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200 Motels [VHS]


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Product Details

  • Actors: Dick Barber, Theodore Bikel, Jimmy Carl Black, George Duke, Aynsley Dunbar
  • Directors: Frank Zappa, Charles Swenson
  • Format: Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: MGM/UA Home Video
  • VHS Release Date: December 7, 1994
  • Run Time: 99 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 630196392X
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #320,392 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

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?

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Eddie Landsberg VINE VOICE on May 30, 2004
Format: VHS Tape
First of all, the one thing that a lot of people miss about Zappa was that he was a master "resource" utilizer. - - He knew what he wanted his projects to look and sound like, and was great enough of an artist/producer to find/discipline people capable of delivering his vision - - So the big question : Despite his notorious reputation for his mixture of music and oddball stage antics, given a REAL big budget to make a real big motion picture, could he pull something off ? - - The answer... UNBELIEVABLY FRIGGIN' YES ! ! ! - - The film captures the MOTHERS in their prime circa the antics of FLO & EDDIE... the bizarre stage routines of his group are MELTED together by a great theme... that TOURING can make you crazy... though surreal, beyond the paranoia and psychadelic wierdness, the backstage politics of a band touring on the road, the stresses between the leader and bandmembers... and yes, the neverending quest for the ultimate BJ come through in the form of a BRILLIANT opera, featuring a full symphonic orchestra and some surprizing guest appearences... including Ringo Starr as frank zappa. - - The music is great... the images are great... and the performances (musical, now and then sexual, and stagewise) are a brilliant and mindtripping experience... This film is DEFINITELY something to watch over and over into and really get into... especially (of course) if you're a Zappa nut - - just don't get too psyched, otherwise you might find yourself singing the words to LONESOME COWBOY BURT outloud on the bus on the way to wherever...
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Funkmeister G on September 29, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
Frank Zappa himself does not say/sing a word in 200 Motels, though he is often seen on screen. The starring roles are taken by Flo & Eddie, Jimmy Carl Black, Ringo Starr, Miss Lucy & Miss Pamela, & more Mothers & their friends. If you expecting a straightforward plot or a 'proper' film this isn't it, but if you want pioneering experimentalism, many subplots, a lot of bizarre humour & music, this is the place. Set in the typical American town of Centerville [despite being filmed mostly live to videotape in England], on a seemingly endless tour, the title referring to approximately how many places the real life Mothers of Invention had stayed over the previous 6 years, complete w/ "vile foamy liquids" & groupies galore [listen to the Fillmore East lp of the same year as this film as that is about 1/2 of the lyrical content]. Reality & fiction merge, cameras are openly visible, breaking all the rules of Hollywood which we don't really need anyway. The special effects & psychedelia take their toll, as the 1st time I saw this my head was spinning after. It does help to be somewhat familiar w/ Zappa mythology to get what's going on & all the obscure references, for instance, Cal Schenkel's animated sequence Dental Hygiene Dilemma is based on a band member Jeff Simmons who had recently quit the "comedy group" to get his own band together & be really "heavy", while Donovan acts as his conscience & spiritual guide. In another scene Jim Black becomes Lonesome Cowboy Burt, who frequents the redneck bar & likes to aim his rifle @ an image of a hippie on a dartboard, whilst serenading the waitresses. There are numerous other things to mention, but I think everyone should see this, it's one of my favourites definitely. I'd better finish off this review because "they're gonna clear out the studio!!!"
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Farrell on August 15, 2007
Format: VHS Tape
If you know nothing about this movie, there are a few facts you should be aware of before watching that help mitigate the usual hatred this movie elicits:

1) It had a budget of $700,000. Of that, $400,000 went directly to the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, so effectively this movie had a budget of $300,000.

2) It had a shooting schedule of five 8-hour days.

Given these two tourniquet-like limitations, it is amazing that Zappa got ANYTHING done, let alone this final product. A good companion piece to this film is "The True Story of 200 Motels" which documents these (and numerous other) obsticles Zappa encountered while making this beast. If Gail Zappa ever gets around to issuing a DVD of 200 Motels, hopefully she will be precient enough to include The Making OF as a bonus feature... but I digress.

Yes, this film is technically "bad," but it's so bad it's good, and it has much self-effacing humor within it about how bad it is. Admittedly, the movie doesn't have a plot per se: it is a collection of "road stories" designed to underscore the central theme that "touring can make you crazy." 200 Motels has a heavy dose of Dadaism, which admittedly I have never been a big fan of, but in this case it semems to work, as it lends well to the budget limitations and surreal feeling of the film. Likewise, much of the score is avante garde neo-classical, which I have never been into (if I want classical music, give me the baroque masters.)

If you are new to the Zappa universe, this probably is a bad place to start, as the film relies heavily on "inside jokes" and references to the previous corpus of Zappa/Mothers musical inventory -- what is known as his "Conceptual Continuity.
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