7.0/10
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6 user 2 critic

Uncle Meat (1987)

| Documentary, Comedy, Music | Video
This is a documentary about an unfinished movie. Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention try to film the sci-fi epic "Uncle Meat."

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Cast

Credited cast:
Phyllis Smith Altenhaus ...
Herself / Sheba Flieschman (as Phyllis Altenhaus)
Dick Barber ...
Himself
Massimo Bassoli ...
Adult Minnesota Tishman
...
Himself
...
Himself
Ray Collins ...
Himself / Bill Yurds
Aynsley Dunbar ...
Himself / Biff Junior
Roy Estrada ...
Himself
Francesca Fisher ...
The Countess
Bunk Gardner ...
Himself
Buzz Gardner ...
Himself
Lowell George ...
Himself
Dick Kunc ...
Himself
Manfred Lerch ...
Himself
C. Mercedes Lewis ...
Girl Who Was A Sofa
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Storyline

Uncle Meat, who sometimes goes under the guises of Don Preston and Biff Debris, is an eccentric character who believs in musical progress and enjoys drinking fuming beakers and transforming into a monster. After seeing footage of him (as Don) transforming in this way while fighting for musical progress, film editor Phyllis Altenhaus meets him in person and falls in love. Later the two meet again at a pool hall under the guises of Biff Debris and Sheba Flieshman and they share a kinky shower scene together where they indulge each other's fetishes of clothes and hamburgers and declare their mutual love. Meanwhile, Uncle Meat and his band are secretly working on a hit single (made up of household items carefully arranged on a cloth) which they hope will change the world for the better by improving everyone's karma. However, no matter what he does, he can't seem to compose a hit and eventually, after he and Sheba have been married for over twelve years, his obsession with composing a ... Written by John Searcy <searcy@onramp.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Beyond Time.. Beyond Space... Beyond Reason...


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Did You Know?

Connections

Referenced in Masked and Anonymous (2003) See more »

Soundtracks

Holiday In Berlin, Full-Blown
Written by Frank Zappa
Performed by The Mothers of Invention
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For People Who Do Things That Aren't Normal
4 June 2005 | by (Up Above and Loaded) – See all my reviews

The liner notes printed on the box probably are all you need to read to get a handle on this movie, arguably stranger than "200 Motels", which describe this film as what it was like to experience an original Mothers of Invention stage performance from upfront and behind.

To understand this film only a little better, and this cannot be stressed more, one should read Billy James' "Necessity Is ... The Early Years of Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention" to get a better grip on what "Uncle Meat" is all about. The book will inform the casual listener and longtime Zappa fan of the often surprising history of this understandably misunderstood bunch of mad hats.

The segments that are the most entertaining are some 20 minutes of live footage at The Garrick Theatre in New York City and a brief glimpse of a disastrous show played in Berlin in 1968, the very subject of the song "Holiday in Berlin" from the posthumous "Burnt Weeny Sandwich" album.

Longtime multi-instrumentalist Mother Don Preston is "Uncle Meat", a sort of Master of Ceremonies who, with James "Motorhead" Sherwood, himself a longtime member and high school chum of Frank Zappa's, try to clarify the Mothers' place as non-conformist instigators of alternative entertainment. Through selective flashback and totally incoherent sketches, Preston and Sherwood guide us through a few of the myths that made The Mothers one of the most outrageous and bold bands to ever come out of The 1960s.

Thick with characteristic in-jokes and road humor, the movie tries to become the weirdness that was life on the road. Most importantly, the live segments, by far the most worthwhile moments which appear mostly in the first third of the film, reveal in song and sketch how the musicians' lives affected and informed the music they played. In this way, the film reveals how utterly organic and in the moment The Mothers of Invention were, before Zappa fired the first band to make way for successive and more popular bands, though perhaps less satisfying.

Part of the confusion here is that we have absolutely no idea of who's who, save Zappa himself and maybe one or two others; worse, the film was largely shot between the time of the firing of The Mothers Mk 1 and 2, hence the involvement of replacement drummer Ansley Dunbar, placing the actual date at 1970. Beware - don't expect a biopic. In fact, much of the film seems a stream of consciousness, so what we really have here is a home movie of the band shot by professional photographers. One must wonder if there was any script at all. There certainly was liberal editing, and one can't help but think that this whole endeavor could have been cut down to about a half-hour, because the pacing will try the patience of the most rabid fan. Really - it's that boring at times. Rule #1 for Entertainers: Never EVER be boring.

If my interpretation of this movie is totally off the mark, and "Uncle Meat" is just an elaborate put-on, I can accept that, because I'll always have the music to fall back on. If not, then one of Zappa's best remembered lines can describe "Uncle Meat" to a T: "No Commercial Potential".

Cheers: Interesting early Mothers stage performances; some funny home movies; some rare interesting insights on the band

Caveats: Absolutely no lineage; long and extremely boring interludes

This Mothers fan rates "Uncle Meat" Two Stars.


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