Review: ‘200 Motels’

Frank Zappa's 200 Motels, featuring his group, The Mothers Of Invention, plus Theodore Bikel and Ringo Starr, is the zaniest. The film is a series of surrealistic sequences allegedly inspired by the experiences of a rock group on the road. The incidents are often outrageously irreverent. The comedy is fast and furious, both sophisticated and sophomoric.

Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels, featuring his group, The Mothers Of Invention, plus Theodore Bikel and Ringo Starr, is the zaniest. The film is a series of surrealistic sequences allegedly inspired by the experiences of a rock group on the road. The incidents are often outrageously irreverent. The comedy is fast and furious, both sophisticated and sophomoric.

The story proceeds on many different levels. Bikel appears to superior advantage in several characterizations: a TV m.c., an officious military bureaucrat, and something resembling a British secret agent or banker. Starr’s okay cameo has him dressed up like Zappa. Group member Jimmy Carl Black is excellent as a redneck cowboy, Keith Moon is in nun’s drag; Janet Ferguson and Lucy Offerall (it says here) are smash as two jaded groupies; and leather-costumed Pamela Miller scores as an underground newshen.

Film is the first theatrical release to have been shot in the color vidtape-to-film process of Technicolor’s vidtronics subsid. The seven-day shooting sked (on a reported $600,000 budget) was followed by 11 days of editing.

200 Motels

UK

Production

United Artists. Director Frank Zappa, Tony Palmer; Producer Jerry Good, Herb Cohen; Screenplay Frank Zappa, Tony Palmer; Camera Tony Palmer; Editor Rich Harrison; Music Frank Zappa; Art Director Leo Austin

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1971. Running time: 98 MIN.

With

The Mothers of Invention Theodore Bikel Ringo Starr Janet Ferguson Lucy Offerall Pamela Miller
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