The Movies' Greatest Freak-Out Scenes

Introducing the Freak-Out Scene

Years ago I realized that just about every film from the late sixties, early seventies that I saw had some kind of freak-out scene at the end. Some kind of drug trip, social overload, art happening, slap in the face that stops the film for a few minutes before we go on to the end. The freak-out scene acted just as much as climatic device for the cinema of this near-revolutionary time as did the chase scene for the silent comedies of the 1920's. Like the chase, the freak-out scene is a cinematic tour-de-force, a foray into pure cinema in the midst of a drama that could just as well be acted out on a stage or read in a book.

The freak-out scene stands in its film to leave us dazed, to make us see things differently, to take us to the last few minutes and credits of the film as if with new eyes, the scales fallen down to the pop-sticky floor under our feet.

Because I believe that the potential of film and video as art forms has been vastly unrealized, the chase of the twenties and the freak-out scene of the late 60s and early 70s hold a very personal meaning for me; they are iceberg tips of the true expressive qualities of a medium that is only 100 years old. In these we are witnessing quick glimpses into the media of the future, as anyone who has watched an MTVish television commercial after a freak-out scene soon realizes.

The following essays are not meant as film criticism or a video guide or anything like that; they are just my personal responses to the freak-out scenes in these movies.

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This page last revised 12 November 1997