"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...
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A concert movie showing a performance by the much-loved 1973 incarnation of the Mothers of Invention. An incredible cast of musicians treat us to a selection of blistering, pointillist jazz... See full summary »
Napoleon Murphy Brock
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 »
Phyllis Smith Altenhaus,
BBC Symphony Orchestra
In a little over an hour, 'VIDEO FROM HELL' provides a preview of current and projected Honker releases, including 'BABY SNAKES', 'THE TRUE STORY OF 200 MOTELS' and 'UNCLE MEAT' (all 1987 ... See full summary »
Phyllis Smith Altenhaus,
"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
There is no film quite like 200 Motels, but a lot of its very strange appearance (especially when viewed on a cinema screen) is due to its videotape source. (Actually, it isn't the first film released theatrically, to have been originated on this medium. One of the versions of Jean Harlow's biography to be released in 1965 used something called 'Electronovision', which is much the same thing, although it seems suspiciously like an afterthought over a successful TV play in that case.) The 1971 double album was my introduction to Zappa's music, back in 1973, and I first saw this film in 1978, on a double bill with - wait for it - Annie Hall. Now, that's bizarre. I was mesmerised by this messy production, but everyone in the cinema, including my friends, seemed to hate it. Even by 1978, the effects were dated, and the sound quality left a lot to be desired. However, ten years later, when I saw the film in on VHS, I scooped it up, and I still enjoy it.
More satire and music would have been welcome in place of the cast and orchestra being forced to recite childish swearwords, although it must be realised that this is an exercise to defuse the effect of 'bad language', much as Shaw did with Pygmalion (the original play has the word 'bloody' repeated over and over, opposed to achieving the comedy shock effect as in the 1938 movie) There are some very well worked out scenes, such as the stars' dressing-room/racehorse chute sequence, and the dialogue between Jim Black and Theodor Bikel, and maybe sufficient time and budget would have yielded more of the same.
The music was sufficient to launch me into thirty years of collecting Zappa's music, and I still enjoy it today - it's more fulfilling to listen to than the movie is to watch, but the movie is worth seeing, as long as you are not expecting anything too coherent.
In amongst the confusion is a worthwhile film about groupies, and genius, and the sadness, as opposed to the glamour, of the life of rock stars, and I can't help feeling that someone with fifty million dollars to spend could do worse than remake this. It's about time Zappa's output reached a wider audience. Stop remaking films that were fine as they were, you guys. We didn't need another Planet of the Apes, Tim Burton! Do a film about Frank Zappa. Johnny Depp could play Frank!
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