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200 Motels (1971)

"Touring makes you crazy," Frank Zappa says, explaining that the idea for this film came to him while the Mothers of Invention were touring. The story, interspersed with performances by the... See full summary »

Directors:

Tony Palmer, Frank Zappa

Writers:

Frank Zappa (story and screenplay), Tony Palmer (shooting script) | 2 more credits »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Mark Volman Mark Volman ... Member of Mothers of Invention
Howard Kaylan Howard Kaylan ... Member of Mothers of Invention
Ian Underwood Ian Underwood ... Member of Mothers of Invention
Aynsley Dunbar Aynsley Dunbar ... Member of Mothers of Invention
George Duke ... Member of Mothers of Invention
Theodore Bikel ... Rance Muhammitz / Dave
Keith Moon ... The Hot Nun
Jimmy Carl Black ... Lonesome Cowboy Burt
Janet Neville-Ferguson ... Groupie #1 (as Janet Ferguson)
Martin Lickert Martin Lickert ... Jeff
Lucy Offerall Lucy Offerall ... Groupie #2
Dick Barber Dick Barber ... Bif Debris - The Vacuum Cleaner
Don Preston Don Preston ... Don
Pamela Des Barres ... Interviewer (as Pamela Miller)
Ruth Underwood Ruth Underwood ... Fake Drummer
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Storyline

"Touring makes you crazy," Frank Zappa says, explaining that the idea for this film came to him while the Mothers of Invention were touring. The story, interspersed with performances by the Mothers and the Royal Symphony Orchestra, is a tale of life on the road. The band members' main concerns are the search for groupies and the desire to get paid. Written by George S. Davis

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Fantasy | Music

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

MGM

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

20 November 1971 (Sweden) See more »

Also Known As:

Frank Zappa's 200 Motels See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$679,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The role of Jeff was originally intended for Mothers bassist Jeff Simmons, who quit the group just before filming. As a replacement, Frank Zappa hired Wilfrid Brambell, who walked off the set in a rage a few days later. During a crew meeting, Zappa announced that he would give the part to the next person who walked into the room. Martin Lickert, Ringo Starr's chauffeur, was cast when he walked in with a pack of cigarettes for Starr. See more »

Quotes

Jeff: I'm stealing the room!
See more »

Crazy Credits

The closing credits are super-imposed over a number of production-related documents, including sheet music, scripts, shooting directions, memos and expense reports. See more »

Alternate Versions

A laserdisc issue deletes the "Dental Hygiene Dilemma/quasi-Donald Duck on acid" animation sequence. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Rebel Set (1992) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Bizarre!
18 February 2006 | by robin-414See all my reviews

There is no film quite like 200 Motels, but a lot of its very strange appearance (especially when viewed on a cinema screen) is due to its videotape source. (Actually, it isn't the first film released theatrically, to have been originated on this medium. One of the versions of Jean Harlow's biography to be released in 1965 used something called 'Electronovision', which is much the same thing, although it seems suspiciously like an afterthought over a successful TV play in that case.) The 1971 double album was my introduction to Zappa's music, back in 1973, and I first saw this film in 1978, on a double bill with - wait for it - Annie Hall. Now, that's bizarre. I was mesmerised by this messy production, but everyone in the cinema, including my friends, seemed to hate it. Even by 1978, the effects were dated, and the sound quality left a lot to be desired. However, ten years later, when I saw the film in on VHS, I scooped it up, and I still enjoy it.

More satire and music would have been welcome in place of the cast and orchestra being forced to recite childish swearwords, although it must be realised that this is an exercise to defuse the effect of 'bad language', much as Shaw did with Pygmalion (the original play has the word 'bloody' repeated over and over, opposed to achieving the comedy shock effect as in the 1938 movie) There are some very well worked out scenes, such as the stars' dressing-room/racehorse chute sequence, and the dialogue between Jim Black and Theodor Bikel, and maybe sufficient time and budget would have yielded more of the same.

The music was sufficient to launch me into thirty years of collecting Zappa's music, and I still enjoy it today - it's more fulfilling to listen to than the movie is to watch, but the movie is worth seeing, as long as you are not expecting anything too coherent.

In amongst the confusion is a worthwhile film about groupies, and genius, and the sadness, as opposed to the glamour, of the life of rock stars, and I can't help feeling that someone with fifty million dollars to spend could do worse than remake this. It's about time Zappa's output reached a wider audience. Stop remaking films that were fine as they were, you guys. We didn't need another Planet of the Apes, Tim Burton! Do a film about Frank Zappa. Johnny Depp could play Frank!


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