It was dubbed from a VHS and mastered slightly too slow, but...at least it was complete! Better that than the loss of even a few seconds of dialogue!
In fact it was most likely mastered at the correct speed - at least in terms of replicating the speed of cinema showings. I've theorised about this elsewhere but if they were shooting on PAL video - at 25 frames per second - and had to transfer that that to 35mm - at 24 frames per second - then the only way that would have been possible would be to slow everything down by about 4%.
Ironically, this means the only way to officially see 200 Motels
at its correct performance
speed is to acquire a PAL VHS or watch a European TV broadcast (since the PAL method of telecine involves speeding everything up from 24 to 25 fps - while NTSC manages to keep to something approaching the original speed by spreading everything over 29.97 fps using half-frames and elastic bands).
And Tony Palmer, you may be a right-wing jerk but you could at least have made the effort to get your facts straight about the performers in your own film!
I'm in the middle of writing a long illustrated article about everything that's wrong with this release. Until then, a couple of quick points...
a) The missing bits - if anyone hasn't already guessed, they're missing because he's used a copy of a damaged theatrical print as his source. The missing bits occur during reel change points (and have evidently snapped at some point).
b) There really is no way to watch this on a conventional player and see it in its proper dimensions. The only way of managing it is to bypass the DVD info files completely and import the actual VOBs into VirtualDub or something. I guessed correctly before - the 4:3 picture has been cropped to NTSC 720x480
c) He's lopped off the MPAA logo and the very beginning of the title sequence to remove the Murakami Wolf/Bizarre credit - and slowed down the Super 8 footage to cover this up. Despite that, the opening theme still cuts in too late with a bump. And - as mentioned earlier - he's cropped the picture during the title caption, again, to remove the Murakami Wolf/Bizarre credit.
d) I've already posted this over at Zappateers, but... Here's Tony Palmer (who claims to be proud of the film, to have written the script, done the editing - and remained friends with Zappa) back in 1971 - disowning the film and insisting Zappa wrote the script and did the editing:
The Observer, November 7 1971 wrote:
Zappa and the Rainbow
OFTEN, the tattiest of films hides the most original of pop music scores. Since the extraordinary success of 'Easy Rider,' whose sound-track album almost outgrossed the film itself, production companies have been falling over themselves to sign up likely pop stars in the hope that the next tuneless ditty they pen will guarantee the commercial viability of an otherwise indifferent movie.
This process has been carried to its logical conclusion by United Artists who, a year ago, financed a whole 98-minute feature film out of the estimated record advances of its three-album sound track. Unfortunately, what resulted is one of the worst films in the entire history of the cinema, a criticism which I can confidently assert since I was responsible in part for its direction. Unfortunately, also, the film - '200 Motels' - is so bad that a great deal of what might be quite inventive pop music may go down the same drain. Much of this music is released this week on a double album, also called 'Frank Zappa's 200 Motels' (UDF 50003).
Scored for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Mothers of Invention and assorted groupies, the music first attracted attention in Britain last February when the Albert Hall banned a concert performance of excerpts from it on the grounds that it was obscene, sacriligious or both. Lest anyone should think that this puts it in the same category as 'The Rite of Spring,' and other causes celebres, let me hasten to reassure you that, despite its many qualities, '200 Motels' is a musical hotch-potch of every known cliche, plus a few more yet to be invented.
The large orchestra, for example, contains a seven-man percussion section, each member of which is sometimes required to play two separate rhythms simultaneously, thus making a total of 14 tinkles and bangs. The combined effort is an unmitigated jangle, in which it is frequently impossible to discern any sense or sensibility. Satire is held to be the general excuse, although satire of what it is never made clear.
Individual performers, however, rescue the score from its otherwise muddled texture. Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, one time with The Turtles, have never been in more persuasive voice, and Aynsley Dunbar confirms that he is the most reliable rock drummer around. Zappa, who besides writing all the music and words, edited the film, directed the actors and wrote the script, plays well, even if derivatively. Still, you will be able to judge for yourself when Zappa and the Mothers play some of the music in an English tour beginning on 10 December at London's newest pop forum, the Rainbow Theatre.
Situated in the Seven Sisters Road, the Rainbow opened last Thursday with a devastating concert by The Who. It has been converted from the old 3,000-seat Astoria Cinema in Finsbury Park and, according to its promoters, is the first permanent home for pop music in Britain. That begs, of course, the question whether pop needs any permanent home, in any but the geriatric sense. But if classical music has its Royal Festival Hall, it's reasonable that pop should have its equivalent, especially a building as cavernaous and quaint as the Astoria. Built in 1930, its interior is art deco gone crazy. A huge proscenium span is surmounted by a walled Spanish villa complete with lions (lions in Spain?) and the whole is dominated by a ceiling of twinkling little stars. If for nothing else, the 75-strong Rainbow management should be thanked for preserving this architectural monster.
Fortunately, there is much else. Judging from the first concert, the acoustics seem well suited to pop music - loud and vulgar. A back-projected light-show, better than any yet seen in England, provides the backcloth, although in the Astoria it seemed unnecessarily dwarfed by the Spanish villa. A large mobile stage has been constructed to facilitate and speed up equipment changes between acts, usually the bane of most pop concerts.
John Morris, its boss, is a 32-year-old American with experience in organising the now defunct Fillmore East Auditorium in New York, and the even more profitable Woodstock Festival. He hopes that Rainbow, being free of the petty-minded restrictions that govern many of London's other concert-halls, will develop a unique form of entertainment which, although primarily concerned with pop, can include much else.
...and some quotes from subsequent Zappa interviews which allude to the above:Sounds, November 27 1971
FRANK ZAPPA is pretty pleased with his first movie, "200 Motels". Ask how he feels about it now that it's all finished and he'll say: "I think it turned out pretty good." Tell him that British pop pundit Tony Palmer, who worked on the film, thinks it's the worst pop film he's seen, and he'll say: "That's quite a distinction. But then he's such a controversial little rascal."Time Out, December 17 1971
Ask him if he can see any reason for Palmer to describe it that way, and he says: "Self publicity for himself perhaps?" It's not so much arrogance, it's a strong belief in what he's doing, and as he says, he does things for people to enjoy, not for critics to write about.
Would you use Tony Palmer again?
No I don't think so.
Did you have a lot of difficulty?
He left and came back?
Did you read the review he wrote?
I've read three reviews that he wrote. I at one time considered him to be a friend. I found his behaviour very strange.
He wanted to impose his own ideas on the film?
Yeah. But it was quite inappropriate for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that most of the cast was amateur and they were also my friends, and they were also people saying dialogue that I had written, based on the way they talked. He didn't know these people, so how could he possibly expect to tell them how and what and who to express what was in there - he didn't know what it was supposed to be. I mean, in some of the interviews and articles that he's written, he says 'I don't know what it's all about, I never knew what it was all about - will somebody tell me what it's all about, it's shitty' and all the rest of the stuff. Well, from that standpoint, how could he expect to instruct the cast in what to do?
How did you come to use him in the first place?
Well I've known him for a couple of years. The first time I met him was in '67 when he did an interview with me in New York for the pop film 'All My Loving', and I did another interview when I came over in '68, and we'd had dinner a few times and he showed me some video to 35mm transfer that he'd done. I was quite impressed with it and I figured, well, at least he's had some experience in this regard.
For him to disavow all association with it is stupid, and I think for what he did in the film, he did a good job on it.