and FILM NOTES
Plus irreverent commentary by Hollywood-based, British humorist
(co-creator/producer/host of this festival) - with films rated on
his personal Shag-ometer! (Pat. Pending)
FRIDAY JULY 7th 2000 - 7:00 PM|
Election Year Special!
Presidential Movie Spoof plus Live Satirical Show!
WILD IN THE STREETS
Martin Lewis says: 3 1/2 Shags!
What a brilliant concept for a movie! Of course it's a wonderful
insight into the process of aging. When we were very young - we LIKED
the idea of not trusting anyone over the age of 30. Once we cross that
rubicon ourselves we subtly revise the policy. Now we don't trust
anyone UNDER the age of 30!
Incidentally - the first person approached to play the rock
star-turned-President was folk troubadour Phil Ochs - who had been
looking for some time for a film vehicle. However - on reading the
script - he rightly surmised that this was not a scintillating Dr.
Strangelove-esque satire on politics - and he sensibly passed. One
wishes Phil Ochs was still with us. He would have made a terrific "Bob
1968, AIP (MGM/UA), 97 min. Dir. Barry Shear. Astounding,
grunge-fueled political satire of a rock star (Christopher Jones) who
gets elected President after the voting age is lowered to 15. Along the
way, he gets his spaced-out, vegetarian girlfriend (Diane Varsi) elected
to Congress, dumps LSD into the Washington, D.C. water supply and
sets up concentration camps for everyone over-35! With songs by Brill
Building stalwarts Barry Mann & Cynthia Weill, performed by Max Frost &
The Troopers, including the thundersome "Shape of Things to Come."
Co-starring Hal Holbrook, Shelley Winters, Richard Pryor and Millie
Followed by live satirical show...
PRESIDENTIALLY INCORRECT! with MARTIN LEWIS
Martin Lewis says: 4 1/2 Shags!
When we picked "Wild In The Streets" for the festival - we selected it
because of its obvious kitsch content. But then I started to thinking
about the fun of showing it in a Presidential election year. I thought
it might provide a good starting point for an irreverent discussion
about the way politics and electioneering has been spoofed in films and
TV in the past 40 years. From Pat Paulson's Presidential campaigns to
"The Candidate" and "Bob Roberts."
So I decided to ask a few folks to join me for a panel to chat about
this topic. It will take place immediately after the film. I think it
will be fun...
Plus star guest panel. For star updates - click here for the Celebrity
Humorist Martin Lewis hosts an all-star panel discussion of comics and
pundits shining an irreverent spotlight on Presidential politics.
(With an appreciative nod to
Bill Maher's "Politically Incorrect"!)
FRIDAY JULY 7th 2000 - 9:30 PM|
Bedazzling Pete & Dud! - Peter Cook & Dudley Moore Solo Films!!
Producer Walter Shenson In Person!
30 IS A DANGEROUS AGE, CYNTHIA
Martin Lewis says: 4 Shags!
The opening film at last year's festival was Stanley Donen's
scintillating 1966 film Bedazzled - written by Peter Cook and starring
Peter with his longtime partner in comedic crime - Dudley Moore. We had
a wonderful evening - enhanced by the presence of the film's co-star
Eleanor Bron - who flew in from London specially for the festival.
We had been wracking our brains for a way to share some more of Peter
Cook and Dudley Moore with you. Though there are several other 60's
film in which they appear together - such as "The Wrong Box" and "Monte
Carlo Or Bust" - those films were not starring vehicles. And then the
inspiration... Why not a double bill of the first solo film that each of
The two films in question are both extremely rare - and practically
never seen in the USA.
Though the analogy is over-simplistic - and only applies to certain
aspects of their work - there is something to be said for comparing the
Cook & Moore partnership to the Lennon & McCartney teaming.
Cook - like Lennon preferred to pursue his own idiosyncratic vision -
demanding that the audience raise itself to appreciate his work. He
regarded doing more obviously commercial work as a form of pandering.
However Moore - like McCartney - has never seen anything pejorative with
producing work accessible to the audience who appreciates his talents.
And in their first solo films one can see certain other parallels to
John and Paul.
Cook's solo film "The Rise & Rise Of Michael Rimmer" is an acerbic
satire on politicians - reflecting his shrewdly cynical slant on the
insincerity of the political process. While not an intensely personal
statement like Lennon's first solo album - "Plastic Ono Band" - it is
certainly an edgy work compared to the warmer work that Cook had done
together with Moore.
Similarly - Moore's first solo film - "30" is a softer, gentler comedy -
easier-going on the audience than Cook's film. In that regard it could
be compared to McCartney's eponymously-named, homespun first album.
Producer Walter Shenson will be on hand for the screening of "30" and
will share some of his memories of the project.
And at the beginning of the program we in the audience will be sending a
video greeting to Dudley Moore. (See special box on this page.)
The first draft of Cook's film was written by a pre-Python John Cleese
and Graham Chapman - on a summer break from writing for TV host David
Frost. When Cook was hired to portray the ruthless lead character - he
brought his considerable writing talent to the project.
After the Peter Cook film - perhaps the diehard Cook fans will join me
in an 'adjacent hostelry' - and after a couple of pints of British hard
cider - I might be pursuaded to tell the untold tale of Peter Cook's
brilliant, but regrettably unproduced film spoofing the Presidential
campaign of 1988!
1967, Columbia, 84 min. Dir. Joe McGrath. The much-loved Dudley Moore
stars as a shy pianist/composer determined to
write a fame-generating masterpiece and marry the ideal wife - all
his fast-looming 30th birthday. Dud (who also wrote and performed the
film's jazzy score) falls in love with supreme 60's dollybird Suzy
who subsequently starred off-screen as Dudley's first (real-life) wife!
Dudley Moore and Suzy Kendall
Dudley Moore and his parents at the premier of
THE RISE & RISE OF MICHAEL RIMMER
1970, Warner Bros., 101 min. Dir. Kevin Billington. Never released in
the U.S., this brilliant Mod satire was commissioned by David Frost in
1966 and written by future Monty Pythoners John Cleese and Graham
Chapman - together with BEDAZZLED star Peter Cook. It stars Cook as an
efficiency expert who takes over a
British advertising agency - and eventually bamboozles his way to
Britain's Prime Minister - eliminating everyone in his path. The film
co-stars the cream of British 60's comedic talent, including Cleese,
Dennis Price, Arthur Lowe, Ronnie Corbett and playwright Harold Pinter.
SATURDAY JULY 8th 2000 - 5:00 PM|
Lost Psychedelic Treasures Double-Header!!
Olivia Newton-John meets Andy Summers of The Police!!!
Martin Lewis says: 3 1/2 Shags!
Though American audiences didn't discover Olivia until her 1971 chart
breakthrough - back in Britain we had already been exposed to her
through her multiple appearances on the TV shows of Cliff Richard - the
Peter Pan of British pop!
And long before her starring roles in "Grease" and "Xanadu" (!) lovely
'Livvy' had made her movie debut in this cinematic curiosity.
For some reason I still recall seeing the poster for this movie on the
walls of the London tube (subway). I think I was curious to see if the
band of the title would have anything to do with the (slightly
differently-spelled) band Tomorrow - with had featured the legendary
A couple of years later I was working as a music journalist - and I was
doing an interview with members of Manfred Mann's Earth Band ("Blinded
By The Light") On enquiring about the drummer's past he told me about
his early life playing in The Squires - the backing band for Tom Jones!
(He'd been the drummer on Tom's first hit - "It's Not Unusual"!) And
then he mentioned that he'd been in a group with a girl called Olivia
and they had made a little film called "Toomorrow"!
And that - quite frankly - was about the last time that anyone has
mentioned this film till then! So I felt that I had a duty to locate
this film - and see if it is remotely as bad as it sounds!
The drummer incidentally - was Chris Slade - who went on to further fame
with The Firm and AC/DC. Bet those AC/DC fans would love to see Chris
in this movie!!
1970, Rank/Calton, 95 min. Dir. Val Guest. Hard to believe, but this
actually exists! Olivia Newton-John stars as lead singer with
British pop band "Toomorrow" - whose "Josey & The Pussycats"-style tunes
draw the attention of music-hungry aliens, the Alphoids (!!) The
extra-terrestrials kidnap "Livvy" and bandmates, and transport them to
shimmering, Pop Art space module so they can re-invigorate the astral
scene . TOOMORROW was the unholy offspring of James Bond-producer Harry
Saltzman and Monkees music svengali Don Kirshner - directed by noted
helmer Val Guest (THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT, EXPRESSO BONGO.)
(Incidentally - the fictional "Toomorrow" band had no connection to the
similarly-named Keith West/Steve Howe band "Tomorrow" who recorded the
psychedelic classic "My White Bicycle")
Olivia Newton John
CHANGE IN FESTIVAL PROGRAM!
We had been planning to show
the ultra-rare 1968 film "POP
DOWN" as a double bill with
"TOOMORROW." But the only
print we have been able to find
turned out to be severely
damaged - and cannot be
Instead we are showing
another rare film - THE
LOVE-INS - which we know
will be equally camp and just
But we are now more
determined than ever to find a
viewable print of director Fred Marshall's POP DOWN to
show at next year's Mods & Rockers festival.
Here are some clues for all you missing movie sleuths!
Our latest detective work tells us that there were several prints
floating around London in 1968. And that it was distributed in
Australia by United Artists (so there might be some prints or a copy
negative in Australia.) Also that a print was sent to a film festival
in Rio in 1968 but not returned! There is a reward for whoever helps us
find a viewable print or negative of this film!
Click here if you have any tips or leads to share!
1967, Columbia, 92 min. Dir. Arthur Dreifuss. From
teen exploitation wizard Sam Katzman, THE LOVE-INS
gleefully rips off Timothy Leary, the hippies and everything in sight, in the
story of a straightlaced professor (Richard Todd) who becomes
headtripping LSD guru to a mob of impressionable college
kids. Stay tuned for the mindblowing "Alice In Wonderland"
inspired psychedelic ballet (!), featuring music by the Chocolate Watch
Band ("Are You Gonna Be There At the Love-in?") and others.
Co-starring James MacArthur ("Hawaii Five-O") and Susan Oliver.
Turn On. Tune In. And Drop jaw in amazement!
SATURDAY JULY 8th 2000 - 9:00 PM|
Double-bill! Ultra-Rare Screening!
Only Surviving 35 mm. print of "Candy"!
Martin Lewis says: 5 Shags!
I jumped through hoops to get this film. No one seemed to know who
owned the rights. Finally I got a lucky break - I was introduced to
Terry Southern's son Nile - and he put me in touch with producer Robert
Haggiag in Rome - who was immediately very gracious about us showing the
I have such fond memories of this. Fragments of it still echo in my
mind over 30 years after the one time I saw it.
The way in which randy guru Marlon Brando searches for Candy's spiritual
essence (one thinks of Dear Prudence!) The creative way the bartender
opens Candy's bottle of Coke... The way zen-poet Richard Burton's hair
is constantly blowing in the wind.... And the gleeful way in which John
Astin pronounces that a post-operative patient will have the brain of
"an immature 3-year old cucumber..."
This film was certainly not perfect. But it was a bloody good stab at
it. And a bloody good stab at some things that needed to be stabbed.
Prepare for a treat. Altogether now: "I Want Candy..."
1968, Walt Disney, 115 min. Dir. Christian Marquand. One of the
most underrated films of the 1960's, CANDY uses the lascivious
adventures of your average, innocent, teenage, Scandinavian sexpot
(played by doe-eyed Swedish blonde Ewa Aulin) as an opportunity to
satirize the American military, 60's hippie
idealism, middle-class morality and more. Based on DR. STRANGELOVE
writer Terry Southern's notoriously ribald novel (a contemporary take on
"Candide" ) adapted by THE GRADUATE screenwriter Buck Henry - CANDY
features a jawdropping gallery of players, including Marlon Brando as a
horny Maharishi-style guru, Richard Burton as a groupie-swamped
zen-poet, James Coburn as a hilariously homicidal doctor, Ringo Starr
as a confused gardener, John Huston, Walter Matthau, John Astin and
more! Revved-up soundtrack by the Byrds and Steppenwolf.
THE COOL ONES
Martin Lewis says: 3 Shags!
I've always been irritated when people give the "I never saw that"
answer to the question "have you seen such-and-such film?"
It's a grammatical thing. "I never saw that" implies that the person
responding is actually dead - and mooching round heaven in a bar
discussing his/her memories of movies seen during the lifetime just
spent on Planet Earth.
NEVER SAY NEVER! (Unless of course it is an invitation from an
The correct answer to that query (if you have not seen the film in
question) is: "I have not thus far in my existence on this planet had
the experience of viewing that particular cinematic experience."
The Cool Ones sounds like a fascinating film. I definitely plan to
watch it. Why? Well because.... I never saw it!
("Bartender! Another pint of creme de menthe if you please - and put 'a
head' on it.... Sure is a nice pub up here in Paradise... The St.
1967, Warner Bros., 96 min. Dir. Gene Nelson. Dig this! Luscious
Debbie Watson stars as a frustrated go-go dancer on
the Whizbam! TV show who creates a new dance craze, "The Tantrum," when
grabs the microphone mid-show from singer Glen Campbell! Meanwhile,
pop idol Gil Peterson (an over-the-hill has-been at 23!) is desperate to
get the attention of Phil Spector-ish record producer Roddy McDowall to
revive his stalled career .
Phenomenal Hollywood pop confection, with songs by the legendary Lee
Hazelwood (of Nancy Sinatra "Boots" fame) and performances by The Leaves
underage sensations The Bantams. Go, baby, go!
SUNDAY JULY 9th 2000 - 5:00 PM|
Phynx Production team - Survivors' reunion!
In person guests!
Bob Booker (producer), Stan Cornyn (writer) co-star Lou Antonio
AND legendary songwriters Jerry Lieber & Mike Stoller!
Martin Lewis says: 3 1/2 Shags!
I never saw this one either! But the list of stars in cameo roles is
beyond tempting. How can one resist a film which features Tonto,
Colonel Sanders AND Trini Lopez!
By the way - is it just me or does anyone else feel that "KFC" is
somehow a less mouth-watering nomenclature than "Kentucky Fried
And how come everyone is licking the loafers of Ricky Martin... slurping
the slippers of Enrique Iglesias... fondling the footwear of Marc
Anthony - but forgetting the all-time pioneer of the Latin sound. TRINI
These and other questions will probably NOT be answered at the screening
of the Phynx. But I suspect we will have a good time anyway!
1970, Warner Bros., 92 min. Dir. Lee H. Katzin. A wonderfully bizarre
nugget of the psychedelic era! "The Phynx" are the ultimate pre-fab pop
- created by computer and catapulted to fame by the CIA (aided by some
of Lieber-Stoller's less stellar tunes!) so they can go behind the Iron
Curtain and rescue a vast gallery of American cultural heroes kidnapped
by those darn Russkies - including Ed Sullivan, Joe Louis, Ruby Keeler,
Dorothy Lamour, Trini Lopez, George Jessel, the Bowery Boys' Leo Gorcey,
Busby Berkeley, Guy Lombardo, Trini López, Colonel (KFC) Sanders, Jay
(Tonto) Silverheels, Rudy Vallee, Johnny Weissmuller and Xavier Cugat!
SUNDAY JULY 9th 2000 - 7:15 PM
Rock 'n' Roll Heaven!
Double-bill for fans of George Harrison and Led
Rock zeitgeist director Joe Massot - in person!!
Martin Lewis says: 4 Shags!
This was one of our finest hours last year! A packed-out house for this
long lost film. Director Joe Massot did a fabulous job restoring his
1968 film - particularly the glorious soundtrack.
In 1968 no one had ever recorded a soundtrack like the score George
Harrison created for this film. There were orchestral scores by members
of the Henry Mancini/John Barry school of film composition... some
contemporary films had jazzy scores by 'newcomers' such as Herbie
Hancock or Quincy Jones - and of course some films dropped in a plethora
of pop songs. But the notion of creating a score from a fusion of
contemporary rock and eastern psychedelicized music was utterly
There was no concept of slick marketing in those days - so the
soundtrack album wasn't carefully scheduled to be released in
conjunction with the movie. No one had seen the film at the time it was
released. The album just came out when George wanted to release it!
And it was a success in its own right. Being an instrumental score -
it was not going to sell like an album of new pop songs - but it was
very well received.
And here's another delight for Beatles fans... There is a poem in the
film - and until now - the identity of the poet had never been
revealed. Director Joe Massot has now disclosed that it was specially
written by John Lennon!
I will be getting Joe to tell us the story behind this!
Reprise screening by popular demand!
1969, 76 min. Dir. Joe Massot. The standout hit of last year's
Mods & Rockers festival - WONDERWALL is an absolutely
headtripping fantasy about a doddering old professor (Jack MacGowran)
discovers a secret window into the endless sex-life of gorgeous nymph
Birkin (Serge Gainsbourg's main squeeze and co-singer of "Je t'aime moi
plus"-!) Featuring a shimmering, sitar-laced score by Beatle George
- including the film's previously lost theme song, rediscovered in
Harrison's personal vaults - WONDERWALL is a surreal journey back to the
Age of Altered Consciousness.
Plus, Massot's exuberant CinemaScope portrait of Swinging London,
"Reflections On Love", 1965, 13 min. featuring definitive London
dollybird JennyBoyd (sister of Beatle George's wife Pattie and future
wife of Mick Fleetwood)
Martin Lewis says: 3 1/2 Shags!
Now we KNOW that this film is an artifact of the 70's. But it was shot
by our good pal Joe Massot - and since he was coming to us from London
to accompany "Wonderwall" - it was too good an opportunity to miss. It
will also give us the chance to compare the decades. Even the dates on
this film tell us a lot. It was shot in 1973 but not released until
1976. But it didn't seem outdated when it came out. This is because
the 70's had a greater sense of stasis than the 60's. Developments came
much slower. Imagine a film of the Beatles shot in 1963 - being released
in 1966. The Beatles had gone through so many changes in that brief
span of time - that their 1963 look and sound would have seemed quaint
and innocent next to the acid-laced look and sound of their Revolver
But 1973 Zeppelin and 1976 Zeppelin didn't look or sound that much
different. And that was common for the period.
"There's nothing in the streets - looks any different to me..." was Pete
Townshend's shrewd observation about those days. Just "...the beards
have all grown longer overnight"
"The Song Remains the Same" was a more apt title than anyone realized at
I am happy to see that Zeppelin's bully-boy manager - the late Peter
Grant - will be back on the big screen! Before his Zep management days
- he was a pro wrestler. And before that - he was an erstwhile actor!
He apparently made a cameo appearance playing "Bob" in a totally obscure
1956 movie called "Alias John Preston." . His acting in that film
can't be worse than the way he acted in real life....
He may have been a passionate defender of his artists in the
shark-infested waters of the 70's rock business - but he used appalling
tactics of physical intimidation and graceless abuse to achieve his
ends. How one yearns for the gentlemanly conduct of the Beatles'
manager - the great Brian Epstein. He may have been ripped off once or
twice - but the Beatles were a far classier act because of his decency.
I admire and respect Zeppelin more than I worship them. I guess having a
gentlemanly manager would have been a deathblow to them...
THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME
1976, Warner Bros., 136 min. Dir. Joe Massot (with Peter Clifton.) We
couldn't resist sneaking in one film from the decadent headbanging
70's! Director Joe Massot's epic portrait of Led Zeppelin on tour (and
at home) in 1973, captured the band at their Twilight-Of-The-Gods-like
peak - stomping through "Stairway To Heaven," "Dazed and Confused,"
"Whole Lotta Love" and others, interspersed with wildly-bizarre fantasy
segments featuring Plant, Page, Bonham and Jones in their acting
debuts. Hired and
fired several times during production by Zep (who were at their
height) - director Massot will share some of his choicest memories of
touring with the band.
Conversation between films with director Joe Massot.
WEDNESDAY JULY 12th 2000 - 7:00 PM
Incredible String Band & Donovan Hippie-Trippy Extravaganza!!
BE GLAD FOR THE SONG HAS NO ENDING
Martin Lewis says: 4 Shags!
I am so happy to be showing this film! In the late 60's and early 70's
I adored the Incredible String Band. (And I still do!) To me they were
like an acoustic, progressive-folk version of the late-period Beatles.
One of the parallels was that the band was principally formed round the
talents of two songwriters with strong personalities. Like White
Album-era John and Paul - Mike Heron and Robin Williamson wrote
independently - but then came together to add to each other's songs in
And then Mike and Robin added their girlfriends of the time to their
band! Just as Paul McCartney added Linda to Wings - because she was his
best pal and how John recorded with Yoko. Those personal bonds meant
more to them than the old rules of musicianship.
So Robin's girlfriend Licorice - known as Likky - and Mike's girlfriend
Rose - became members of the band.
To return to my Beatles analogy... Imagine if John and Paul had split
form the Beatles - and formed a duo. And then chosen to add Yoko and
Linda to the group! WOW! And THEN filmed Magical Mystery tour!!!!
Well - that's just what the Incredibles did. And this film is the
result of that type of fusion.
Seeing the "Retying The Knot" documentary about them is very
instructive., In this day and age - where even the most indie of films
only gets made after a lot of of careful planning - it is remarkable to
discover just how little pre-planning there was for "Be Glad..." ! It
literally was "Hey! Let's make a film tomorrow!"
Now with lesser souls - that would have been a recipe for self-indulgent
disaster. But with the Incredibles - it just tapped into a seam of rich
creativity. The result is enchanting.
The Donovan film is a wonderful discovery. Karl Ferris was one of the
leading photographers on the mid-60's London pop scene. His work with
Hendrix and Donovan defined their photographic images for all time.
In that can-do era - making the transition from still photography to
moving film was a natural progression. Karl had heard that there was
a suggestion to make a short film for television to promote Donovan's
forthcoming album. The idea was to make something a little longer than
the standard 3-minute promotional film (that we now call music videos)
but less than the length of a TV show. In essence a short impressionist
film, which would evoke the beauty of the album.
Ferris filmed the short "Wear Your Love Like Heaven" film in the late
spring of 1968 - a time when the echoes of the previous summer's halcyon
days still lingered on. As the year unfolded it became apparent that
the gentle world that Donovan exalted was being forgotten as the hippie
dream was trampled underfoot by the vengeful stomp of "tin soldiers and
Nixon coming..." "Kent State" and Neil Young's "Ohio" were just two
years away - but the mood was changing. This film reminds us of the
decent times - before Nixon's paranoid bile suffused our world...
After the film was aired on TV in 1968 - it was placed in a vault -
where it has remained until this festival rescued it!
1969, 50 min. Dir. Peter Neal. Progressive folk-rock ensemble The
Incredible String Band counted the Beatles, the Stones, the Who and
Zeppelin among their most ardent
admirers. Between 1966 and 1974, their exhilaratingly eclectic fusion
of rock, folk, Eastern psychedelia and numerous other styles influenced
all of the above artists and more. They pioneered world music 20 years
before the term was coined. The ultra-rare BE GLAD FOR THE SONG HAS NO
ENDING blended an equally diverse range of cinematic styles - including
dance, mime, vaudeville and hippie home-movie - into a Magical MYSTICAL
RETYING THE KNOT
1997, BBC, 30 min. Dir. Mike Alexander. This BBC-produced documentary
of the String Band uses a light touch to trace the enigmatic band's
history and captures their recent reunion concerts. Celebrity fans
Billy Connolly & Marianne Faithfull wax lyrically about the vastlly
underrated band. Mike and Robin offer fascinating insights into the
band's erratic career path - and Rose's recollections are even more
And on top of that there is the uplifting experience of seeing and
two geniuses who were the heart of the band - playing together again.
The Incredible String Band
WEAR YOUR LOVE LIKE HEAVEN
1968, 10 min. Dir. Karl Ferris. Ultra-rare! A surreal,
quintessentially-60's fantasy created by Hendrix and Donovan
photographer-turned-filmmaker Karl Ferris - to promote Donovan's 1968
"Gift From A Flower To A Garden" boxed set album.
Featuring Donovan and quintessential Mod-gal Jenny Boyd (The
Beatle-In-Law sister of Pattie Boyd) Shown once on television in 1968 -
then lost until this festival!!
WEDNESDAY JULY 12th 2000 - 9:15 PM
Double-Bill Festival Closer!
Director Murray Lerner In Person!!
Martin Lewis says: 5 Shags!
I have known filmmaker Murray Lerner for 15 years. We first met when I
was about to go to China with George Michael to produce the film of
Wham!'s forthcoming historic tour. Murray had directed the
Oscar-winning "From Mao To Mozart" - a documentary about the trip to
China of violinist Isaac Stern.
I thought that Murray might offer me some tips. if not about the
Chinese - then at least about filming legendary musicians!
I forget now what he told me about China and fiddle players (!) but I
found him to be a delightful character. Sardonic, cynical and painfully
astute. We became good friends. He started to tell me about his pet
project of the past 15 years - the completion of his film of the 1970
Isle Of Wight Festival.
As he showed me the footage I became very excited. It was astonishingly
good. But in some ways he was a prisoner of the passage of time. 15
years after an event was still too soon for the footage to be regarded
as classic. It was in that no-man's land between instant replay and
vintage perspective. It needed a few more years to pass before people
would fully appreciate the treasure chest of goodies he had.
He did ask me to come up with some ideas of how he could market the
film. I'm the sort of chap that always tries to come up with a fresh
spin on a project. My idea was to play down the musical aspect of the
film - and play up the brilliant behind-the-scenes aspect. Not in ratio
of what was presented on-screen - but in terms of how the film was
structured and positioned.
I figured that it would be a hard sell in those cynical times to have a
successful theatrical release of a concert picture that would be
perceived as simply 16 years late.
BUT... if one treated it almost as though it was a comedy film about a
rock festival becoming unhinged - a Spinal Tap-meets-The Producers - in
which you happened to have all these real musicians playing themselves -
then it might have potential to reach a wider market.
Murray liked the idea in the abstract - but was still - most admirably -
wanting to make the definitive festival film. Eventually - he pegged
the film to the then forthcoming 25th anniversary of the 1970 festival -
and with a commitment from the BBC - managed to complete the film.
It is a magnificent piece. You have the great music, the comedy of
backstage terrors and errors - and a stunning insight into What Went
Wrong with the sixties. And it wasn't too MUCH love as the blue meanie
reactionaries tell us now. If anything - it was too LITTLE love. And the
way that the brand-new hippie ideals could not instantly transcend
centuries of human greed and nastiness. Just too ingrained I guess....
The theatrical release of this film in the US was very limited and
certainly didn't do it justice. And though you can buy the film on
video - it really has to be seen on the big screen to be truly
Shortly after we met, Murray gave me a treat by screening his
rarely-seen 1967 film "Festival!" I was entranced. I'm an old hippie
and I love great folk music. This film was like a having all your
birthdays at once! One great artist after another. Most intriguing was
seeing the two Dylan sequences. The shy, gawky troubadour of 1964
becoming the cooly-detached interloper of 1965. In that year between -
Dylan had gained the carnal knowledge of rock 'n' roll. When he plugs
in - the whole world will change. And Dylan knows it...
1966, 98 min. Documentarian Murray Lerner filmed the
Newport Folk Festivals from 1963 - 1966, and blended the results into
Oscar-nominated mosaic of the seismic shifts that spawned folk-rock and
activism. Included is Bob Dylan's mesmerizing 1964 debut singing "Mr.
Tambourine Man" - and the historic scene just one year later at the '65
Festival as an
unrepentant Dylan plugged his electric guitar - in accompanied by Mike
Bloomfield, Al Kooper and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Lerner
pivotal moment with the purists reeling - and Dylan rocking. Stellar
performances from Joan Baez, Donovan, Judy Collins, Peter Seeger and
other denizens of the folk and roots blues scene are intercut with the
social tapestry of the Greenwich Village beatniks - then just one stack
of Marshall amps short of becoming the Woodstock generation.
MESSAGE TO LOVE: THE 1970 ISLE OF WIGHT FESTIVAL
1996, 128 min. The promoters
of the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival agreed to let filmmaker Lerner
document their landmark concert event, featuring diamond-hard
performances by the Who, Jimi
Hendrix, the Doors, Free, ELP, Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell and more
played to a festival record crowd of 600,000. However financial and
other difficulties prevented the film being completed. 25 years after
the festival, Lerner finally secured the funds to complete his film. He
brilliantly juxtaposed the legendary performances with the
outrageously-funny behind-the-scenes shenanigans of the promoters, and
the equally discordant antics of proto-anarchists among the crowd - to
etch a darkly-satirical portrait illustrating the downfall of the 60's
Conversation with director
Murray Lerner between films
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