A Movie A Day #87: Free Grass (1969, directed by Bill Brame)

As everyone surely knows, before they appeared as Dr. Lawrence Jacoby and Benjamin Horne on Twin Peaks, Russ Tamblyn and Richard Beymer co-starred in West Side Story.  Tamblyn played Riff, the leader of the Jets.  Beymer played his best friend, Tony, who fell in love with Natalie Wood.  West Side Story is a classic that won several Oscars.  What is not as well known is that, in between West Side Story and Twin Peaks, Beymer and Tamblyn co-starred in one other movie, a hunk of psychedelic cheese called Free Grass.

By the late 60s, both Beymer and Tamblyn had tired of their clean-cut images and, like their characters in Free Grass, had become card-carrying members of the Hollywood counter-culture.  Beymer plays Dean, a motorcycle-riding drop-out from conventional society.  Dean meets and falls in love with buxom, mini-skirted Karen (played by Lana Wood, younger sister of Natalie).  When a riot breaks out on the sunset strip, Dean punches a cop.  With the Man now looking for him, Dean needs some quick cash so that he and Karen can escape to Dayton, Ohio.

(Dayton, Ohio?)

That’s where Russ Tamblyn comes in.  Tamblyn plays Dean’s friend, Link.  Link works for a drug kingpin named Phil (played not very convincingly by Casey Kasem, of all people).  Phil is willing to pay Dean $10,000 if he smuggles several pounds worth of grass across the Mexican border.  Dean agrees but soon finds himself being pursued by two narcotics agents, played by Jody McCrea and Lindsay Crosby (sons of Joel McCrea and Bing Crosby, respectively).  Because Dean is not willing to commit murder, Link plots to kill him.  But first, Link doses Dean with LSD, which leads to the de rigueur psychedelic 60s light show.

Slow-moving and ineptly directed, Free Grass is for fans of the 1960s counterculture only.  Russ Tamblyn provides the movie with what little energy it has but Richard Beymer apppears to be just as uncomfortable here as he was in West Side Story and Casey Kasem shows why he was better known as a DJ than an actor.  Lana Wood does look good in a miniskirt, though.  Otherwise, Free Grass shows why both Tamblyn and Beymer grew so frustrated with Hollywood that they were both in semi-retirement when David Lynch revitalized their careers by casting them on Twin Peaks.

One response to “A Movie A Day #87: Free Grass (1969, directed by Bill Brame)

  1. Pingback: TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.4 “Rest in Pain” (dir by Tina Rathbone) | Through the Shattered Lens

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