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September 27, 2013

Movie Review: An American Hippie in Israel (Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack)

With just a handful of companies putting out Laserdiscs in the mid 90's, Grindhouse Releasing (headed by Bob Murawski and the late Sage Stallone) stepped to the plate to deliver some kick-ass titles, namely one of my favorite cannibal flicks in Cannibal Ferox.  From what I had known then up until recently was that Stallone and Murawski had just been working on films around that time. I was wrong. In the late 80's Murawski started his work on bringing one of the most bizarre, jaw-droppingly ridiculous films ever made to cult film audiences. Thought to be lost forever, 25 years later Amos Sefer's An American Hippie in Israel has made its debut on Blu-ray and DVD in a loaded three disc combo-pack and, well... it is a sight to behold.

After seeing the hilarious trailer for An American Hippie in Israel on previous Grindhouse Releasing discs, I must say that my anticipation for whatever the hell this thing was, was  at an epic high. The story is simple with our main character, Mike (Asher Tzarfati) has taken his free-loving ways thousands of miles from America, to a country he hoped to travel from end to end, Israel. When he arrives he hitchhikes with an attractive non-hippie named Elizabeth (Lily Avidan). Before Mike can put the moves on her the duo are stopped by a couple of creepy looking mimes. These guys have cock-blocked Mike before so he gives them an earful. Naturally, they don't respond...but that doesn't mean they won't continue to fuck with Mike while he's on his trip.

Mike really just wants to have a good time like all hippies - smoke a ton of grass, make friends, and have sex with lots of strangers. He succeeds in all three, but the goddamn mimes continue to crash the party. When Mike meets an Israeli couple (Shmuel Wolf and Tzila Karney), they along with his new squeeze Elizebeth take a road trip to an island where everybody swaps spit along the way.

At this point in watching An American Hippie in Israel, I'm still kind of wondering what the fuck am I viewing and where is it going. When things really couldn't get much crazier, they do. During the road trip Mike falls asleep and has a dream about fighting some men dressed up with giant cassettes for heads. I don't know at all where Sefer was going with this scene but it's pretty damn funny.

The group arrives near the island and takes a raft across. When they decide their done having their fun at the island they return to where they left the raft and discover it’s gone. Mike decides to become the hero and jumps in the water for what should be a short swim when he's nearly eaten by giant plastic sharks.

The acting is pretty awful and if you do watch the extras you'll discover from Wolf and Karney that so much of it was improvised. This alone makes the An American Hippie in Israel an often hysterical, surreal experience. So bad it's good? I think so. Visually though it really isn't all that bad. The locales look surprisingly pleasing to the eye. Maybe Sefer thought that would take away from the amateurish performances and the script.

Much like many of their previous releases, Grindhouse Releasing has gone above and beyond with a veritable treasure trove of extras that include some lengthy interviews with the actors, several deleted scenes, a separate audio track that puts you in the "Hippie" hungry audience at the historic New Beverly Cinema and some surprisingly cool featurettes. The featurettes go into detail about the resurgence of the film and how it's growing among audiences of bad cinema in Israel and of course here in the states. There's some live footage of An American Hippie in Israel being shown to an Israeli audience and I must say as much as I enjoy watching Tommy Wiseman’s The Room with an audience, Hippie looks like it could be even more fun.

Aside from the Blu-ray, which looks absolutely lovely, you get two additional DVDs in the package: one with everything from the Blu-ray and the other being an alternate cut of An American Hippie in Israel called The Hitchhiker. The qualities of the materials are a little rough but this version does include some extended scenes so it's a cool bonus especially if you liked the film. As always there is the Grindhouse Releasing trailer reel with some new inclusions. Two of which really got my attention, The Big Gundown and a movie starring Burt Lancaster that I had no idea existed called The Swimmer. Just from the trailer, like our main feature it's unintentionally hilarious.

Cult film fans need to get out and grab this disc as it is super limited (at about 2000 copies). If you have a hankering for stupid cinema like me, An American Hippie in Israel is one of the holy grails of hippie-sploitation. Grindhouse is definitely back with this very impressive return! Highly Recommended

                    Screencaps Courtesy of Rock!Shock!Pop!

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