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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English PCM Stereo
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 3 Discs
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary by Festival producer Lou Adler and D.A. Pennebaker
  • Video interview with Lou Adler and D.A. Pennebaker from 2002
  • 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
  • Radio spots
  • Monterey Pop Festival scrapbook
  • Audio commentary by music critic and historian Charles Shaar Murray
  • Theatrical trailer for Jimi Plays Monterey
  • Two audio commentaries by music critic and historian Peter Guralnick: the first on Otis Redding's Monterey performance, song by song, and on Redding before and after Monterey
  • Interview with Phil Walden, Redding's manager
  • Two hours of performances not included in Monterey Pop, from the Association, Big Brother and the Holding Company, the Blues Project, the Byrds, Country Joe and the Fish, the Electric Flag, Jeffe

The Complete Monterey Pop Festival

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: D.A. Pennebaker
1967 | 146 Minutes | Licensor: Pennebaker-Hegedus Films

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $69.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #167
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: December 12, 2017
Review Date: December 10, 2017

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SYNOPSIS

On a beautiful June weekend in 1967, at the beginning 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 featured career-making performances by Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Otis Redding, but they were just a few performers in a wildly diverse lineup that included Simon and Garfunkel, the Mamas and the Papas, the Who, the Byrds, Hugh Masekela, and the extraordinary Ravi Shankar. With his characteristic vérité style—and a camera crew that included the likes of Albert Maysles and Richard Leacock—D. A. Pennebaker captured it all, immortalizing moments that have become legend: Pete Townshend smashing his guitar, Jimi Hendrix burning his, Mama Cass being blown away by Janis Joplin’s performance. The Criterion Collection is proud to present the most comprehensive document of the Monterey International Pop Festival ever produced, featuring the films Monterey Pop, Jimi Plays Monterey, and Shake! Otis at Monterey, along with every available complete performance filmed by Pennebaker and his crew.


PICTURE

Dipping into the well yet again, Criterion presents another Blu-ray edition for The Complete Monterey Pop Festival, a box set featuring Monterey Pop on the first dual-layer disc and the films Jimi Plays Monterey and Shake! Otis at Monterey together on the third dual-layer disc. All three films receive 1080p/24hz high-definition encodes and are all presented in their original aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

One of the selling points to this new edition is that Monterey Pop has received an all-new 4K restoration, and despite me feeling the old Blu-ray’s image isn’t at all shabby there is a noticeable improvement here in just about all aspects of the video presentation. For one grain looks far better here, better defined, where it was a bit, I don’t know, chunkier, I guess you could say, on the old edition. This results in the image actually looking grainier than the last edition, and for some maybe this will be a drawback, but it retains a very natural and clean look and it also seems to lend the image sharper, more prominent details. Colours on the old edition now look a bit blown out, which in turn further harmed some of the details, while here they look far more natural and don’t wash out the details to the same degree. Black levels are also strong throughout and don’t appear to crush out details. Even darker sequences drenched in red lighting (like the Simon and Garfunkel performance) are also rendered smoothly, with no noticeable blocking around the edges. The image on the whole is smooth and very film-like in the end.

Further restoration has also been done and it’s almost free of any marks: a couple of tram lines remain and there are noticeable hairs in the gate, which would have been there during filming, but otherwise this is certainly the cleanest I have seen the film. I did question how big the upgrade would be on this but in the end I have to say it’s a really nice looking image.

As to the other films, well, Criterion is re-using the same masters used for the previous Blu-ray and DVD editions. In fact, if it wasn’t for the different menu montage, I’d say they were actually re-using that same Blu-ray and just repackaging it here; this disc, like that one, is still missing the resume playback feature that Criterion would add later. The films look (and sound) exactly the same as they do on the old disc. Which is fine, though the age of the masters are starting to show. At the time I gave the presentations an 8 but looking at it now I’d probably have to go lower. On the whole they still look alright. Grain isn’t all that smooth but generally good, yet some darker shots in the Hendrix documentary come off noisier and details get crushed out. Comparing the Monterey footage in each film with similar footage in the new restoration for Monterey Pop also show how dated these are, looking less film-like. At the very least, though, the restoration work has been incredibly thorough, with only a few marks remaining, but again this doesn’t look any different to what was in the old release.

Overall the presentations are good, but Monterey Pop is the clear winner. Why the same care wasn’t given to the two other (shorter) films I can’t say, but at the very least they still look decent enough.

Monterey Pop: 9/10, Other films: 7/10, Overall: 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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Monterey Pop

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Monterey Pop

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Monterey Pop

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Monterey Pop

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Monterey Pop

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Monterey Pop

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Monterey Pop

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Monterey Pop

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Monterey Pop

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Monterey Pop

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Jimi Plays Monterey

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Jimi Plays Monterey

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Jimi Plays Monterey

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Jimi Plays Monterey

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Jimi Plays Monterey

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Jimi Plays Monterey

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Shake! Otis at Monterey

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Shake! Otis at Monterey

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Shake! Otis at Monterey

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Shake! Otis at Monterey

AUDIO

We get a lot of audio options here. Monterey Pop presents three, including two lossless 2.0 PCM stereo surround tracks—one for the original audio, the other for remastered audio—and then a remastered 5.1 DTS-HD MA surround track. The other two films each present a PCM 2.0 stereo surround track along with a remastered 5.1 DTS-HD MA surround track.

Much to my surprise, even though the notes about the restoration have not changed, the 5.1 track for Monterey Pop sounds quite a bit different in comparison to the previous Blu-ray, at least in terms of the mix. I guess I thought this was intentional but the rear speakers were mixed rather loud on the old Blu-ray, where you could clearly hear the vocals back there, while the other tracks (and even the 5.1 tracks on the other two films) were more subtle in carrying the music and vocals back there. The 5.1 mix tones down the rears substantially on this edition, at least during the concert performances. You can still make out the vocals and music but it’s more of an ambient effect with most of the vocals and music focused to the fronts. Crowd cheers and other effects like that make their way to the rear speakers as well.

The tracks for the other two films, Jimi Plays Monterey and Shake! Otis at Monterey sound identical to the tracks found on the old release. Jimi was put together in the 80s and it features voice-over narration, which sounds clear and sharp. Outside of the Monterey footage of Hendrix playing it also features some other performances, which can sound a little bit flat or off, but it more than likely has more to do with recording conditions at the time.

All three 5.1 remastered tracks across the three films are razor sharp and crystal clear, and effectively put you right there during the concert footage. Dynamic range really is incredible, bass sounds great, volume levels are mixed nicely, and the surround effects are good. All three also come with remastered PCM 2.0 stereo surround tracks that are still of about the same quality, though I thought the surround use was more effective on the 5.1 track.

Monterey Pop alone comes with an original PCM 2.0 stereo track that presents the music as it was originally presented in the film. The difference is pretty much night-and-day between it and both of the remastered tracks: music is really flat, lacking any sort of fidelity. Both of the remastered tracks present music in a far more dynamic way with superb fidelity.

In the end they’re all good so for each film it will ultimately come down to personal preference, but ever since the DVD I’ve admittedly always preferred the 5.1 surround tracks and I’ll likely stick with them here.

10/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion loads this edition up, appearing to carry everything over from their previous Blu-ray edition while also adding some new material. A couple of things from the booklet of the DVD set are still missing.

The first dual-layer disc, featuring Monterey Pop, starts things off with the same audio commentary recorded for the original DVD edition in 2002, featuring director D. A. Pennebaker and festival producer Lou Adler. 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 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). Despite that I found the two informative and entertaining, never letting the track lag in any area. If you still haven’t managed to get around to listening to it yet now’s as good a time as any.

Criterion then adds two new interviews, one with Adler and the other with Pennebaker. Adler’s was conducted after a 50th anniversary concert and he talks a bit about it but this leads him to talk about what made the original Monterey Festival so special and defining of the time. Pennebaker, who we first meet attending a screening of the film in Bologna, Italy, talks about the difficulty in shooting the performances due to technical limitations (specifically making sure they didn’t run out of film), keeping the music in sync with the image, and making sure to get close enough to performer. In both cases the two do talk about this stuff to a degree in other features but these two additions also have the advantage of showing us some memorabilia from the event. They run 12-minutes and 15-minutes respectively.

The same 29-minute video interview between Lou Adler and D. A. Pennebaker found on the previous DVD and Blu-ray editions has again been carried over. 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, including the hours of rushes he had to deal with. Some of this is covered in the new interview and even in the commentary track but they expand on the details here. It’s still divided into 7 chapters.

We then get the same audio interviews found on the previous editions, 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 setup 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 (they weren’t). Elliot and Philips also touch on setting up the festival and the intentions behind it but also both talk about their amazement with Janis Joplin, while both also 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 stand outs of the festival, including the destruction of the instruments by both The Who and Jimi Hendrix (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 Material” presents a few promotional items including a theatrical trailer and then five radio spots. New to this edition is the Janus films re-release trailer for the new restoration.

”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. Here she covers 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 the Ephemera section 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. For this edition Criterion carries over similar functionality used on the previous Blu-ray: you bring up a pop-up with the text by pressing the BLUE button on your remote. You can then press the BLUE button again to close it and continue navigating through the program. It’s actually a pretty clever way to present the text but I don’t recall them ever using it on any other similar features since.

After this is then a text note on the Montery International Pop Festival Foundation, which reminds me that you can also find notes under the Audio Options for the film going over the audio restorations and the man behind, Eddie Kramer.

Criterion then adds one more new feature, a short film that screened with Monterey Pop,adding an interesting counter-point to the feature film. Chiefs, directed by Richard Leacock, captures events from a convention of police chiefs around the same time and it’s a whole different experience. Here we get to see chiefs gather around booths to look at the latest in greatest in weapons and tools to fend off protestors and we get to eavesdrop on conferences and group conversations around then-current concerns, a lot of focus seeming to be placed on the Black Panthers. At 20-minutes it’s obvious we only get a small tid-bit of what went on at this convention, and the filmmakers more than surely picked the worst aspects of it, but it’s also telling that the participants apparently didn’t object to how they were presented in the film. It also looks to have been restored and looks pretty good. (P.S. the sales man with the eye patch hawking tactical gear is just too much awesome).

The second dual-layer disc then presents the outtake performances. Everyone will be happy to know that all of the same performances available on the previous DVD and Blu-ray editions are still here, but I’m sure many will also be even happier to learn there are a few new additions as well. On top of everything else we also get footage of the Steve Miller Blues Band, Moby Grape, and (yes) The Grateful Dead. For the outtakes 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” along with Simon and Garfunkel and the songs “Homeward Bound” and “Sounds of Silence”.

Slightly different from the original 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), Steve Miller Blues Band with “Mercury Blues” (which gets cut off) and “Super Shuffle”, 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”, Jefferson Airplane with “Somebody to Love”, and then Moby Grape with “Hey Grandma”.

”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”. It’s here you will also find all of the footage that was shot of The Grateful Dead” performing “Viola Lee Blues”.

You’ll also find footage of Tiny Tim that Pennebaker shot at the Hunt Club under “Hunt Club.” 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 compared to other performances that made the film they’re nowhere near as strong. 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’ll also point out that it is a bit odd Criterion threw these onto a second dual-layer disc instead of placing it on the first disc with the film, like they did with the previous Blu-ray. Since they were devoting an entire dual-layer disc to them I assumed that maybe they restored them and maybe gave them lossless audio tracks, but that’s unfortunately not the case. They all look like standard definition upscales and the audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 (and as mentioned above, a few offer 5.1 mixes as well), so they could have easily compressed the material and fit it on the first disc. In the end, though, the presentations are certainly not awful and I’m still appreciative to get all of this.

The third dual-layer disc then, of course, features the two other films in the set, Jimi Plays Monterey and Shake! Otis at Monterey, and we get all of the same special features found on the previous releases. Again, other than the menu screen, this disc is exactly the same as the previous Blu-ray edition.

For Jimi Plays Monterey we get one of the best supplements on here, an excellent audio commentary by music critic Charles Shaar Murray. He talks very little about the film itself or Monterey, and instead spends most of the track talking about Hendrix himself and his career. He gives a brief bit of information about Hendrix’s career and early life (he saves more material for another section of the disc) but his main focus is to talk about Hendrix’s performance at Monterey. It’s a quick, often time’s humourous track helped by the fact Murray is obviously enamoured by the musician. He loves pointing out Hendrix’s techniques, loves talking about his guitars and his style, and just can’t stop praising his performance. It’s an absolutely wonderful track, a real treat.

But it appears Murray couldn’t contain his enthusiasm during his commentary because Criterion has also included an additional 44-minutes worth of material from the man under Additional Audio Excerpts, which plays in an audio only presentation (over a still of Hendrix) separate from the film. The film itself is only 49-minutes so I’m guessing this is material that was edited out to fit the timeframe of the film. I’m glad Criterion decided not to dispose of this material as it’s all golden, with Murray further getting into Hendrix’s personal life, his life in the military, his political views, how he would string his guitar to play left hand, and Hendrix’s obvious love the for guitar. It’s a great expansion on the commentary track and is definitely worth listening to.

Interview presents a short 4 and a half minute interview with Pete Townshend recorded for VH1 in 1987. On Murray’s commentary found on this disc and then elsewhere in the special features on the first disc there’s mention of an apparent fight that occurred between Hendrix and Townshend on who would perform first. There was suspicion it had to do with the fact both wanted to be the first to destroy their instruments on stage, though here Townshend says he wanted The Who to go first because he just generally feared following Hendrix. Most of the interview excerpt pertains to this with a little about Monterey as a whole. It’s a shame more of the interview wasn’t included but I guess Criterion figured it only made sense to include material that had to do with Monterey and Hendrix’s performance.

The supplements for this film then conclude with a trailer.

Shake! Otis at Monterey is the shorter film, running only 19-minutes, and only gets a few supplements.

This film gets two audio commentaries, both by music critic Peter Guralnick. The first track talks specifically about Otis’ performance at Monterey while the second is a brief, quick, 19-minute bit about Otis’ early life and career. Unfortunately altogether it pales in comparison to Murray’s energetic and excited commentary track, and at times it sounds like Guralnick may be reading from notes, so it can lack any sort of passion. It actually moves at a leaden pace, stunning for a film that’s only 19-minutes.

Better is the interview with Redding’s manager Phil Walden. Running 18-minutes he gives a better account of the man with some wonderful anecdotes (such as how Redding helped Walden raise his tuition for school), Stax Records, and how a European tour led to Monterey. He also recalls freaking out about the psychedelic effects used during other performances and worried how the crowd would react to Otis, but Otis didn’t seem concerned and just went out and did his thing. With text notes thrown into expand on certain subjects it’s an excellent interview and far better than the two commentary tracks for the film.

Criterion yet again includes a rather large booklet, this one running 72-pages. New to this release is an essay by Michael Chaiken that works as a sort of intro, going over the impact of pop music at the time and how the film came together. The rest of the essays appeared in previous editions, starting with Armond White’s covering the style of the film at the time, including its editing, and the films it has influenced since. This is then followed by David Fricke’s essay on Jimi Hendrix and Otis Redding, their impact, and their untimely deaths. Barney Hoskyns’ essay on the melding of San Francisco hippie culture and L.A. corporate culture for the festival comes next, and then the final piece is a reprint of Michael Lydon’s lengthy coverage of the festival for Newsweek. The booklet then concludes by listing the artists that appeared at the festival. Still missing from the DVD set is a reprint of a Rolling Stone article by Jann Wenner and an introduction by Pennebaker. Why these were removed to begin with I’m still unsure.

Altogether the material is still very good and very entertaining, though I can’t say the new supplements (other than the short film Chiefs and the new outtakes) on their own really offer anything that makes this release worth upgrading over the previous Blu-ray set.

9/10

CLOSING

In the end this edition proves to be frustrating since I can’t say the upgrade overall is all that significant: only Monterey Pop receives the new restoration where the other films don’t (and Criterion is pretty much reusing the previous disc for the other two films) and other than the short film Chiefs and a few new outtakes the new supplements don’t amount to much. For people who have yet to pick this up it’s an easy recommendation, but for everyone else who is at least interested in the new restoration I’d point them to the individual Blu-ray edition of the film.


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