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Monterey Pop (1968)

Not Rated | | Documentary, History, Music | 23 April 1969 (France)
A film about the greatest pre-Woodstock rock music festival.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Scott McKenzie ...
Denny Doherty ...
Performers (as Mamas and the Papas)
Performers (as Mamas and the Papas)
John Phillips ...
Performers (as Mamas and the Papas)
Performers (as Mamas and the Papas)
Frank Cook ...
Performers (as Canned Heat)
Bob Hite ...
Performers (as Canned Heat)
Henry Vestine ...
Performers (as Canned Heat)
Alan Wilson ...
Performers (as Canned Heat)
Performers (as Simon and Garfunkel)
Performers (as Simon and Garfunkel)
Hugh Masekela ...
Marty Balin ...
Performers (as Jefferson Airplane)
Jack Casady ...
Performers (as Jefferson Airplane)
Spencer Dryden ...
Performers (as Jefferson Airplane)


Legendary California music festival (pre-Woodstock) that launched the state-side careers of several performers, most notably Jimi Hendrix. Check out Mama Cass being absolutely blown away while watching Joplin sing. Here there be REAL acid rock. Written by Raymond Clay <banquosa@concentric.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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Release Date:

23 April 1969 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Monterrey Pop  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$1,524 (USA) (24 August 2001)


$1,524 (USA) (24 August 2001)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(original release)| (re-release)| (original release)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


An invitation had been sent out to Bob Dylan, but he refused due to the fact that he was still recovering from the motorcycle accident that severely injured him just a few months earlier. See more »


In the opening credits, a hand-drawn title says "IN ORDER OF PEFORMANCE", misspelling the word "PERFORMANCE". See more »


Edited into Shake!: Otis at Monterey (1987) See more »

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User Reviews

The Original Mind Blower
22 August 2009 | by (Collingswood, NJ USA) – See all my reviews

I wasn't at Monterey in '67, and neither were 99.999% of the people now commenting on this film. To read so many of these comments you'd think that the entire audience was now online and writing reviews. They criticize the song selections, the blaring omissions, the crowd scene inserts, and even the haircuts. They seem to be saying that this film doesn't quite present an accurate picture of the unprecedented 3 day phenomenon that was the Monterey Pop Festival. Well, WHAT would present an accurate picture of that amazing event? I suppose, maybe, hearing someone who was ACTUALLY there tell us his or her story of those wild days. Someone like, I dunno... D.A. Pennebaker? Hey, right, he WAS there, and this film is HIS story (history). At only 78 or so minutes it's more so his impression, his true reaction, in condensed user friendly form, like a good story is supposed to be.

It was a powerful moment in pop culture - something of an evolutionary turning point. Monterey Pop was very soon understood to be the coming-of-age party for the next generation of cultural leaders. As I watched it the first time some 25 years ago I remember feeling like I was witnessing a natural birth. The birth of a new social order that cherished and honored peace and love above all else. Like all births it wasn't all pretty. Often it's messy and painful and even scary.

Pennebaker opens his story with the splendid Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company's up tempo "Combination of the Two" playing over pre-concert footage. The hippy dippy love and peace vibe was so thick and fun. Appropriately, Scott McKenzie is then heard over more concert prep footage singing "San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)", which festival co-founder John Phillips wrote to promote the event. The first stage act we see are The Mamas and The Papas doing "California Dreaming" - a fine expression of the spirit of the day. Sensational rock acts including Canned Heat, Simon & Garfunkle, and Jefferson Airplane follow. Big Brother & The Holding Company really get things deep with Janis wailing a remarkable "Ball and Chain." The romance sours a bit as Eric Burden and The Animals perform a sinister "Paint It Black." It then gets very rough when the Who really beat up the crowd with what sounds like early Punk, their ultra loud hooligan posture in stark contrast to the relatively mild preceding sets - ominous signs of a possibly troubled pregnancy. Destroying their instruments at the end of their set in a fit of hyper adolescent rage seems to be a not-to-be-topped show-ender. This may be a stillbirth.

And it would have been if The Who hadn't been later followed by the yet not well known Jimi Hendrix who then assumes total control of The Delivery. The water's broken, The Baby is coming and Doctor Jimi is Chief Physician. But he's not your typical Md with an axe. He is transforming before our eyes, mutating, expanding into enormous dimensions and capacities into a monumental Shaman. A molten force from prehistorical depths erupting and reforming endlessly, now being entirely recreated. He writhes and coils as if caught in the throws of powerful contractions. An electric, sonic fetus has instantly developed on stage into a gargantuan, cosmic sound. His symphonic offspring, now fully formed, complete, gorgeous, pure like Apollo, the god of healing who taught man medicine. The god of light. The god of truth, who can not speak a lie. And then Jimi sets fire to his guitar - a ritual sacrifice, appeasing the greater gods that this brand new, better, infant world he has just ushered in might live and prosper.

Pretty heady stuff, aye? And the truly amazing, wonderful bit that still thrills me is that Ravi Shankar outdoes Jimi. Ravi had done it earlier on the preceding Sunday afternoon, but realizing the awesome achievement of Shankar's act, Pennebaker wisely saves this astounding performance for last. Time, after all, is just an illusion. In what starts like a modest and polite display of a bygone technique, Ravi's raga soon has summoned the attention of everyone and directed it to the Here And Now. The rhythmic syncopation building upon itself, repeating and quickening, everyone's awareness now finely focused on the increasingly heated, emphatic call and response between Ravi's Sitar and Alla Rakha's Tabla. The pace and intensity increase and hold the entire population helplessly captive. It's a formidable, inexorable current that has grasped everyone's consciousness as the pace continues to build and grow. Each pass seems to be the limit but the next surpasses. Everyone's psyche is pummeled with ferocious spasms of rhythm. We are not just witnessing but actually experiencing the conception of our new life. A great cosmic mind f*** with the potent seed of eternity being implanted into the open, pulsing, unsuspecting, tender minds of all.

Tho they didn't know it yet, on that Sunday afternoon of the final scheduled day of the Monterey Pop Festival, a roundish, dark skinned, simple cotton cloth swaddled gnome had very thoroughly, graciously ravished the collective mind of that naive bunch. And you can see it on the stunned, gaping faces of anonymous spectators and fellow performers alike. They just didn't have the words or ideas or emotions to grasp what was happening.

So it was in such a fertile, pregnant state that Janis, and Pete and Jimi took that evening's and next morning's stage and completed the inevitable, miraculous act that Ravi had so cunningly initiated.

This is what I felt when I first watched that edited, incomplete personal tale that is "Monterey Pop." That deformed near-abortion is, to me, perfect. As perfect as any life can be.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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