After an all-night party they had been attending is broken up, hippies Sandy (Faye Dunaway), Sureshot (Michael Parks), Taurus (George Maharis), and Herby (Robert Walker, Jr.) head off on a boat looking for adventure. Along the way, they stop to play soldiers with some kids they see and in the excitement, they all run into the home of former mafia kingpin turned legitimate businessman Roc Delmonaco (Anthony Quinn). When Roc wakes up to all the commotion, he fears some of his old enemies have come to kidnap his children and insists they take him instead. The hippies figure, hey why not, and decide to hold Roc hostage.
But there’s one little problem the hippies never considered — nobody wants to pay the $200,000 ransom they’re demanding. Roc tries getting the money from his wife Monica (Martha Hyer), his business partner Fred (Milton Berle), his old mob cohort Sam (Oskar Homolka), even his mother, but nobody is willing to come up with the money. Angry that his dearest friends won’t pay his ransom, he decides to kidnap himself and blackmails his wife, friends, and mother into giving him $3,000,000. Roc takes control of the whole gang and teaches them everything they need to know to have a successful life of crime.
The Happening is only really noteworthy for two reasons: being Faye Dunaway’s first film and for its theme song by The Supremes. This is the sort of movie where I saw the description “A kidnapped gangster joins forces with the hippies who abducted him,” saw that the cast included Faye Dunaway, Anthony Quinn, and Milton Berle, and decided I needed to see this movie just because it sounded so insane. Pretty much the only reason to watch The Happening is just for the pure ridiculousness of it all. Definitely don’t watch it for the plot; it’s an hour-long story that got dragged out to an hour and 40 minutes. It might be tempting to watch it for the cast, but it will just leave you thinking that everybody in this movie deserves so much better. (And I’ve really got to hand it to Faye Dunaway because she made The Happening very shortly before doing Bonnie and Clyde and The Thomas Crown Affair. Faye knows how to upgrade fast.) But at least it has a good theme song, I’ll give it that.