The Rear-View Mirror: With a Little Help from My Friends (1967)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

The year 1967 stands out for a number of reasons.

It was a powerful year for movies: the world got the likes of Bonnie & Clyde, In The Heat of the Night and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner blowing open the doors on what was previously considered taboo in the US.

It was a powerful year for history: it was the year James Bedford died. It was also the year James Bedford became the first man in history to be cryonically preserved. It was the year the United States stepped up the war in Vietnam. It was also the year that, in the middle of race riots and violence, the world seemed to unite for a single moment in opposition to Vietnam, and the Summer of Love was born.

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Dope, anyone?

It’s somewhat surprising that Errol Morris’ Wormwood seems to be the first documentary to combine a cast with big names for the dramatic scenes with the traditional doc-staples of talking heads, collages, home movies and grainy photos. It’s a balancing act in more ways than one, and here, it seems to work, if only just. Wormwood is about the death of Frank Olson, who seemed to have fallen out of a 13th story hotel room window in New York and died on the sidewalk in his underwear. He was a CIA chemist who worked for the U.S. army and did research for biological warfare. For years, the story went like this: Olson, together with some of his workmates, was drugged with LSD in November 1953 for a new project about mind control, had a bad trip and finally committed suicide ten days later by leaping to his death. It was an accident, the CIA said, and they were sorry, and the Olson family got to meet President Johnson, who apologized for the tragedy, and the CIA promised to stop all mind-control projects, and that was that. Continue reading