29), that weird things start happening…

Emil Cohl – Hasher’s Delirium (1910)

Two years after Fantasmagorie, the topic of intoxication becomes explicit in another video by Cohl titled “Hasher’s Delirium”. In this video our hero, who drinks wine and absinthe in a restaurant, enters into various states of delusion. The psychedelic transformations of objects reach new levels here.

Walter Ruttman – “Das Wunder” – Kantorowicz liquor commercial (1922)

This highly amusing early Kantorowicz liquor commercial was created by experimental film maker Walter Ruttmann at a time when alcohol was already illegal in the US. The Kantorowicz liquor is created by a magician who uses the basic elements of the universe. Later the liquor performs the impressing feat of appeasing the angry and fighting men, eventually even making them kiss each other. No wonder the film is called “The Wonder”…

Pat Sullivan – Felix the cat – Felix dines and pines (1926) (Trippy sequence starts at 4:13)

Silent era’s Felix the cat went on occasional and sometimes unintended hallucinatory trips. In this first video from 1926 Felix eats some food from the garbage and consequently enters a long and highly trippy hallucination.

Pat Sullivan – Felix the Cat – Woos Whoope (1928)

In this video from 1928, Felix drinks too much in Whoopee Club and enters into a state of delirium full of intimidating hallucinations.

Max Fleischer – Betty Boop Nitrous Oxide film (1934) (Trippy sequence starts at 4:00) 

American animator Max Fleischer created a number of drug-related videos, some of which were already featured in the post about Terence McKenna’s taste for psychedelic animations.

Still one has to have a Fleischer video in a post about psychedelic oldies. Here is one my favorites. His nitrous oxide video… The funny trippy part starts at around 4:00)

Oskar Fischinger – Allegretto (1936)

German-American abstract-animator Oskar Fischinger had to fight for his film “Allegretto”. The video which was created by Fischinger in 1936 in synchronization with a tune by Ralph Rainger, was altered by Paramount Pictures who changed the Technicolor imagery to B&W, and intercut the abstract images with live action scenes.  Fischinger eventually asked to be let out of his contract, and completed the film by himself in a way which suited his vision. The colorful result, which remains visually engaging even today, is considered “one of the most-screened and successful films of visual music’s history.”

Walt Disney – Fantasia (1940) (Trippy sequence starts at 5:00)

Disney’s Fantasia (1940) was an unprecedented orgy of colorful splashes, and colorful rainbows.

The whole film is psychedelic in style, but the sequence above is particularly distinguished for its synesthetic qualities.

The name “Fantasia” in itself alluded to a fantastic other-worldly land, perhaps the kind which can be discovered through the ingestion of substances from a chemical family which was known at the time as the “Phantastica”.

This might be a bit farfetched, but maybe not. Acording to Peter Stafford’s “Psychedelic Encyclopedia” the chief visualist for Disney’s Fantasia (1940)  participated  in the mescaline experiments conducted in Germany by Kurt Beringer in the 1920′s.  Artist Paul Laffoley claims that Disney himself experimented with Mescaline “On a regular basis” during his stay in Germany in the 1930′s. Many other theories regarding the relations between Disney and psychedelics exist, and you can find out about some of them here in this fascinating article.

Walt Disney – Dumbo the flying elephant (1941)

A year after Fantasia, Disney released Dumbo the Flying Elephant. In it Dumbo starts drinking the contents of a bucket, following which he begins to hallucinate highly peculiar visions, which you can see in the scene above.

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One Response to “Psychedelic Oldies – Pre-1945 hallucinogenic videos”

  1. iandevans December 1, 2015 at 12:07 am #

    Don’t forget The Three Caballeros (1944). The ending to that film was so surreal that it almost seemed like Donald was very high on LSD.

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