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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English DTS-HD 5.1 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Two hours of performances not included in the original film, from the following artists: The Association, Big Brother and the Holding Company, The Blues Project, The Byrds, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Country Joe and the Fish, The Electric Flag, Jefferson Airplane, Al Kooper, The Mamas and the Papas, Laura Nyro, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Simon and Garfunkel, Tiny Tim, and The Who
  • Audio commentary by Festival producer Lou Adler and D.A. Pennebaker
  • New video interview with Lou Adler and D.A. Pennebaker Audio interviews with Festival producer John Phillips, Festival publicist Derek Taylor, and performers Cass Elliot and David Crosby
  • Photo essay by photographer Elaine Mayes
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Original theatrical radio spots

Monterey Pop

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: D.A. Pennebaker
1967 | 78 Minutes | Licensor: The Monterey International Pop Festival Foundation

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $49.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #168
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: September 22, 2009
Review Date: September 10, 2009

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SYNOPSIS

On a beautiful June weekend in 1967, at the height of the Summer of Love, the first and only Monterey International Pop Festival roared forward, capturing a decade's spirit and ushering in a new era of rock and roll. Monterey would launch the careers of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Otis Redding, but they were just a few among a wildly diverse cast including Simon and Garfunkel, the Mamas and the Papas, the Who, Hugh Masekela, and the extraordinary Ravi Shankar. With his characteristic verite style, D. A. Pennebaker got it all, immortalizing moments that have become legend: Pete Townshend destroying his guitar, Jimi Hendrix burning his. The Criterion Collection is proud to present this timeless document of a landmark event.

Forum members rate this film 7.8/10

 

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Available on its own or as part of the Complete Monterey Pop Festival box set, The Criterion Collection presents D. A. Pennebaker’s Monterey Pop in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this dual-layer Blu-ray disc. The image is presented in 1080p.

It appears to me that the same high-definition transfer that was the basis for the original DVD release, which was strong to begin with, has been used again here, though not downscaled for DVD. The Blu-ray is certainly better but I can’t say I found the Blu-ray to be a drastic improvement over the DVD. The film was shot on 16mm so detail is limited and only slightly better than what is on the DVD but the Blu-ray does present far more natural looking film grain and colours do look better saturated.

The print still has a few issues, some dirt and debris, and there is the odd hair here and there, which look to have been present when filming occurred. But again the original DVD still presented a strong, surprising transfer, one of Criterion’s best ones, and far better than I would have ever expected at the time. And while the Blu-ray doesn’t offer as drastic an improvement over the DVD as other Criterion Blu-rays have (limited by the 16mm source) it’s still a lovely looking image.

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The audio on the other hand is a sharp improvement over the DVD’s audio selection. Here Criterion presents three audio tracks including a lossless unrestored stereo track, a lossless restored stereo track, and then a DTS-HD 5.1 track. All the tracks improve over the DVD’s, which presented a Dolby Stereo 2.0 track, restored Dolby Digital 5.1 track, and a DTS 5.1 track (it also presented an unrestored stereo track.) The unrestored track is clearly the weakest, lacking much in the way of range and coming off flat overall. Surprisingly the restored track is the loudest, but the DTS-HD track may be my favourite. It sounds clearer, crisper, deeper, with far better bass, and makes better use of the surrounds with some distinct splits filling out the environment a little better. I was always pleased with the tracks on the DVD but the Blu-ray’s restored lossless tracks blow them away.

10/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Monterey Pop was previously released on DVD first as part of a box set and then on its own. Criterion ports over all of the supplements from the single DVD release, but then also throws in the outtake performances previously only available on the third disc of the DVD box set.

The same audio commentary recorded by director D. A. Pennebaker and festival producer Lou Adler in 2002 is here. The two have been recorded together and recall what they can about the festival and filming it. Adler talks about the festival in general through most of the track while Pennebaker sticks mostly to talking about the film itself, which includes the technical side of things and the complicated process of getting the footage and then editing everything together. Other than a few select performers (Joplin, Hendrix, The Who, Redding, and Shankar) the two actually talk very little about the individual performances, but offer a few anecdotes involving some behind-the-scenes stuff (including how Joplin’s agent did not want her performances recorded.) I actually rather enjoyed the track, though, and I found the two informative and entertaining, never letting the track lag in any area. Certainly worth a listen.

The remaining supplements are then all found under Supplements in the pop-out menu.

First up are over 2-hours worth of Outtake Performances, which again were only available previously in the three-disc DVD box set. All the same performances are again available here. Disappointingly the audio is still the same Dolby Surround tracks that were on the DVD, except for a couple of cases where the audio was remastered for Dolby Digital 5.1. You either have the ability to “Play All” or go through each day of the festival (three in total) and selecting each group and then a song.

“Day 1: Friday June 16” presents The Association and the song “Along Comes Mary” and Simon and Garfunkel and the songs “Homeward Bound” and “Sounds of Silence”.

Slightly different from the DVD (which divided the day into two sections, “Afternoon” and “Eve”) “Day 2: Friday June 17” combines all the performances under one section. Here you will find Country Joe and the Fish with the song “Not-So-Sweet Martha Lorraine”, Al Kooper with “(I Heard Her Say) Wake Me, Shake Me”, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and “Driftin’ Blues” (which is presented in a video edit along with the complete audio recording, which contains some drops and pops,) Quicksilver Messenger Service and the song “All I Ever Wanted to Do (Was Love You)”, The Electric Flag with “Drinkin’ Wine”, The Byrds and the songs “Chimes of Freedom”, “He Was a Friend of Mine”, and “Hey Joe”, Laura Nyro with “Wedding Bell Blues” and “Poverty Train”, and then Jefferson Airplane with “Somebody to Love”.

”Day 3: Sunday June 18” presents The Blues Project with “The Flute Thing”, Big Brother and the Holding Company with “Combination of the Two” (and a 5.1 remix of it), Buffalo Springfield’s “For What it’s Worth”, The Who with “Substitute”, “Summertime Blues”, and “A Quick One While He’s Away” (also remixed in 5.1), and then closing with the Mamas and the Papas “Straight Shooter”, “Somebody Groovy”, “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)”, “I Call Your Name”, “Monday, Monday”, and “Dancing in the Street”.

You’ll also find footage of Tiny Tim that Pennebaker shot at the Hunt Club under “Hunt Club” (the DVD listed his performances under “Tiny Tim” in the menu.) This footage was shot in low light conditions so it doesn’t look the greatest and the audio is also a little weak, but overall it’s decent footage.

As for the other outtake performances it’s not hard to see why they didn’t make the final cut of the film. There’s some decent material in there but overall it isn’t the best work from some of these performers. Some of the performances can come off flat and out of key at moments, and the audio quality isn’t the best in a few instances, though the couple 5.1 remixes we get sound quite sharp. I’m glad to have seen them, though, and I’m sure there’s many people that will be happy with what’s here.

Under “Interviews” you’ll first find a 29-minute video interview between Lou Adler and D. A. Pennebaker. Considering the two did the commentary together I figured this would be a bit of a waste for a feature but the two actually further expand on the commentary track. In it the two discuss their early careers (Adler in music, Pennebaker in filmmaking) and how the two became involved with the Monterey Festival. Adler explains the reasoning for the festival (primarily to validate rock/pop music as an art form) and Pennebaker talks about the actual filming and editing (and the hours of rushes he had to deal with.) Again it’s an interesting extension to the excellent commentary track.

There are then four audio interviews featuring John Philips (16-minutes), Cass Elliot (12-minutes), David Crosby (9-minutes), and then Derek Taylor (29-minutes). Between the four they cover various aspects of the festival. Taylor talks a lot about the set up of the festival and behind-the-scenes stuff, including dealing with a disapproving town, record labels that showed up, and then persistent rumours about The Beatles actually being there. Elliot and Philips also touch on the festival set up, the intentions behind it, but also both talk about their amazement with Janis Joplin, and also both agree that the Mamas and the Papas gave the worst performance of the whole weekend. Philips also throws in a comparison to Woodstock. Crosby was my favourite of the interviews, focusing on the stands outs of the festival, which included Hendrix and then The Who’s destruction of their instruments (which he says he found disrespectful and “sacrilege.”) He’s the most blunt and honest of the bunch. The Taylor one can be a little dry but all four are worth listening to.

”Promotional” presents a few promotional items including a theatrical trailer and then five radio spots.

”Festival Ephemera” has a couple of nice supplements. A sub-section here is devoted to Elaine Mayes’ photos taken at the festival. First there is a photo gallery featuring her photos from the festival with notes preceding them, and then there is a photo essay, which is a 12-minute presentation featuring Mayes’ work as she speaks over it in an audio commentary, talking about her career, what it was like at Monterey, and then even gets into technical details (lenses, film) and her favourite photos. There is then a short text bio on Mayes. As a whole it’s an excellent feature, one of the more interesting photo presentations I’ve come across.

Also found here is the Festival Program, which presents a copy of the actual program that you can navigate through using the arrows on your remote. On the DVD Criterion also gave the option to display the text up close so you could read the articles. Criterion improves on this feature by allowing you to press the BLUE button on your remote. Once pressed a pop-up displays which allows you to scroll through the text and read the article. You can then press the BLUE button again to close it and continue navigating through the program. I liked this feature on the DVD but must admit I like the snazzier presentation here on the Blu-ray.

The Supplements section then closes with notes on the Monterey International Pop Festival Foundation.

Under “Audio Options” you’ll also find text notes by Eddie Kramer on the remix and then a brief bio about Kramer.

And similar to all of Criterion’s Blu-rays you also get the Timeline feature. You can open it from the pop-up menu or by pressing the RED button on your remote. This is a timeline that shows your current position in the film and like pop-up menus for most Blu-ray releases it appears over the film as it plays. It lists the index chapters for the film and the commentary track, and you can also switch to the commentary track from here. You also have the ability to “bookmark” scenes by pressing the GREEN button and return to them by selecting them on the timeline. You can also delete bookmarks by pressing the BLUE button. This is pretty common on Blu-ray so it’s nothing new but I’ve always liked Criterion’s presentation.

Criterion also includes a 45-page booklet that closely resembles the thick booklet that was included with the original DVD box set. First you get an incredibly long essay on the festival and the filming by Michael Lydon, and then two essays on the film, one by Barney Hoskyns and another by Armond White, who can’t help but point out all the films this film must have influenced or was influenced by. The booklet is missing the introduction by Pennebaker and then a reprinting of an article by Jann Wenner for Rolling Stone, both of which appeared in the DVD box set’s booklet.

It’s a solid collection of supplements and while the complete Blu-ray box set (which also includes Jimi Plays Monterey and Shake! Otis at Monterey) adds a lot more it’s still an impressive release on its own.

9/10

CLOSING

The video transfer is excellent yet I can’t say it’s a huge improvement over the DVD’s. But the audio is certainly better here and the supplements are strong, even if the outtakes don’t present the best material from their respective performers. I strongly recommend it but would certainly steer people towards the Blu-ray box set The Complete Monterey Pop Festival which includes this release. This disc on its own runs about $49.95 while that set also includes Jimi Plays Monterey and Shake! Otis at Monterey along with more features and runs $20 more (and is still cheaper than the DVD set.) It’s a far better deal.


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