Long, Strange Trip for a Hypnotic Film
By JAMES GADDY
It took 38 years, but Ira Cohen’s cult film, “The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda,” which was first screened in 1968 at the high point of the psychedelic hippie head rush, is now commercially available. Given the close calls, the long absences and his chaotic archival system, Mr. Cohen, 71, is a little surprised himself.
“It didn’t really involve patience,” he said in his apartment on West 106th Street in Manhattan, surrounded by books stacked waist high. “It was just reality.”
In 1961 Mr. Cohen built a room in his New York loft lined with large panels of Mylar plastic, a sort of bendable mirror that causes images to crackle and swirl in hypnotic, sometimes beautiful patterns. After a few years experimenting with the technique in photographs, he invited his friends from the downtown scene — like Beverly Grant, Vali Myers and Tony Conrad — to make a film.