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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English Stereo
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English DTS 5.1 Surround
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New 5.1 mix by legendary recording engineer Eddie Kramer, presented in Dolby Digital and DTS
  • 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 scrapbook

Monterey Pop


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: D.A. Pennebaker
1968 | 79 Minutes | Licensor: The Monterey International Pop Festival Foundation

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $29.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #168
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: June 13, 2006
Review Date: September 17, 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 7.5/10

 

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PICTURE

Available on its own or as part of The Complete Monterey Pop Festival DVD box set, Criterion presents D. A. Pennebaker’s Monterey Pop in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this dual-layer disc. This review as a whole can pertain to either the individual release or the disc found in the box set. The key difference is packaging, where the box set disc comes in its own individual digipak and the individual release comes in a basic DVD keep case. The booklets also differ.

Coming back to this DVD I still have to say I’m quite pleased with the image quality found on here. Taken primarily from a 16mm source (though the booklet mentions some material was taken from a 35mm duplicate) and filmed in imperfect conditions it looks exceptionally good with all things considered. The print shows some imperfections but not as many as I would have expected, limited primarily to hairs showing up on occasion and a few mild blemishes and then some vertical scratches. Film grain is still evident but not altogether that heavy (a recent Blu-ray release shows more film grain than what is present here.)

The digital transfer itself is quite good. Colours were probably the biggest surprise for me, looking beautifully saturated and incredibly bright (Hendrix’s outfit and some of the psychedelics best display this.) Sharpness and detail is decent but it’s limited to the source materials, which isn’t always in focus, and 16mm isn’t going to exactly catch as much as 35mm. I did notice some motion artifacts at times and was able to make a capture from Otis Redding’s “Shake!” performance that illustrates this. The transfer is progressive but there is an occasional “jittering” I guess you can say during some quick movements. Otherwise I can’t say I noticed any huge flaws with the digitial transfer.

Even by today’s standards I still find Criterions transfer for Monterey Pop one of their most impressive. Considering what they had to work with and how old the film footage is it’s amazing they could come up with something like this. An absolutely wonderful 16mm digital transfer.

8/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Criterion, with the aid of Eddie Kramer, deliver wonderful remixes for this DVD. For comparison’s sake Criterion has included the original soundtrack, which sounds hollow and weak. Their restored tracks are presented in three different ways: A 2.0 Dolby Surround track, a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, and then a DTS 5.1 track. The Dolby Surround track sounds quite good itself, but the other two offer more fidelity and create the concert atmosphere a little better. Surrounds are more prominent with noticeable splits, and volume levels are exceptional. The DTS track is the better of the two, sounding a little more natural with deeper bass and sharper details. But they’re all rather amazing, impressive tracks, especially when you compare it to the original material, which sounds rather bland. I say stick with the DTS track if you can, but no matter which one you listen to you won’t be disappointed.

9/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Monterey Pop was only previously available in the box set of The Complete Monterey Pop Festival but was later released on its own on DVD (and was also released on Blu-ray recently.) Everything on the disc for Monterey Pop found in the box set is also found on the individual DVD edition.

First up is an audio commentary recorded by director D. A. Pennebaker and festival producer Lou Adler in 2002. 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” from the main menu.

First on the roster is 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.

Scrapbook 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, which you navigate through using the arrows on your remote, 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 under “Scrapbook” is the Festival Program, which presents a copy of the actual program that you can navigate through using the arrows on your remote. At times you will also see a “TEXT” option show up at the bottom of the screen. When you select this you are then presented with an easy-to-read reprint of the text that is on the page you’re viewing. A rather nice addition and I wish Criterion did this with all similar extras on other DVDs (unfortunately they don’t.)

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.

Next on the list are four radio spots for the film and then a theatrical trailer.

Finally the section concludes with The Remix, which presents notes by Eddie Kramer covering the restoration, and then there is also a brief text bio on the man.

The main menu then concludes with MIPFF which is a small note on the Monterey International Pop Festival Foundation.

Not found here but found on a separate disc in the DVD box set (and also on the individual and box set Monterey Pop Blu-ray) are the outtake performances. While they’re not great as a whole, they were rather cool to see, but the lack of them on the individual DVD release does keep the price down I guess for those not interested in them.

I know between the box set release and the individual release that the discs themselves are the same but the booklets do differ. While I actually haven’t seen it firsthand my understanding (according to Criterion’s website and others) is that the individual DVD release comes with a booklet containing a few essays. This includes 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. The box set comes with a rather thick booklet that also includes these essays plus a reprint of a Rolling Stone article by Jann Wenner and then an introduction by Pennebaker.

At an MSRP of $29.95 the individual release isn’t a bad deal for all of those only interested in the film and didn’t feel like forking over $60-$80 for the box set. It’s missing the outtakes, sure, but the other supplements are all excellent and it’s still fairly packed for what is essentially a lower-tier release. I still recommend the box set, though, which not only includes the outtakes, but also contains the films Jimi Plays Monterey and Shake! Otis at Monterey.

8/10

CLOSING

The box set is still one of my favourite Criterion releases and I do recommend it. But for those just looking for the film Monterey Pop you can’t go wrong with the individual release. The video is stellar and the audio is sharp. Throw in a nice range of supplements (minus the outtakes found on a separate disc in the box set) and you do have an excellent deal.


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