D.A. Pennebaker had been hired to film the concert largely on the strength of his yet-to-be-released film, Dont Look Back. After having witnessed the three-day festival, Pennebaker delivered a film that runs a compact 79 minutes. As the story goes, Pennebaker was tasked with capturing the festival as he saw fit. While viewers can certainly debate which performers/bands should have been included in the film, few will disagree that Pennebaker managed to capture the essence of the era. That’s made all the more amazing when you consider his claim that he didn’t know who Janis Joplin was until he met her at the festival (they later become friends).
The music doesn’t start until about ten minutes into the film. The initial focus is on the arrival of the crowd — one attendee predicting that the festival would be, “a love-in…like Easter, Christmas and your birthday all at once!” There’s a police presence, there had been concerns regarding threats from the Black Panthers and Hell’s Angels, but those fears appear unfounded. Over three days, 33 musical acts performed. Along with those already mentioned, they included: The Mamas and The Papas, Hugh Maskela, Big Brother and The Holding Company, Scott McKenzie, Canned Heat, Simon & Garfunkel, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother & The Holding, Eric Burdon & The Animals, Country Joe & The Fish, and Ravi Shankar. While Pennebaker and his crew keep their cameras largely focused on the performances, he does capture the reaction of the audience between sets, leading to some fascinating moments. There’s a monkey in the crowd! Mostly though, it’s fascinating to watch the audience, hosting and hollering, occasionally mouths agape, as this amazing event unfolds.
Criterion’s previous Blu-ray release boasted a strong image with a high level of clarity, but there’s no denying that this new 4K transfer is a significant step up. The loud colors of era’s hippie fashions are more vibrant, with reds and yellows appearing particularly intense. For fans of older concert films, this one looks fabulous!
The 5.1 surround remix provided for the 2009 Blu-ray release has been newly remastered to provide an exceptionally full listening experience. I can’t imagine it sounding better – Hendricks guitar envelops the soundfield, Otis Redding sounds as if he’s standing in your living room!
The film doesn’t include subtitles.
A three-disc set, the following extras are included:
Disc One includes a Commentary Track recorded in 2002, featuring D.A. Pennebaker and producer/festival co-founder Lou Adler. A 2001 Interview with Pennebaker and Adler (29 min.) Interviews with Festival Co-founder John Phillips (16 min), Cass Elliott (12 min.), David Crosby (9 min), and Derek Taylor (29 min). Promotional TV and Radio spots, Festival Ephemera, etc.
The new extras Include a 2017 Interview with D.A. Pennebaker (15 min.), and a 2017 Interview with Lou Adler (12 mins.). Chiefs (20:00) made in 1968, this short film directed by Richard Leacock, concerns a convention of American police chiefs in Waikiki. It’s only real relevance here, is Richard’s work on Monterey Pop. However, a chance to see any of Richard Leacock’s work is always welcome.
Disc Two is a real gift to music fans: 129 minutes of additional musical performances from the festival. Below, I’ve listed each artist by day, and the song(s) they performed.
The Association – Along Comes Mary
Simon and Garfunkel – Homeward Bound, The Sounds of Silence
Country Joe and the Fish – Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine
Al Kooper – I Heard Her Say (Wake Me, Shake Me)
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band – Driftin’ Blues
The Steve Miller Blues Band – Mercury Blues, Super Shuffle
Quicksilver Messenger Service – All I Ever Wanted To Do (Was Love You)
The Electric Flag – Drinkin’ Wine
The Byrds – Chimes of Freedom, He Was A Friend of Mine, Hey Joe
Laura Nyro – Wedding Bell Blues, Poverty Train
Jefferson Airplane – Somebody To Love
Moby Grape – Hey Grandma
The Blues Project – Flute Thing
Big Brother and the Holding Company – Combination of the Two
Buffalo Springfield – For What It’s Worth
The Who – Substitute, Summertime Blues, A Quick One While He’s Away
The Grateful Dead – Viola Lee Blues
The Mamas and the Papas – Straight Shooter, Somebody Groovy, I Call Your Name, Monday Monday, San Francisco, Dancing in the Street
The disc also includes footage of Tiny Tim performing in the Hunt club (the festival’s official green room). The late ’60s pop culture phenom, unleashes four diddies.
Disc Three contains the two Pennebaker films Jimi Plays Monterey (49 mins.) and Shake! Otis at Monterey (19 mins). The extras with both films have been ported over from previous releases but converted to HD where appropriate. Jimi includes an Audio Commentary with Music Critic Charles Shaar Murray recorded in 2002 a Short 1987 Interview with Pete Townsend (4 mins.) and a Trailer. Shake! offers Two Audio Commentaries with music critic and author Peter Guralnick, both recorded in 2002. Also recorded in 2002, is An Interview with Phil Walden (19 mins.) Otis Redding’s manager.
Also included in the boxset is a 72- page illustrated Booklet featuring essays by critics Michael Chaiken, Armond White, David Fricke, Barney Hoskyns, and Michael Lydon and information about the artists who appeared at the festival.
Movie title: The Complete Monterey Pop Festival (1968)
Director(s): D.A. Pennebaker
Actor(s): Jimi Hendrix , The Who , Pete Townshend , Roger Daltrey , Keith Moon , John Entwistle
Genre: Music, Documentary