American Experience: Summer of Love



9 p.m. Monday, April 23
KCET (Los Angeles)

The two most obvious conclusions to be drawn from Gail Dolgin and Vincente Franco's straightforward and slightly nostalgic documentary on San Francisco's Summer of Love is that 1) it was a victim of its own hype, and 2) those who were there still have vivid memories as well as wrinkles and gray hair.

Dolgin and Franco wrote, produced and directed this look at the illusory Camelot of 1967. Although it seldom measured up to its promise to throw off the shackles of humdrum convention, its siren song of music, sex, creative freedom and consciousness-raising through drugs attracted hundreds of thousands of neo-hipsters, who came to be dubbed hippies.

Narrator David Ogden Stiers points out this was the largest migration of young people in the history of America. But the huge turnout overwhelmed available services, turning the summer into a quest for survival for many.

The narration was well-researched, and the video footage evokes the era. Surprisingly, though, given the amount that was shot over those months, finding enough video was difficult. On occasion, the same images were reused. Better to have substituted still shots than give the impression that this event was scarcely filmed.