Color, 1969, 92m.
Directed by Hall Bartlett
Starring Kent Lane, Michele Carey, Jack Albertson, Marcia Strassman, Bill Kelly, Tom Holland
Code Red (US R0 NTSC) / (2.35:1) (16:9)

ChangesOne of the many, many counterculture films made in Hollywood for the youth market, Changes is about as perfect an example of how much experimental filmmaking was impacting American theaters in 1969. Released six months before Easy Rider (and even before Medium Cool), this film takes a different sort of looChangesk at dropping out from society as young, confused Kent (Hooper's Lane) tears up and down the California coast, his mind flashing between recent harrowing events in his life including the suicide of his teary girlfriend and the extreme disapproval of his out-of-it dad (Albertson).

After half an hour of time-jumping flashbacks, he whips his car right off the road and hitchhikes his way to civilization, where he stops to reclaim his innocence on a children's playground and winds up hopping in the car with reporter Kristine (Strassman). Together they take time out for a student outdoor rap session where Julie asks questions about sex, philosophy, and major life changes, followed by a visit to an anti-war demonstration. (And just for kicks, you get some cool black-and-white scope footage of a burlesque commercial for "Virile" shaving cream worthy of Skidoo!) Kent and Kristine shack up together but he still feels dissatisfied, spending lots of time wandering around, hanging around a carnival eating cotton candy with a big-haired southerner Julie (The Sweet RiChangesde's Carey), embarking on another relationship that might bring him closer to figuring out what he really wants.

Obviously there's not really much plot here, but this is really more of a snapshot of a very specific moment in time. You get loads of great footage of Vietnam-era SoCal including plenty of coverage of Pebble Beach, and it's very much a forerunner of nonlinear youth films to come like Zabriskie Point, The Strawberry StateChangesment, and Jennifer on My Mind. On top of that you get a great pop/folk soundtrack, highlighted by a romantic montage set to Judy Collins' version of "Both Sides Now" (later famously recorded by its writer, Joni Mitchell) and also featuring a slew of Tim Buckley songs like "I'll Be the One," "Once I Was," and "Wild Wood," and even Neil Young's "Expecting to Fly." And for horror buffs, keep an eye out for Kent's straitlaced roommate, played by a very young Tom Holland (who went on to pen Psycho II and direct such films as Fright Night and Child's Play). The dramatic fireworks here are pretty limited (with then-recent Oscar winner Albertson getting the showiest scene in what amounts to a glorified cameo), but as a cinematic time capsule, it's a real find for fans of flower power cinema.

Never reissued and barely known today, Changes made a fleeting appearance on VHS from Prism in the late '80s courtesy of a brutal full frame transfer, making mincemeat of its wide Panavision compositions. The Code Red DVD from 2012 (sold exclusively through their site) marks its first release in its correct aspect ratio on home video, and fortunately it looks great despite the occasional injection of rough stock footage or what appears to be some ragged second unit beach photography. The elements have been kept in fine shape, and it's fun spotting the trademarks of experimental director Hall Bartlett (who was married at the time to Lane's mother, actress Rhonda Fleming), future director of a far more bizarre beach-oriented film, Jonathan Livingstone Seagull. (His earlier film, the peculiar mental institution drama The Caretakers with Joan Crawford, is also worth checking out.) The original mono soundtrack sounds fine, with the busy soundtrack retaining its nostalgic AM-style vibe throughout. In typical fashion, there's no menu for the disc; instead it kicks off (as Code Red titles must) with the trailer for Family Honor, with the theatrical trailer for the main feature follows after the end credits.

Reviewed on December 21, 2012.