AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes By Tim Lucas from @pspublishinguk

The cover for The Man with Kaleidoscope Eyes. The cover is cartoon-like with the head of a man looking to the left. He is wearing glasses with red and yellow swirls on them. There are also little figures around the main man. On his right shoulder is another man leaning on a motorbike, on his right is a woman with red hair and a blue dress. A cartoon image of Jack Nicholson sits on a cloud on the left just about the woman. Along the bottom are two more men on motorbikes chasing women in the pattern of woman, man, woman, man right to left.

THE MAN WITH KALEIDOSCOPE EYES By Tim Lucas

PS Publishing, HB, £20.00

Reviewed by Matthew Johns

The cover for The Man with Kaleidoscope Eyes. The cover is cartoon-like with the head of a man looking to the left. He is wearing glasses with red and yellow swirls on them. There are also little figures around the main man. On his right shoulder is another man leaning on a motorbike, on his right is a woman with red hair and a blue dress. A cartoon image of Jack Nicholson sits on a cloud on the left just about the woman. Along the bottom are two more men on motorbikes chasing women in the pattern of woman, man, woman, man right to left.

This tells the tale of legendary film director Roger Corman and his quest to find the next great movie. If you’re not aware of Roger Corman and his works, he was a fairly prolific filmmaker through the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Perhaps his best-known works include the original ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ (no, not the musical with Rick Moranis, the actual original version of the film from 1960), what’s widely regarded as the first biker culture film ‘The Wild Angels’ starring Peter Fonda and Nancy Sinatra, movies based on Edgar Allen Poe’s work including ‘The Raven’, and the film that this book is about, ‘The Trip’.

Written by his friend Jack Nicholson (yes, that Jack Nicholson – the Joker to Michael Keaton’s Batman), it was one of the first psychedelic films of the era, a potentially risky title at a time when LSD (which it was about) was being outlawed in some US states.

The book features a cast of familiar names – Corman, Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Bruce Dern and more. Set in 1960s Hollywood, it is based largely on actual events and even informed by interviews with Roger Corman and his assistant Frances Doel, but still very definitely a work of fiction. This work takes us on a journey with Corman as he tries to get this film made. Despite being a successful-ish director in Hollywood, Corman is somewhat of a “square” – he enjoys the company of ladies and a drink or three, but that’s as far as it goes. When he gets the script for The Trip from Nicholson, he realises that to make a film about an LSD trip, he needs to understand it better and experience it for himself. He organises a visit to Big Sur to sample LSD and gain insight into how it affects people, setting things out with almost military precision. Selecting the right people to accompany him and making sure that his assistant Frances is with him to document it, he plans for every eventuality.

This particular reviewer has never partaken of LSD, so while I cannot comment on the realism, Lucas’ prose depicts a truly fantastical hallucinogenic journey that Corman undertakes. The insight into the inner workings of 1960s Hollywood, how posters for films were made before the movie even began filming, and the interaction between such legendary names all makes this a real delight to behold and a thoroughly enjoyable read. Absolutely fascinating, and whether you’ve heard of Roger Corman or are a student of the silver age of cinema or not, Lucas’ words fly off the page.