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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Complete Monterey Pop Festival



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#1 of 19 Matt Hough

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Posted September 14 2009 - 02:35 PM

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The Complete Monterey Pop Festival (Blu-ray)

Monterey Pop/Jimi Plays Monterey/Shake! Otis at Monterey
Directed by D.A. Pennebaker

Studio: Criterion
Year: 1968/1986
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1   1080p   AVC codec
Running Time: 79/49/19 minutes
Rating: NR
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; PCM 2.0 stereo, stereo surround English
Subtitles: CC
Region: A
MSRP: $ 69.95

Release Date: September 22, 2009
Review Date: September 14, 2009
 
 
The Film
4/5
 
Before Woodstock there was the Monterey International Pop Festival. Held over a three day weekend in June of 1967, the festival emerged as a love-in of the highest order, and the resultant documentary film became the first true rock concert movie filled with both famous names (the Mamas and the Papas, Simon and Garfunkel, The Who) as well as musicians who were soon to become superstars of the modern rock era as a result of their exposure in this event: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Otis Redding. A wonderful mix of performance styles and an eagle eye exploration of the counterculture revolution that was gaining great strength at the time of the festival, Monterey Pop and the later outtake short features Jimi Plays Monterey and Shake! Otis at Monterey make a fine document of one of the landmark events in the history of 20th century pop/rock.
 
Famous now as a documentarian of the culture of the last sixty years, almost unknown-at-the-time D. A. Pennebaker was engaged as the director of the film to capture the once-in-a-lifetime event organized by John Philips (leader of the Mamas and the Papas) and Lou Adler (the president of Dunhill Records). The film is only 79 minutes long, a short movie in which to squeeze three days’ worth of some of the most electrifying pop and rock acts available at the time, and yet one gets the feeling after watching it that many of its most memorable moments made the final cut even if the order of the performers’ appearances has been wildly juxtaposed for excitement and effectiveness. What’s more, with Pennebaker cutting away from the music occasionally to get brief glimpses at the people of the era, a sense of time and place is beautifully established. From the gorgeous Scott McKenzie “San Francisco” opening song to Ravi Shankar’s bravura turn on his sitar at the end, there really isn’t a dull moment in Monterey Pop.
 
The event itself was a nonprofit outing with each of the acts performing without compensation (which explains why some of the most well known names in pop and rock didn’t appear. Chuck Berry wanted $2.000. The Beach Boys couldn’t risk an appearance since Carl Wilson was draft dodging at the time. Dionne Warwick came down with a bad throat and had to bow out.) And you’ll notice that some well regarded rock acts of the period, namely The Byds and Laura Nyro, only show up in the outtakes section as their appearances were deemed disappointing and not worthy to stand alongside the electrifying Janis Joplin (watch Mama Cass Elliot gape at the young singer who’s spilling her guts on stage before thousands) or Jimi Hendrix or The Who’s Roger Daltrey, both of whom get so overwrought with their performances that they destroy their equipment.
 
Jimi Plays Monterey is a bit of a misnomer since the complete footage of his act doesn’t begin until 12 ½ minutes into the presentation. Before that is a fascinating look at a splatter painting in the making of the famous musician while his electric “Can You See Me?” plays on the soundtrack, a most impressive way to begin the film. There is also footage of Jimi playing in a small London venue before heading to the festival where he performs nine numbers, the most effective of which are “Like a Rolling Stone” and “The Wind Cries Mary.” His orgiastic climactic number “Wild Thing” which appears in Monterey Pop concludes this film.
 
Shake! Otis at Monterey suffers a bit from the late night hour in which he performed and some camera angles which obscured the singer with the blown out whites of the spotlight. He does get to showcase five numbers (only one of which made it in bits and pieces into Monterey Pop). And the singer's final song "Try a Little Tenderness" serves as the background for a montage of images filmed during the entire three day event.
 
 
 
Video Quality
3.5/5
 
The film has been framed at its theatrical 1.33:1 aspect ratio and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. The hairs, debris, shifting contrast, and erratic color saturation levels of the original film have been left intact, so what you get here looks pretty much identical to a theatrical screening of the film: rough rather than slick but featuring superb black levels (when they’re not being deliberately crushed). Monterey Pop has been divided into 20 chapters. Jimi Plays Monterey has 12 chapters while Shake! Otis at Monterey has 5 chapters.
 
 
Audio Quality
4.5/5
 
The user is offered a choice of three soundtracks for Monterey Pop: the original two channel stereo track (PCM, 2.3 Mbps), a remixed 2.0 stereo surround track (PCM, 2.3 Mbps), and a remixed DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix which is the one I spent most of my reviewing time listening to. It features wonderfully immersive sound with instrumentation easily noticeable in various channels of the mix and only the slightest lack of bass fullness on the low end. The Hendrix and Redding films have two options: PCM 2.0 stereo and DTS-HD MA 5.1 which shares the same immersive sound (with only occasional distortion from the period recording) with Monterey Pop.
 
 
Special Features
5/5
 
Monterey Pop
 
 
The audio commentary is by producer Lou Adler and director D. A. Pennebaker, and it’s a very interesting conversation between the two friends who comment candidly on the various performers and the challenges they faced putting the weekend together and getting it filmed.
 
All of the bonus features on both discs in the set are presented in 1080i.
 
There are over two hours of outtake musical numbers featuring the complete (or nearly) sets of many of the festival’s top acts (some of whom are only seen in highlights in the film proper and many not seen at all). Those represented on the outtake section are The Association, Simon and Garfunkel, Country Joe and the Fish, Al Kooper, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Electric Flag, The Byrds, Laura Nyro, Jefferson Airplane, The Blues Project, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Buffalo Springfield, The Who, The Mamas and the Papas, and Tiny Tim.
 
A 2001 video interview with D. A. Pennebaker and Lou Adler shows the same kind of camaraderie present in the audio commentary. The two friends talk about their starts in the business, how the Monterey Festival happened, John Phillips’ involvement in the celebration, the use of stereo recording, and how it was decided what went into the film and what stayed out. The feature lasts 29 ¼ minutes.
 
There are four audio interviews (which can only be chosen separately and not played as a group) with John Phillips, Cass Elliot (poor sound quality), David Crosby, and Derek Taylor.
 
The theatrical trailer runs 2 ¾ minutes.
 
There are five radio ad spots featuring excerpts from several of the famous musicians appearing in the film. They must all be chosen separately.
 
There is a step-through gallery of still black and white photographs by famed photographer Elaine Mayes. There is also a stills presentation with commentary by Mayes which runs for 12 ¼ minutes.
 
The viewer may step through the official program of the festival.
 
The enclosed 45-page booklet contains a generous helping of stills and portraits of the stars and a series of essays by film and music critics Michael Lydon (the best of the three), Barney Hoskyns, and Armond White.
 
 
Jimi Plays Monterey/Shake! Otis at Monterey
 
 
The Jimi Hendrix film contains an audio commentary by Hendrix expert Charles Shaar Murray who knows the intricacies of Hendrix’s music inside and out and offers a very worthwhile rundown of his career and his performance at the festival. The Otis Redding film contains two audio commentaries, both by Redding expert Peter Guralnick who uses the first one to critique Redding’s performance of five songs in the short film and the second to discuss his life and career both before and after the Monterey festival.
 
Pete Townshend speaks for 4 ½ minutes about his relationship with Jimi Hendrix and specifically setting the record straight about how the order of performance for The Who and Hendrix was decided for the concert.
 
The theatrical trailer for Jimi Plays Monterey runs for 3 ½ minutes.
 
Otis Redding's close friend and manager Phil Walden contributes an 18 ¾-minute video interview discussing his entry into show business and how he came to manage and be friends with Redding.

The enclosed 9-page booklet contains some stills from the films and an interesting biographical essay on the two artists by music writer David Fricke.
 
 
In Conclusion
4/5 (not an average)
 
What a pleasure to finally find all of the footage for the Monterey Pop Festival in one box set and presented for the first time in high definition. Sound and picture are the best the films are ever likely going to look and sound. Highly recommended!
 
 
Matt Hough
Charlotte, NC


#2 of 19 Grady Reid

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Posted June 17 2011 - 06:11 PM

I just picked this up.  Great set except for one issue I'm having.  On the Monterey Pop movie the 5.1 mix doesn't sound right.  I don't hear any sound out of my left and right main speakers- just the rears (the two stereo soundtracks are fine).  The second disc of performances doesn't have this issue and sound great in 5.1 and 2.0.  Any ideas?  Am I crazy?



#3 of 19 Matt Hough

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Posted June 18 2011 - 12:33 AM

I used the PS3 (phat model) to do this review, and it had no trouble decoding the 5.1 track and sending it as PCM through my sound system.



#4 of 19 Grady Reid

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Posted June 21 2011 - 03:59 AM

Thanks for the reply.  I'm really at a loss to what to do next.  Could it be an issue with that disc?  In that case I can exchange it at Amazon.  I've tried emailing Jon Mulvaney at Criterion.  Haven't heard back yet.  I've searched on the 'net for others with similar problems.  Nada!  My player is a Panasonic BD-85.  I'm using the 7.1 analog outputs (I tested it using the optical output- same problem).



#5 of 19 Matt Hough

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Posted June 21 2011 - 08:25 AM



Originally Posted by Grady Reid 

Thanks for the reply.  I'm really at a loss to what to do next.  Could it be an issue with that disc?  In that case I can exchange it at Amazon.  I've tried emailing Jon Mulvaney at Criterion.  Haven't heard back yet.  I've searched on the 'net for others with similar problems.  Nada!  My player is a Panasonic BD-85.  I'm using the 7.1 analog outputs (I tested it using the optical output- same problem).



I have a Panasonic BD-80, and if I can find the set (I may have given it away), I'll see what my Panasonic does with the audio. I have it hooked up via HDMI, however.




#6 of 19 Matt Hough

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Posted June 21 2011 - 02:09 PM

I did locate the set and gave it a spin on the Panasonic BD-80. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track played perfectly (I bitstream it and let the receiver do the decoding). So at least on the 80, it works. The 85 was the next year's model, I think, so I would think it should work. I wish I could be more help.



#7 of 19 Grady Reid

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Posted June 22 2011 - 06:56 PM

Okay, the mystery continues!  I tested the disc on my Samsung DBP-1600 (via the optical bitstream) and the defect is still there.  Could this be a mastering error?  If so there are no other comments about it on the 'net.  Is this simply a single bad disc?  I'm guessing Amazon will replace the set if this is the case.  This is baffling!



#8 of 19 Matt Hough

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Posted June 23 2011 - 12:45 AM



Originally Posted by Grady Reid 

Okay, the mystery continues!  I tested the disc on my Samsung DBP-1600 (via the optical bitstream) and the defect is still there.  Could this be a mastering error?  If so there are no other comments about it on the 'net.  Is this simply a single bad disc?  I'm guessing Amazon will replace the set if this is the case.  This is baffling!


It sounds to me like it's a disc production error. I'd do an exchange.




#9 of 19 Mark_TB

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Posted July 29 2011 - 07:19 AM

Okay, the mystery continues!  I tested the disc on my Samsung DBP-1600 (via the optical bitstream) and the defect is still there.  Could this be a mastering error?  If so there are no other comments about it on the 'net.  Is this simply a single bad disc?  I'm guessing Amazon will replace the set if this is the case.  This is baffling!

Grady, I picked up the set during the B&N sale and played it for the first time today. Guess what? I'm having the exact same problem with the first disc! Did you ever get a response from Criterion? In the meantime, I guess I'll be shooting them an email myself. As others have noted, I'm sure it's just a production error, and a replacement shouldn't be a problem. - Mark EDIT: If anyone is interested, I'm using an Oppo BDP-93 player connected to an Integra DTR-30.3 receiver via HDMI.

#10 of 19 Grady Reid

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Posted July 29 2011 - 02:06 PM

Whew! Sorry that you're having the same problem, but I glad I'm not crazy! I sent an email to mulvaney@criterion.com over five weeks ago and haven't received a reply. Let me know if you have a different email address. Good luck. Let us know what you find!

#11 of 19 Mark_TB

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Posted July 29 2011 - 06:37 PM

Grady, I've exchanged a couple of emails with Jon Mulvaney today (I used that same email address), but I can't seem to get him to even understand the nature of the problem. He keeps insisting that I'm using the wrong settings to decode the mono soundtrack, which is odd because the problem is with the 5.1 DTS-HD track -- this disc doesn't even have a mono soundtrack! I would suggest that you try emailing him again. And since I can't get him to even acknowledge that the problem may be with the disc, I guess I'll just return it to B&N for an exchange. It's all rather frustrating because I truly expected a better response from Criterion. Please post if you learn anything further, and I'll do the same. - Mark

#12 of 19 Grady Reid

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Posted July 30 2011 - 01:01 AM

I can't even get them to answer my emails (I don't think I sound like a crazy person!). I posted a similar note on their Facebook wall- we shall see. Sometimes posting these questions out in the open for all to see gets a faster response. I remember having a problem over fifteen years ago with their Raging Bull laserdiscs. They were great about swapping discs. Somewhat surprised by their lackluster response now.

#13 of 19 Mark_TB

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Posted August 02 2011 - 02:10 PM

I received another email from Mr. Mulvaney yesterday apologizing for the confusion and offering to exchange my disc. Since this is the response I was hoping for from the beginning, I'll be satisfied if the disc I receive in return works properly. Grady, I'm really baffled as to why you can't get his attention. - Mark

#14 of 19 Grady Reid

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Posted August 02 2011 - 04:34 PM

Wonderful! Glad you got the right response and that they're exchanging the disc. Is there a "backdoor" email address I can try? Or a phone number? Anyone out there have an idea?

#15 of 19 Mark_TB

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Posted August 26 2011 - 01:12 PM

I received my replacement disc today and it plays as it should. Grady, you should try contacting Mr. Mulvaney again. Once we got past his initial confusion, he took good care of me, exactly what I'd expect from Criterion. - Mark

#16 of 19 Grady Reid

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Posted August 26 2011 - 06:57 PM

I have an update: After repeated emails and Facebook posts I finally got a reply from Jon Mulvaney on 8/17. I was able send the defective disc back and am awaiting a replacement. I'm glad to hear your disc plays right. Gives me some hope! I'll post something once I get my disc.

#17 of 19 Grady Reid

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Posted September 06 2011 - 04:09 PM

Good news! I received the corrected disc from Criterion today. Plays great! Sound is perfect. I'm glad I upgraded this to blu- it's an amazing sounding disc.

#18 of 19 Mark_TB

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Posted September 10 2011 - 12:00 PM

Good news! I received the corrected disc from Criterion today. Plays great! Sound is perfect. I'm glad I upgraded this to blu- it's an amazing sounding disc.

That's great to hear. I do have a question, though: Did you get any comment on what was wrong with your disc? My replacement disc came with no note or comment, and my follow-up email thanking him for the replacement went unanswered. - Mark

#19 of 19 Grady Reid

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Posted September 10 2011 - 01:44 PM

Same as you, the disc came in an thin cardboard envelope with no note inside. Like you I sent an email thanking them and asking what the issue was- no reply. Oh well.





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