October 10, 1971
July 25, 1993
March 9, 1996
Released by: United Artists (US)
Runtime: 98 minutes
1971/10/27 (MGM Movie Database)
March 8, 2010
For a deep and pretty detailed look at this DVD release, go here: 200 Motels On DVD (SOTCAA, April 2010)
We do not own 200 MOTELS but then again, neither does Tony Palmer and that fact does not seem to have deterred from his self-appointed rounds. Ah well. We can only hope! We do have a deal in place that should MGM decide that they want the deluxe version with all the bells and whistles they can ask us to help them out. But again, they do not have to do that.
Warner Home Video PEV 99498 VHS (UK), as seen on eBay:
Warner Home Video PES 99498 VHS (UK):
MGM/UA Home Video M200423 VHS (USA):
MGM/Rock Classics S050423 VHS (UK) video tape cover:
The MGM/UA ML100423 laserdisc:
And an ugly VHS bootleg which has been seen on Ebay:
Voiceprint DVD (TPDVD127, 2010):
A MURAKAMI WOLF/BIZARRE PRODUCTION
THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION · RINGO STARR · THEODORE BIKEL
MUSIC PERFORMED BY THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION · FRANK ZAPPA · MARK VOLMAN · HOWARD KAYLAN · IAN UNDERWOOD · AYNSLEY DUNBAR · GEORGE DUKE AND THE ROYAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
MUSIC COMPOSED AND ARRANGED BY FRANK ZAPPA · STORY AND SCREENPLAY BY FRANK ZAPPA · CHARACTERIZATIONS DIRECTED BY FRANK ZAPPA · VISUALS DIRECTED BY TONY PALMER
PRODUCED BY JERRY GOOD AND HERB COHEN
MIND-BOGGLING EAR-BLOWING POP FANTASY AT ITS BEST!
"Touring can make you crazy", announces ex-Beatle Ringo Starr at the start of the movie, "And that's what 200 Motels is all about". So prepare youself for an explosion of outrageous, fast and furious humor, zany satire and extraordinary visual invention in a riveting musical fantasy of the Seventies which makes most of today's pop videos look tame by comparison.
The movie is a surrealistic 'documentary' about what happens when the performers on a rock tour begin to feel that every motel, every auditorium and all the groupies start to look alike. Set in the mythical town of Centerville, USA, 200 Motels stars Frank Zappa, the leader of one of the Seventies' greatest rock bands, The Mothers of Invention, along with Ringo Starr, Theodore Bikel and the legendary Keith Moon, coming together in a consistently fascinating and free-wheeling movie that is a treat for all fans of Frank Zappa and his group and a not-to-be-missed eye and ear-opener for every addict of great pop music.
Said Time: "The craziness climaxes, fittingly enough, with a full cast and chorus raising their voices in an irreverent anthem: "Lord, have mercy on the fate of this movie/and God bless the mind of the man in the street". Mothers fans will be ecstatic. Don't miss it.
"Just the right touch of insanity . . . a stunning achievement."
—Robert Hilburn, Los Angeles Times
200 Motels is Frank Zappa's outrageous, psychedelic precursor to today's rock videos—his hilarious response to the burning question of what to do with road-wrecked musicians. Should they rip off the motel's towels and ashtrays or merely quit the group? Dare they rebel against the tyranny of the merciless Zappa?
"The Mothers of Invention," as irrepressible as Zappa himself, wreck havoc in Centerville, a "typical" American town with its Rancid Boutique, Cheesy Motel, Fake Nightclub, Redneck Eats Cafe, groupies and an honest-to-goodness Main Street. Ringo Starr, in Zappa disquise and carrying an oil lamp, narrates. Theodore Bikel is government agent Rance Muhammitz.
The hysterically funny man behind such hits as "Valley Girl," "Dancin' Fool" and "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow," Zappa reasserts his genius in this "zaniest piece of filmusical fantasy-comedy since The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night."—Daily Variety
JIMMY CARL BLACK
music composed and arranged by FRANK ZAPPA
music performed by THE ROYAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
choreographed by GILLIAN LYNNE
story and screenplay by FRANK ZAPPA
shooting script by TONY PALMER
associate producers RAOUL RAGEL · BRIAN HARRIS
produced by JERRY GOOD · HERB COHEN
characterizations directed by FRANK ZAPPA
visuals directed by TONY PALMER
Special Material MARK VOLMAN · HOWARD KAYLAN
Orchestra Leader COLIN STAVELEY
Orchestra Chairman JOHN LOWDELL
Acting Orchestra General Manager TOM PETZAL
Orchestra Conductor ELGAR HOWARTH
Chorus TOP SCORE SINGERS
Choral Director DAVID VAN ASCH
Animation MURAKAMI WOLF PROD.
Animation Director CHARLES SWENSON
Graphic Production CAL SCHENKEL · KUNIMI TERADA · FUMIKO ROCHE · ELIZABETH WRIGHT · WILMA GUENOT · ANN OLIPHANT
Production Design CAL SCHENKEL
Art Director LEO AUSTIN
Unit Production Manager DAVID ANDERSON
Lion Television Services Production Manager ROY GARNER
Lion Television Services Controller TOM KEYLOCK
Assistant Director DAVID ALEXANDER
2nd Assistant Director JIM MC CUTCHEON
Dancers Music Associate RAY COOK
Lighting Director PETER DYSON
Technical Director ALAN MASHFORD
Sound Supervisor PETER HUBBARD
16 Track Recordist ROBERT AUGER
Continuity Clerk LYN GOMEZ
Production Secretary JAQI WILLIAMSON
Vision Mixer ANNE ROWE
Vision Supervisor ROLAND BROWN
Construction Supervisor HARRY PHIPPS
Costume Design SUE YELLAND
Hairdresser MERVYN MEDALIE
Makeup PAUL RABIGER
Unit Publicist IAN STOCK
Special Effects BERT LUXFORD
Still Photographer BARRY PEAKE
Wire Specialist INKY INGRAM
Props PADDY BENNETT
Vision Engineers RICHARD THOMPSON · SELWYN MINDEL · NEVILLE HOKSFIELD
Cameramen DAVE SWAN · BARRIE DODD · MIKE FITCH · JOHN HOWARD
Video Tape Editors BARRY STEPHENS · RAY NUNNEY
Dubbed at TODD A-O
Film Editing RICH HARRISON
Video Tape Transfer to Film TECHNICOLOR-ENGLAND
Video Tape Equipment LION TELEVISION SERVICES
Produced at PINEWOOD STUDIOS, IVERHEATH, ENGLAND
JIM 'MOTORHEAD' SHERWOOD
CLASSICAL GUITAR ENSEMBLE
According to the Shooting Script, Patrick Pending's article on the 200 Motels CD booklet, and Tom Troccoli's article from Society Pages, this could have been the original running order for 200 Motels:
Tell Me You Love Me
Would You Go All The Way?
Rudy Wants To Buy Yez A Drink
The original 200 Motels shooting script contained a list of musical numbers, including orchestration. The corresponding scene numbers have been added in parentheses. The comments between square brackets are from Charles Ulrich, who provided this list.
Several characters were recast between the shooting script and the finished film.
Obviously, Jeff Simmons was supposed to play himself. After Jeff quit the group, the role was given first to Wilfrid Brambell, and then to Martin Lickert. But note that Howard Kaylan provided the voice of the cartoon Jeff in Dental Hygiene Dilemma.
Pete Townshend (dressed up like Donovan) was supposed to play Jeff's Good Conscience. In the film, it was Mark Volman voicing the animated Billy The Mountain (dressed up like Donovan).
Keith Moon (dressed up like Ginger Baker) was supposed to play Jeff's Bad Conscience. In the film, it was Jim Pons voicing the animated Studebacher Hoch (dressed up like Jim Pons).
Mick Jagger was supposed to play the nun (while being pursued by Larry the Dwarf). Miss Pamela was supposed to play the nun (as the third groupie ODing). In the film, Keith Moon played the nun throughout.
The soprano soloist of the chorus (Phyllis Bryn-Julson) was supposed to play the rock & roll interviewer, speaking as well as singing. In the film, Miss Pamela took over the speaking role.
Jeff Beck was supposed to play the fake Lucy. In the film, Motorhead played the fake Lucy.
The shooting script contains a non-speaking role for Meredith [Monk, presumably] as the newt-rancher's girlfriend in The Pleated Gazelle.
Herbie [Cohen] was supposed to appear in two scenes, speaking his name in one of them.
Financed by United Artists to the tune of half a million dollars, 200 Motels was shot using innovative video technology at Pinewood Studios in England with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Top Score Singers.
200 Motels was shot in seven days and after only five days of rehearsal; Pamela Miller commented 'the movie seemed to be over in seconds because Frank was using videotape.' It was filmed on four silmutaneously running video cameras. One-third of the 320 page script was never shot.
Jeff Simmons quit halfway through and was replaced by Martin Lickert, Ringo Starr's chauffeur.
Theodore Bikel, the Austrian folk singer managed by Herbie Cohen, was the uniformed MC.
Movie from 1970 starring Ringo Starr (as Zappa), Theodore Bikel, the Mothers of Invention (this is the Flo and Eddie band with George Duke, Aynsley Dunbar, Ian Underwood and Ringo Starr's chauffeur playing bass), and Keith Moon as a nun!! Its a surrealistic look at how touring makes you crazy and the efforts that band members have to go through to get some action (women). The entire movie is a musical with some lines of dialogue but mainly songs. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and some choir play through most of the movie. The Mothers do several songs as well. The movie is wierd (of course) and would have been much better had they been given more than 7 days to film it. It is very difficult to watch if you do not understand the context behind much of it. The movie also features a 10 minute animated sequence. I would recommend watching the True Story of 200 Motels either right before or right after you watch the movie.
I just snagged this neat-o little piece of trivia from the internet movie database. Anyone know if it's true? Where exactly does it appear?
200 Motels Trivia: Filmed in the same studio as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). The black monolith from that film is visible.
Yep... I've wondered about it too. Although it's been quite awhile since I last viewed the movie ... I can see Ringo (with the lamp) and Theo. B. in front of the object which is on the right of the screen.
Not to mention during Penis Dimension sequence Dick Barber-as-the-vacuum- cleaner shoots a wad at it.
Oh, that's it. I also just spotted it in Don Preston's laboratory as he pushes the vile foamy liquids onto the unsuspecting Martin Lickert.
In the complete (unfilmed: see True Story Of 200 Motels for details) version of the original shooting script for 200 Motels, we actually see the monolith quite a bit more. It looms throughout. At the very end of the film (as written), the extreme close-up of FZ's eye is supposed pull back so that we see the monolith behind him. As the monolith comes into focus we see for the first time that it is in fact FZ's Marshall amp and speaker cabinet stack! He reaches over, flicks the stand-by switch, and the credits roll.
Very interesting.. Does that in any way discredit the "trivia" that the monolith in the movie is the one from 2001? Sounds like it may have been kicking around the studio so he wrote it into the script. Yes?
It sorta sounds logical that way until you realize that the script had to completed well in advance of shooting. It is possible an early trip to Pinewood studios WELL in advance of the shoot date may have turned up the slab, but I expect it was written and concieved BEFORE the excursion to the UK for actual shooting.
A long time ago, someone asked a trivia question about the cover of 200 Motels, essentially looking for the three elements on the cover that are references to other films. I effectively found The Shadow above the newt on the building on the left hand side of the cover/poster. At the time, I had noticed a fetus sucking its thumb just to the right of The Shadow, but didn't know what to make of it; I knew it wasn't from 200 Motels, but couldn't place it. Well, I looked back on the poster today, and, shucky- darn, if that ain't the Monolith from 2001 sitting right there behing the penis dimension march.
Re: 200 Motels-You need a good slomo and freeze frame to spot it. It's toward the beginning, I'm shirtless and wrapping toilet paper that Frank gave me around the other people's necks. I remember Frank saying, "Great! We have a non conformist in our group!"
In an interview I read, Ringo stated that FZ was the nicest man he had met in the music business. This interview was done in the 1980's I think.
Ringo was very much the nice fellow himself during the filming of "200 Motels." Hanging out in the pub at Pinewood with the lot of us, like one of the guys.
By the way, did you do the animation in "200 Motels"?
Yup, Me & Chas Swenson (and the Ink & Paint Dept. at Murikami/Wolf). I designed it, Chuck animated. (except where Chuck designed & I animated). We did it in 8 weeks on a budget of $200.00 ...or was it 2 weeks on $800.00?? —No wait that can't be right... ...8 weeks, I made $200.00 a week. Or maybe it was that we spent $200.00 a week at VJ's.
Did Murakami/Wolf do a popular cartoon/film? I remember seeing their name after a TV program, but can't remember which. Twasn't Charlie Brown, 'twas it?
Nope—Strawberry Shortcake, with Mark & Howie. They did others, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Mostly they did commercials, when I was working for them—Green Giant, stuff like that.
I have the most recent laserdisc, which deletes the quasi-Donald Duck-on-acid animated sequence ("They're stealing the towels!!"). Does anyone know why?
Are you sure about that? I was under the impression that there only one laserdisc release of this movie... 1997 Laserdisc MGM/UA ML100423. I've got it, and it does include the quasi-duck sequence you describe.
Subject: "200 MOTELS—Missing the Cartoon"!?
I clearly remember a thread from way back when called "200 MOTELS— Missing the Cartoon"—ostensibly about some version of the 200 MOTELS movie WITHOUT the illegal Donald Duck cartoon, presumably for Disney reasons. Was there ever such a cut version? I've only seen it on VHS, two different copies (I have the LD, but haven't watched it), and they both had the cartoon. Has anyone seen it without the cartoon? The cartoon seems like the funniest thing in the whole world right now, and I can't remember what was decided in the original thread; it was years ago and the deja.com archives don't go back that far!
Subject: Letterboxing not relevant to 200 Motels
If the original photography WAS composed for TV aspect (4x3), and was later transferred to film for theatrical release, the frame would have had to have been expanded to fit the wider aspect ratio (5x3 or wider) and hence the tops and/or bottoms of the frame would have been CROPPED! It's hard to believe that FZ and Co. would have made this kind of planning error.
I watched 200 Motels shortly after release and, if memory serves, it was 4:3. The quality was poor for a large screen as well, though I have no complaints about the tape.
As has been mentioned a couple of times, 200 Motels was shot on video and transferred to film. Therefore, it's a safe bet to say that its original aspect ratio was the standard television near-square.
If that holds true, then the version you see on your personal home video is a truer image than what we saw in theaters, which probably had to be cropped a bit at top and bottom.
Since FZ did not direct the visual aspect, I would bet that Tony Palmer (who did) had his cameramen keep that in mind, and we're not really missing much in the theatrical version.
So, though I fall squarely with the defenders of letterboxing, 200 Motels is not the best example of what Mr. Censorship is talking about.
It _is_, however, a stunning example of how far ahead FZ was thinking in 1971. There were only a handful of shot-on-video transfers in that era, and the others were all pretty much photographed stage plays. I contend that 200 Motels took better advantage of available video technology than anything else you'll see from the circa-1970 era.
As 200 Motels was shot direct to video, using the same ratio as standard TV, there's no need for letter-boxing. There is NO 'wide-screen' version. I've seen 200 Motels in theaters many times. I was there opening day at The Beverly Music Box Theater (it's not there anymore, and I think this was the name) in Beverly Hills, and until home video came around, every possible revival. It is direct to video. The ratio was that of a typical TV screen (Isn't that 1x1.3 or something?). In truth, I think it looks a little better on the small screen. The lines of resolution are far less apparant than they were on the big screen.
And if you DO dig 200 Motels, be sure to search out Tony Palmer's mind blowing documentary on Igor Stravinsky, called Once At A Border. Tony actually uses some of the same visual effects from 200 motels during the musical portions of the documentary. In the US it was released some 5, or 6 years ago on the KULTURE label.
(Thanks to Patrick Neve for the Laser Disc screen shot.)
This is just a guess, but notice how in the Flo & Eddie material there are two microphones per singer? Maybe one mic went to a video soundtrack and the other went to Rolling Stones Mobile for further ammonia treatment. A primitve but effective means of countering noisy splitter problems. Why else would they each get two mics? Certainly not for stereo separation of a mono source. There had to be two recording mediums.
But to be honest, I really don't see any reason to use multiple microphones. All it does is add up noise. Ambients and transients are all compounded when you increase the recording fields. You would also get phase cancellation problems from the mics, if they were recording to the same machine. The only reason I could possibly think of to use multiple mics on the same source would be if the mics were a different pattern and you were to use them for different colorations, which would be mixed. But I highly doubt Frank was thinking in those terms with the 3 ring circus that was going on in the studio. Or anyone in 1971, for that matter. There's no benefit to redundant micing, other than to send it to separate destinations. Call it the "presidents podium" effect.
FZ liked to record vocals in stereo. While I agree with Patrick that it creates problems, FZ insisted that he liked it better in stereo. Now I'm not saying that this is what happened on the 200 Motels tracks because I've never heard the multi-track masters, I thought I'd let you know that FZ often did things that were contrary to conventional wisdom (as if I'd have to remind any of you).
Interesting. So, were the mics clustered like we see in 200M, or did he play with placement? I totally agree with multiple mics for getting room reflections, presence differences, and attack delays, but I fail to see the logic in taping a couple of identical mics together. "What would he say if we taped our dicks together?" -JCB
When he recorded in stereo, we usually used a coincident stereo mic (2 capsules in one mic, i.e. an AKG C-24) or 2 separate mics in an ORTF configuration (17 cm apart, 110 degree angle). But, as I said, FZ was not know for doing things conventionally. He once used a mic made from a hearing aid to record vocals. In fact, you can see this mic on one of the videos. There is a shot of Tommy Mars (I think. I haven't seen it in years) singing into this very tiny mic at the end of a long wand. FZ claimed this was one of the best sounding microphones he had ever used. Go figure.
As far as the logic in taping two mics together, it was probably done for either of two reasons:
1.) The mics were sent to different feeds (This has already been suggested and is probably right) to avoid the splitter or for a feed to the film guys.
2.) It's used as a backup. In fact, you see this all the time on your local news. The anchor will have two mics on one clip on his tie. Then, if one fails, they just patch the other in without having to undress him on the set.
Here is a link to Understanding 200 Motels, a nice little guide by Marcello.
Okay, bring the band on down behind me, boys, I have another question for the FZ experts in the room: Is this true, or just something to sit on top of the bogus rumor pile? True or False: "200 Motels" was premiered at an old folks home, possibly in Baltimore, with Frank in attendance. I've heard this one literally since the movie came out but other than maybe reading it ONCE I've never seen it in print again. Can anyone help?
It looks as if this movie was almost re-released in 1997. That fall, Ryko was releasing soundtrack discs to many of the movies that MGM/UA was re-releasing. According to a Rolling Stone press release from 9/20/1997, 200 Motels The Movie was slated for release:
Zappa Movie Re-Released
(NEW YORK)—Relating to recent Daily Entertainment Report briefs, Frank Zappa fans will have reason to freak out Oct. 14 when Rykodisc releases 200 Motels, the 1971 film directed by the late, great mother of musical invention. |A story about life on the road, the movie features former Beatle Ringo Starr and the late Who drummer Keith Moon, who playsa nun. Rykodisc will also release the film's soundtrack; to list for $34.98, it includes the London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra's original contributions to the project, as well as bonus tracks, dialogue from the movie, and interactive CD-Rom content.
Zappateers: There has been some speculation amongst Zappa fans about a potential DVD release of 200 Motels. Is this anything you could shed any light on ?
Tony Palmer: Keep your fingers crossed—we are doing our best! We have now found the master tapes, so are looking into the potential contractural problems.
Zappateers: Was there much cut from the original release ?
Tony Palmer: Very little
Zappateers: Will there be any extra scenes on the DVD ?
Tony Palmer: Don't know yet—we are still examining the material, but there might well be an interview with me about the film's origins, if only to dispel some of the garbage that has been written about what actually happened, usually by people who were not there.
With the CD I received this copy from an article Tom Troccoli wrote in Society Pages (ca.1988) (FZ was still alive and they were still sending SP-magazines to their subscribers).
by Tom Troccoli
Society Pages #5 (1991)
Most SOCIETY PAGES subscribers have already purchased, fetished and cherished the Honker video THE TRUE STORY OF 200 MOTELS, and probably already know that barely one third of what Frank had written was included in the "finished" theatrical release. We can't show you the long version, 'cause this is a magazine, not a movie. But how would you like to hear it? Most of the music is available on various FZ releases and as such, can be assembled at home on tape in your spare time!
As my sources for this project, I used an original 254 page shooting script (affectionately known in some circles as the "12 incher"), an unpublished continuity interview with Frank, as well as portions of earlier scripts featuring even more cuts!
First off, here's a list of ingredients that you're gonna need:
OK! Now then, in the correct order:
These Songs were originally intended for use, but didn't make it to the final shoot:
#1. Dance Of The Rock & Roll Interviewers and What's The Name Of Your Group? are actually only segments of a much longer piece, also entitled What's The Name Of Your Group?. While we know no further video exists, perhaps there is an existing 16 track recording. How 'bout it, Frank?
#2. The original title of this is Went On The Road.
#3. In fact, there were two versions of Mystery Roach intended for 200 MOTELS, and this version is neither of them. Mystery Roach #1 (band version) is very much of an acoustic "folk-rock" song. You can see and just barely hear this version for all of fifteen to twenty seconds in THE TRUE STORY OF 200 MOTELS. Mystery Roach #2 (solo version), indeed was to have been sung solo by "Jeff" (Martin Lickert), just before smoking the vile-foamy-liquid cigarette he'd just procured from Dom Dewild, after which he proceeds to "steal the room". What can I say about this elixir?!
#4. My personal fave, this section is rife with deletions, my heart bleeds a little every day for the loss of this one. By the way, when the soprano soloist sings, "Would you like to watch a dental hygiene movie?", this is not the cue for Dental Hygiene Dilemma. Don't be fooled! Dental hygiene movies simply get her hot!
#5. The shooting script shows that the song and the spoken parts were flip-flopped in order for the theatrical release.
#6. The film version features a different mix.
#7. This music is used during the credit sequence.
Well gang, there you have it!
Koninklijk Theater Carré
1018 EM Amsterdam
June 23-24, 2000; 20:30 h.
Composer: Frank Zappa
Adaptation: Ali N. Askin
Company: Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest and Cappella Amsterdam
Conductor: Jurjen Hempel
Claron McFadden: vocals (Rock & Roll Interviewer, Girl, Jeff's Good Conscience)
Lieuwe Visser: vocals (Rance Muhammitz, Jeff's Bad Conscience)
Tommy Dunbar & Jon Rubin: vocals (Flo & Eddie)
Mats Öberg: keyboards, vocals (Jeff)
Morgan Ågren: drums
Stage-Manager: Johan Simons
Additional informants: Kristian Kier, Charles Ulrich, Joachim Ott, computeruser, Peter Van LaarhovenMaintained by Román García Albertos