Jazzer Don Cherry born 1936; singer Ofra Haza born 1957.
Continuing my look at Frank Zappa on DVD, we have his film “200 Motels” (1971). There’s a bit on contention, about the legitimacy of this DVD issue; it’s released by director Tony Palmer, apparently without the ‘cooperation’ of the ZFT ( = Zappa Family Trust ). But it does, in fact, look like it’s made from “master tapes” – the film was originally shot on videotape!
The CD version of “200 Motels” is not currently in print. Because the film was “delivered” to MGM/U.A. – with it’s soundtrack, it was never even on CD until Rykodisc did an entire series of MGM/U.A. film soundtracks, circa 1997. Let’s hope that Universal / Zappa gets a chance to re-issue on CD, one day soon.
There were VHS, Beta and laser disc versions of “200 Motels”, from MGM/U.A., but never a legit DVD of it. I am not sure aspect of Tony Palmer’s involvement gave him the rights to issue it on DVD, but it exists in 2012. Not at all certain if it’s in print at this time, but it certainly did exist, recently.
The film is delightful. Flo & Eddie are a lot of fun. This version of The Mothers was actually pretty good; maybe they get a bit of crap about how this version of the band never made very many studio recordings? But they did work on “Chunga’s Revenge”, which is a great studio album from FZ.
Those who have watched many of Zappa’s videos are aware: linear storytelling was not Frank’s forte – you just sort of have to enjoy the journey. The cartoon “Dental Hygiene Dilemna” was so wonderful to see in a movie theatre, in the early 70’s. It didn’t seem to have anything to do with anything else in the film, but – who cares?
Audio on the DVD is stereo only, but I am almost 100% certain that is it’s original orientation. Until a version from MGM/U.A. is released, this is all we have to view at home – unless, of course, you can still watch your beta or laser disc of it. Once something gets released, it’s always out there somewhere.
It was always curious to me (now I know why) that the soundtrack to this film was on United Artists Records; the soundtrack 2LP set was probably thought to be a lucrative part of the deal; MGM/U.A. pays for a film, and gets a soundtrack LP set it can sell. Was this the sole ‘master’ that Zappa sold in such a way that he no longer owned the rights? The ZFT sure seems to own everything else in his canon of work outright.
So, a conditional “Thumbs Up” on this DVD release. If you want / need to see this film, and you can’t find a beta, VHS or laser disc of it to watch – this DVD will do, for the time being.