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Mamas & the Papas: Straight Shooters (1989)

The definitive story of the quintessential sixties super group. From the Greenwich Village folk scene to the Virgin Islands. From California to the top of the charts. And from Cass Elliot's... See full summary »

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The definitive story of the quintessential sixties super group. From the Greenwich Village folk scene to the Virgin Islands. From California to the top of the charts. And from Cass Elliot's shattering death to the band member's recent successes. The life, loves and music of John Phillips, Cass Elliot, Michelle Phillips and Denny Doherty are revealed in an n intimate musical experience that could have only happened in the sixties. Features 20 performances of hits like California Dreamin', Monday, Monday and I Saw Her Again Last Night.

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Documentary | Music

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1989 (USA)  »

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Very rare footage
31 January 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

More correctly, the title of the video should be the John Phillips story, since he, indeed, was the mastermind behind the Mamas and Papas. Poor John Phillips – the brilliantly talented songwriter and arranger, who, unable to ignore the allure of drugs and alcohol, died not too long ago. The Mamas and Papas defined the new California folk sound in a way that allowed us to look past the British invasion. Following Phillips career from his early folk music roots, where he met and performed with future wife and Mama, Michelle, the video contains astounding footage documenting the formation of the group. John and Michelle met Denny Doherty -- he, of the baritone as rich and mellow as fine cognac -- and began performing as a trio. Denny had long been pursued by an ardent suitor, Cass Elliot. *Straight Shooter* reveals the story of John, Michelle and Denny being holed up in their New York hotel room with a sizable amount of liquid LSD, while Denny introduced John to the music of the Beatles – and altering the course of pop music along the way. During the same drug-addled binge, Denny's friend, Cass, showed up, imbibed in the same drugs, and the unlikely foursome was created. Cass' silvery vocals completed the palette, which offered a range of sounds that were delicate and mesmerizing, but with great force behind them. Their notorious trip to the Caribbean, financed with an American Express card, and famously chronicled in their song "Creeque Alley," is well represented here – it is on this trip that many of the Mamas and Papas earliest hits were written. When paradise turned bad, they returned to New York, with little hope for a future together as a group. And one night John woke up Michelle to help him write down a song that was going through his head – a little tune that turned out to be "California Dreamin'." California became their home, and suddenly their future was as glistening and alluring as the liquid LSD they were so fond of. The song skyrocketed to the top of the charts and into music history as one of the most relentlessly listenable and timelessly lovely creations ever written, weaving harmony and melody in a style that would become the signature of John Phillips, as well as the Mamas and Papas. They were living on the fast track, turning out one hit after another, and carousing with the Beatles and Rolling Stones. Producing the legendary Monterrey Pop Festival, Phillips was at the zenith of his career, with a dazzling future with the Mamas and Papas, as well as a producer. So dazzling, that Phillips was blinded by the glare, and the future exploded in a syringe loaded with the seductive promises of various drugs. The group unhappily dissolves, John and Michelle break up, and John Phillips never again begins to approach the brilliance that he achieved with the Mamas and Papas – it is a tragedy, incompletely played out in the video, but is a tale of charming innocence and dreams of immortality, when the Mamas and Papas were rock royalty.


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