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Frank Zappa - Baby Snakes (1979)

Adrian Belew , Bruce Bickford  |  R |  DVD
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Adrian Belew, Bruce Bickford, Dale Bozzio, Terry Bozzio, Warren Cuccurullo
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Eagle Rock Ent
  • DVD Release Date: December 9, 2003
  • Run Time: 166 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000JML7G
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,059 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Frank Zappa - Baby Snakes" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Touted as "a movie about people who do stuff that is not normal," Frank Zappa's Baby Snakes chronicles a late-'70s Halloween stand in New York City (a zany enough proceeding in its own right) with digressions throughout the first half for backstage antics, band interviews, and some outlandish clay animation from Bruce Bickford, with whose work Zappa was obviously smitten. Onstage, Zappa is a live wire, the audience is appropriately rambunctious, and the band--an especially potent incarnation of the famous Mothers of Invention--is tight as could be. The film amounts to a three-hour musical carnival whose participants lack any trace of artistic or personal inhibition. Zappa, who died in 1993, always worked with consummate musicians, and Baby Snakes showcases the cream of the crop: Terry Bozzio (one of the greatest drummers ever to command a kit), bassist Patrick O'Hearn, keyboard wizard Tommy Mars, and even pop chameleon Adrian Belew.

The DVD packaging, with its deluxe miniature dossier on Zappa and the film, is fabulous, and the sound and picture seem about as good as they could be, under the influence--that is, the circumstances. Undeniable are Zappa's intelligence and charisma, which flicker and blaze every second he's on screen. The progressive-leaning rock and jazz music is frequently interrupted for meandering spoken interludes and is certainly not for all tastes. But Frank Zappa was a force to behold, and Baby Snakes offers a unique cultural education for anyone bold enough to give it a spin. "Without deviation," Zappa wrote, "progress is not possible." Baby Snakes is one of Frank's most fervent contributions to progress. --Michael Mikesell

Product Description

Frank Zappa's highly acclaimed film from 1979 includes over three hours of outrageous Zappa musical performances and unique & bizarre Claymation from Bruce Bickford. This is the full-length version of the film as it premiered at the Victoria Theatre in T

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
102 of 103 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Real Frank Zappa Movie December 10, 2003
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Frank Zappa, New York, Halloween ...... Bozzio, Belew, Bickford ....... how many more reasons could a person need to desire this majorly non-boring round thing????
The DVD release of Baby Snakes is a cause for celebration, both for long time fans and novices who are just discovering FZ - for the latter in particular, who never got the chance to experience the Zappa performance spectacle.
At its core, Baby Snakes is a concert film, but it is also a keen insight into the man's creative mechanism, a free association style that embraced all manner of media in addition to music. A prime example is the generous screentime given to clay animator Bruce Bickford, with whom Zappa had worked with on a video project for PBS around 1975. Bickford creates erotic nightmares in clay and on film while Zappa prods him on in metaphorical abandon, the result complimented by jarring sound design created spontaneously by Zappa and his cohorts in the studio. We also witness FZ rehearsing his bandmates, creating on the spot extraveganzas with Roy Estrada and a gas mask, spying on the backstage cavortings of musicians and crewmates, possibly developing new theories and creative concepts from witnessing the bizarre goings on ......
Ultimately, in the course of its 2.75 hours' length, Baby Snakes evolves into a relentless live assault, a labor of love dedicated to the appreciative crowd of New York's finest crazy persons, who are also afforded ample screen time.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You can't do that on stage anymore January 12, 2004
There's no two ways about it, Frank Zappa is an acquired taste. For the casual viewer, Baby Snakes - clocking in at 2 hours & 45 minutes - may prove to be unendurable, but for Zappa fans it's not nearly long enough. Like an overstuffed avant-garde cannoli, its bursting with concert footage, backstage buffoonery, improvisational noise-making, nightmarish claymation and lots of audience participation. This is a unique document about a specific time & place - NYC in the late 70's - and the annual ritual that was Frank Zappa's Halloween shows. Seeing this film again for the first time since it played 24 hours a day in a Times Square theater and having attended a few Palladium shows during that same era, Baby Snakes sure brings back many fond memories. FZ was many things - composer, musician, critic & comedian - all of which are clearly displayed in Baby Snakes.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Surround Encoding Error Kills Otherwise Great DVD January 12, 2004
This is a movie for anyone who enjoys Zappa's music and essential if you never got to see the late great Frank live. I can do without some of the clay animation, which gets tedious after a while, but otherwise an essential concert film.
Now for the bad news. It appears that in the DVD authoring process, the front and rear channels got reversed. Therefore, if you listen to the DVD in 5.1 surround, while dialog and singing comes out of the center channel, it also comes from the back speakers. Front speakers have ambience, reverb and other rear channel information.
I wrote to the company that manufactured the disc after figuring out this defect that made portions of the movie unintelligible. The QC guy at Eagle Rock wrote me back and said, "There is nothing wrong with the disc. Please check to make sure your system is set up properly." I think that after 100+ other DVDs in my collection sound perfect(including the disc of setup/test tones), this one wouldn't stand out so much if there was nothing wrong.
If you have a DVD player with discrete outputs for the 5.1 signal, you can switch the cables and hear it properly. Otherwise you have to re-route wires and/or speakers. It was an excellent effort on Dweezil's part to convert this previously unheard mix to 5.1, and Frank's mix is fantastic when heard as it was meant to be, but sadly, this release is another example of how the Zappa estate has been falling short on preserving the beauty of Frank's music. FZ would have never let this happen when he was in charge. The stereo mix is fine, as there is less to mess up. Still essential, but flawed in its presentation.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great film, bad transfer December 10, 2003
By A Customer
After WAY too many years of waiting, we are finally treated to the first Zappa film to be released on DVD in the US! Baby Snakes is a great choice to start with and would have been my first pick too. This is the long (~2.5 hours), unedited version with lots of live footage from the 1977 legendary Halloween show at the Palladium in NYC supplemented with backstage footage, claymation footage by Bruce Bickford and more. Even some historic moments make it to the film such as footage of future Zappa guitarist (but then a mere die-hard fan) Warren Cuccurullo backstage with Zappa praising Zappa to the camera. Later Zappa tells Warren that he'd be willing to audition him for the band.
Although I am happy this is now available, there are a few problems with the DVD that dropped my rating to a three from a five. First, there is no real decent bonus material on the DVD. We are offered only trailers, promos, etc.
Infinitely more importantly, the film transfer to DVD is just bad. There is no reason for a transfer like this considering the enormous advances made in this regard. The tools to do this job right are available. The Who's "The Kids Are Alright" is an excellent example of a wonderful, effective restoration and transfer. Unfortunately, the picture on the Baby Snakes DVD is really showing its age. It looks fuzzy, dirty and the colors are washed out. From the beginning titles we see dust and scratches on the film that leads to footage that is blurred and faded.
Overall, this is a brilliant film sadly presented via a hack print seemingly just thrown onto a DVD. This bad presentation is a disservice to the important, unique work of Zappa and only makes the film seem dated and cheap. The result will certainly be less effective at reviving the interest of old fans let alone drawing in new ones.
Despite this disappointment by the Zappa family, it's still a must have.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A must buy for Zappa fans
One of the best Frank Zappa movies I have seen with a good mix of live performance, back stage, behind the scenes and animation. Read more
Published 23 days ago by T. Robinson
5.0 out of 5 stars This was a gift for someone who lives FZ as ...
This was a gift for someone who lives FZ as much as we do and this movie is a classic. Don't miss it!
Published 1 month ago by christie hays
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Zappa!
A Blast from the past!
Great Frank Zappa Concert,I,Myself was at one of those at that time,
Brought Back Good Memories!
A Must For All Zappa Fans!
Published 2 months ago by Ty
4.0 out of 5 stars Great performances, odd film but that's Frank!
Just watched this again last nite and although I prefer sometimes to simply have the live performance featured throughout berefit of the animation sequences and discussions with... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Thirty-Ought Six
3.0 out of 5 stars Weird
This DVD is OK, but the more you get into it, the weirder it gets. I wouldn't recommend to anyone but a REAL TRUE Zappa fan.
Published 8 months ago by Lisa Simms
4.0 out of 5 stars Great live stuff...
... but sophomoric back stage stuff. Would get five stars without it. I wish we had that option. big time.
Published 8 months ago by Jeff Knorek
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
I'm a Zappa's Fan from longtime. I have seen a lot of live concerts and this DVD is a nice summary of those.
Published 22 months ago by Claudio Hausherr
2.0 out of 5 stars Great content bad 5.1 mix
First of all I must say there are few people as devoted as I am to the collected works of Frank. Read more
Published on June 17, 2012 by voracious reader
5.0 out of 5 stars harryhausen on "something"
th musical naritave is the meat, but the stop motion animation is the potatoes, gravy and veggies. I bought this for my son, but ended up watching it twice before he got it from... Read more
Published on March 14, 2012 by Alaska Slim
5.0 out of 5 stars ARE YOU SERIOUS?
Any Zappa fan needs this video in their library, but I'm preaching to the choir here, if you are just getting into Frank's music thanks to Dweezil on tour playing the music - get... Read more
Published on September 14, 2011 by Donald R. Russell
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