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200 Motels (1971)

"Touring makes you crazy," Frank Zappa says, explaining that the idea for this film came to him while the Mothers of Invention were touring. The story, interspersed with performances by the... See full summary »


Tony Palmer, Frank Zappa


Frank Zappa (story and screenplay), Tony Palmer (shooting script) | 2 more credits »

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Using takes and rehearsals discarded from the original edit plus interviews made during the shooting, Zappa reconstructs the bizarre story of 200 Motels, one of the most problematic ... See full synopsis »

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Mark Volman Mark Volman ... Member of Mothers of Invention
Howard Kaylan Howard Kaylan ... Member of Mothers of Invention
Ian Underwood Ian Underwood ... Member of Mothers of Invention
Aynsley Dunbar Aynsley Dunbar ... Member of Mothers of Invention
George Duke ... Member of Mothers of Invention
Theodore Bikel ... Rance Muhammitz / Dave
Keith Moon ... The Hot Nun
Jimmy Carl Black ... Lonesome Cowboy Burt
Janet Neville-Ferguson ... Groupie #1 (as Janet Ferguson)
Martin Lickert Martin Lickert ... Jeff
Lucy Offerall Lucy Offerall ... Groupie #2
Dick Barber Dick Barber ... Bif Debris - The Vacuum Cleaner
Don Preston Don Preston ... Don
Pamela Des Barres ... Interviewer (as Pamela Miller)
Ruth Underwood Ruth Underwood ... Fake Drummer


"Touring makes you crazy," Frank Zappa says, explaining that the idea for this film came to him while the Mothers of Invention were touring. The story, interspersed with performances by the Mothers and the Royal Symphony Orchestra, is a tale of life on the road. The band members' main concerns are the search for groupies and the desire to get paid. Written by George S. Davis

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Comedy | Fantasy | Music


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Official Sites:






Release Date:

20 November 1971 (Sweden) See more »

Also Known As:

Frank Zappa's 200 Motels See more »


Box Office


$679,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Cited as the first British-made example of the videotape-to-film process. See more »


Rance Muhammitz: [as a TV show host, holding a microphone] Hi Larry, its good to have you back on our panel!
Larry The Dwarf: [holding a magic lamp] Hi Dave, its really great to be back on your panel!
Rance Muhammitz: I'm sure the people at home would be interested to know why such a large force as you is all dressed up like Frank Zappa. Tell us Larry, whats the deal?
Larry The Dwarf: He made me do it, Dave. He's such a creep. He's making me hold this aladdin.
Rance Muhammitz: And why is he making you do that, Larry?
Larry The Dwarf: He wants me to fuck the girl with the harp.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The closing credits are super-imposed over a number of production-related documents, including sheet music, scripts, shooting directions, memos and expense reports. See more »

Alternate Versions

A laserdisc issue deletes the "Dental Hygiene Dilemma/quasi-Donald Duck on acid" animation sequence. See more »


Referenced in Mystery Science Theater 3000: Indestructible Man (1992) See more »

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User Reviews

Beautiful Music in a Layered Environment...."do you worry a lot?" worry no more...
24 June 2011 | by dizozzaSee all my reviews

There is in 200 Motels an expression of insecurity matched by delusions of grandeur creating an atmosphere of low self-esteem. I realize musicians can provide a service that seamlessly blends with our lives, intensifying drama and fun, but seeing 200 Motels again at Anthology Film Archives I remember that the point of composing is to add something new to what's already out there...

Some composers innovate while sounding pleasing, their music blending well with other music of the times... Acceptance may be the composer's most comfortable accomplishment...It is encouraging when people like your music, and perhaps you have also delivered something advancing the possibilities of sound... Zappa was completely capable of fitting in while being innovative and original. He's actually a very successful pop star, and his material was always somewhere within the mainstream of commercial distribution.

He represents the universal reflexive response to rejection: reject! He wasn't accepted because why? He could have stepped into the orchestral shoes of the universally acclaimed Guy Lombardo! What a nice guy easing us into a new year with pleasing sounds.

Anyway, in my rejected adolescent insecurity I wasn't appreciating Muzak. I wanted to hear beautiful explosive sounds, and at the time, 1960's-1970, harmonic innovation was part of pop music, primarily through Burt Bacharach, but also with The Beatles, The Fifth Dimension, The Mamas and the Papas... Other innovators of the time include Edgar Varese, Hans Werner Henze, Luciano Berio, Karl Stockhausen... for me the most accessible of radical orchestral composers is Leonard Bernstein. George Gershwin of course passed away at a young age (38) at the height of his innovations and discoveries...so again with Frank Zappa at 53. It appears that musical innovators are not long for this world and it's amazing what they accomplish in their short lives.

The point here is that 200 Motels pushes away the refined classical crowd with a sense of vulgarity...the funniest outcome will be that a tuxedoed audience will jocularly sing along with the lyrics in the songs....

200 Motels offers great performers and musicians interpreting Frank Zappa's writing, while spoofing his plagiarizing leadership, and they especially deserve to be recognized and glorified... and yes, Frank Zappa, through great effort, offers a path for the advancement of musical composition... I wish making the movie was less contentious... It is beautiful and inspiring.

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