Monterey Pop: The Criterion Collection (Blu-ray)
APPROX. 79 MINS. - PROD. YEAR: 1968 - MPA RATING: NR
FIRST PUBLISHED Sep 20, 2009
By Ranjan Pruthee
As a three-day rock festival held from June 16 to June 18, 1967, at
Monterey, California, the one and only "Monterey Pop festival"
presented artists who performed for the first time at this grand
event. Not only did the festival introduce various performers who
would later become quite famous, it also created a unique template
for future rock shows. Moreover, the festival unified its performers
and audiences in a common cause--music. This concert film by director
D.A. Penebaker rightly captures the idea that music has no racial,
genre, and regional boundaries.
Criterion has now released the two-disc "Monterey Pop Collection,"
combining the "Monterey Pop" and "Jimi plays Monterey & Shake! Otis
at Monterey" films. The two discs are also available separately.
Monterey Pop (Spine #168)
"Monterey Pop" runs 79 minutes and showcases performances by Canned
Heat, Simon & Garfunkel, Ravi Shankar, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin,
The Who, The Mama and The Papas, Otis Redding, and many more. One of
the striking attributes of the film, which is evident from the very
beginning, is its emotional content in depicting the performances.
Filmmaker Penebaker passionately and meticulously crafted each shot
to perfection. The long and short-range shots are mixed appropriately
and create a dramatic impression on a viewer. In fact, the close-ups
capture the actual moments of the performances very well. However,
due to the limitations of how cameras were arranged for filming the
show, we mostly get profile shots that at times can be distracting.
This is mainly noticeable in the performance by Ravi Shankar in which
we can hardly see the instruments or the tabla master performing
along with Ravi Shankar.
There are a couple of truly memorable performances in this show. As
revealed in the extras, there was a flipping of a coin between Jimi
Hendrix and The Who on which performers would do the last performance
before Ravi Shankar´s "Rama Bhimpalasi." Hendrix won the toss, and he
put a brilliant performance on "Wild Thing." In this performance,
Hendrix for the first time in the U.S. used pyrotechnics on the
stage. He was so emotionally focused on the performance that he burnt
his guitar. While his guitar was burning, he started doing air
actions indicative of how he would play a guitar and then flame it.
It was as though he were summoning someone from the sky to burn his
guitar. The crowd was stunned as they hadn´t seen anything like this
before. Of course, before all this happened, Pete Townshend from "The
Who" at the end of the performance of "My Generation" broke his
guitar just as Jimi did for the first time in the U.S. The iconic
images of Jimi burning his guitar and Pete Townshend breaking his are
forever imprinted in the rock history.
The most unexpected yet breathless performance comes from the sitar
maestro Ravi Shankar in "Rama Bhimpalasi." It´s an eighteen-minute
epic that mesmerized the audience with its simplicity. With no guitar
smashing or pyrotechnics, Ravi Shankar played sitar with dexterity.
He just made it look simple. Like Jimi Hendrix, The Who, and Ottis
Redding, Ravi Shankar was also unknown to the Western world. During
the time when the hippie culture was at its peak, the performance
touched audiences on a spiritual level. At the end of the
performance, Ravi got a standing ovation from the crowd. The crowd
knew that they had seen something truly memorable.
Lastly, Ottis Redding gives an electric performance of "Shake." It
was soul singing at its best that made the crowd sing and hum to the tune.
Here are the songs featured in order of appearance:
"Combination of the Two" by Big Brother and the Holding Company
"San Francisco" by Scott McKenzie
"Creeque Alley" and "California Dreamin'" by the Mamas and the Papas
"Rollin' and Tumblin'" by Canned Heat
"59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)" By Simon and Garfunkel
"Bajabula Bonke (Healing Song)" by Hugh Masekela
"High Flyin' Bird" and "Today" by Jefferson Airplane
"Ball and Chain" by Big Brother and the Holding Company
"Paint it Black" by The Animals
"My Generation" by The Who
"Section 43" by Country Joe and the Fish
Shake" and "I've Been Loving you too Long" by Otis Redding
"Wild Thing" by Jimi Hendrix
"Got a Feelin'" by the Mamas and the Papas
"Raga Bhimpalasi" by Ravi Shankar
Jimi plays Monterey & Shake! Otis at Monterey (Spine #169)
Here´s the set list for the "Jimi Plays Monterey" disc, in order of
"Can You See Me?"
"Sgt. Pepper´s Lonely Hearts Club Band"
"Like a Rolling Stone"
"Rock Me Baby"
"The Wind Cries Mary"
Ottis Redding´s performances on this disc:
"I´ve Been Loving You So Long"
"(I can´t Get No) Satisfaction"
"Try a Little Tenderness"
Criterion appears to have used the old 2002 masters for this BD
release. The video is encoded in an AVC format that averages 35 Mpbs.
Right from the onset, the video has a fair amount of grain, which is
representative of how concert footage looked in the 1960s and the
early 70s. However, the grain is present more during the night
performances and is less during the day shots. This documentary
concert was shot on a 16 mm film in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The color
accuracy is better in HD, and in some shots the colors seem to pop
out. The texture of the dresses is better defined. Since a majority
of the concert is shot during the night, the blacks are deeper and
For this release, Criterion has provided three audio streams:
1)Regular uncompressed monaural
2)Remastered uncompressed monaural
3)Remastered DTS-HD MA 5.1
I played the concert in the newly remastered 5.1 DTS HD MA,
supervised by legendary recording engineer Eddie Kramer. Immediately,
I noticed the difference by switching from the mono option to the 5.1
option. The new remastered DTS-HD MA has more concert-like qualities.
The dynamic range is expanded, and we hear a full surround sound in
almost all the performances. You can hear Jimi Hendrix play his
guitar with the subwoofer kicking in to give heavy bass to the performance.
Extras on "Monterey Pop (Spine #168)":
Audio commentary by Festival producer Lou Adler and Pennebaker: In
this segment Adler and Pennebaker discusses their perspective on
shooting the film. They also share the fact that the light show was
done for the first time in a rock concert. It is an informative
commentary that gives tit-bits on rock stars during the Sixties era.
Video interview with Adler and Pennebaker: We get insights on how
this project was financed. Adler talks about how they wanted to make
an artistic movie about a rock show.
Audio interviews with festival producer John Phillips, festival
publicist Derek Taylor, and performers Cass Elliot and David Crosby
Photo-essay by photographer Elaine Mayes
Also included on the disc are Original theatrical trailer and radio spots.
Monterey Pop Festival scrapbook
Plus: A booklet featuring essays by critics Michael Lydon, Barney
Hoskyns, and Armond White
Extras on "Jimi plays Monterey & Shake! Otis at Monterey (Spine #169)":
Two audio commentaries by music critic and historian Peter Guralnick:
The first is on Otis Redding´s Monterey performance, song-by-song;
the second is on Redding before and after Monterey
Interview with Phil Walden, Redding´s manager from 1959 to 1967: In
this featurette, Walden talks about race issue in the South and how
black artists faced tough times during the 1950s and 60s.
A booklet features an essay by music critic David Fricke
"Monterey Pop Festival" along with "Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and
Music" are quintessential rock shows that defined the rock genre and
influenced performances for the future generation of rock stars.
Later, unknown rock stars like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and "The
Who" became some of the biggest-name stars and performers of all
time. Hats off to Criterion for releasing this important event on
Blu-ray. With a slew of extras and great audio and visual qualities,
fans who bought "Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music" should not
hesitate to pick up this immaculate release from Criterion.
A film review by Rachel Gordon
For those of us who weren't yet born when the 1960's rock 'n' rolled
around, Monterey Pop affords an affectionate glimpse of the music
that influenced our parents to be hippies. From Otis Redding to Jimi
Hendrix, Janis Joplin to the Mamas and the Papas, and Jefferson
Airplane to The Who, this documentary is jam-packed with contagious
energy. But I give fair warning that I will reveal the ending, which
does not do the rest of the film the justice it deserves.
Shot in 1969 at an outdoor concert that precluded Woodstock, the film
defies the stereotype of the general population at the time. Sure,
some have painted their faces and smoke joints, but D.A. Pennebaker
(The War Room, Moon Over Broadway) surprisingly chooses to show a
broad spectrum of the audience. No matter who is watching, it all
comes back to the talented musicians that stir your soul.
The excitement starts before the music even begins. A young girl is
cleaning thousands of seats and when asked why by an interviewer, she
replies that she feels lucky to do so. There are moments of organized
craziness as John Phillips, leader of the Mamas and the Papas and one
of the concert organizers, tries to get in touch with Dionne Warwick.
And when one band is tuning up, a member remarks, "Finally, a decent
You can tell just by watching these first few moments that this show
isn't about vanity, it's about playing the music you love to those
who have an appreciation for it, a two-way street. This interaction
between audience and performer continues throughout the film and
becomes infectious to the audience.
It's impossible to tear your eyes away from Janis Joplin as she belts
out her ballad about love being a ball and chain. And while the
lyrics to "Wild Thing" may not be all that complicated, watching Jimi
Hendrix mime having sex with his guitar is as captivating as Otis
Redding singing about love. Even if you don't recognize every band
you see on stage, you can imagine being as enthralled by their work
as the public sitting in those seats.
The only drawback to the film is the ending, which unfortunately I
must reveal. All the other bands, big names then and still today, got
approximately 7 to 10 minutes of screen time. In contrast, the last
band on camera, a wholly forgettable one, gets an entire 18 minutes
of screen time. For a film that's only 78 minutes long, that's too
large of a chunk, especially when previous acts are much more stimulating.
All in all, Monterey Pop is a precious, rare look at a time period
that still holds sway over us. The variety of music, as well as the
beautifully shot performances, are easy to become immersed in. If
there was ever any question as to why most of these bands were so
popular, this is quickly dispelled. It's almost depressing to think
that music this moving doesn't get made much anymore. Instead we're
stuck with *Nsync, the Backstreet Boys, and Jennifer Lopez, all of
whom should have stuck with modeling.
The film is now available on a standalone single disc or as part of
the three-disc set, complete with extra footage and outtakes. You can
also buy the extra footake (Jimi Plays Monterey/Shake! Otis at
Monterey) separately. Each of these movies also has a bonus interview