Psych-Out [written by and starring Jack Nicholson]... A fine cast was assembled: Susan Strasberg, as a deaf runaway who comes to Haight-Ashbury [the San Francisco area that was the center of the hippie movement] to rescue her freaked-out brother; Dean Stockwell, as a holier-than-thou hippie who scorns money; and Bruce Dern again, flamboyantly acting the deaf girls' brother, who suffers an LSD-Chris fixation...
By the time the cast and crew arrived in San Francisco, in October 1967, the topical script was already dated. In two months the Summer of Love had become ancient history. The flower children, whom Nicholson had portrayed as free spirits in initial drafts a year earlier, had begun to wilt. Hard narcotics were being sold on the streets of Haight-Ashbury, and commercialization of the counterculture was rampant.
When production vans pulled into Haight-Ashbury, some residents suspected Hollywood ws exploiting the hippie phenomenon. Knives were pulled on crew members. [Richard] Rush had to parley with the subjects of his earlier film with Nicholson, the Hell's Angels, and hire the biker organization as bodyguards for his cast and crew. On-the-spot rewriting by Ruch stressed the negativity that seemed to be blanketing the scene. The Trip [the 1967 film written by Nicholson] emphasized the positive [aspects of the drug culture], but drugs would lead to violent death in Psych-Out...
While acting the love scenes he had written for himself [in Psych-Out], Jack seemed nervous, according to costar Susan Strasberg. It occurred to her that it might be because [Jack Nicholson's girlfriend] Mimi Machu was hovering around the set, watching the filming, or maybe because Jack was still working out hang-ups about his sexuality.
Strasberg had just finished performing a love scene with Peter Fonda in The Trip. Fonda insisted on playing it nude, while Strasberg said she would simply "act nude." Now, filming her lovemaking scene with Nicholson in Psych-Out, Strasberg couldn't help but notice that Jack wore jeans and boots while she was obliged to show more than her quota of flesh. She asked Jack if he could at least take his boots off. After some prompting, he did. "I guess neither one of us wanted to show our thights," Strasberg recalled.
"I kind of admired the way Jack was able to bring everything down to the bottom line," Strasberg continued. "He didn't complicate things in the way that some actors do. When were were filming [the sex scenes], for example, I discussed Reichian therapy with him. I had been in Reichian therapy, and so had Jack, I believe. Reich was a brilliant man with complex theories, far ahead of their time, about the bio-energy of the body. And I remember Jack distilling it all down to 'You [have sex] better.'