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200 Motels (1971)

Taking a leaf out of the cute anarchy of A Hard Day’s Night (1964), directors Frank Zappa and Tony Palmer invest Zappa’s own music (performed by the Mothers of Invention) with animation, sketches and jokes, much of it skewed towards a comic critique of touring, rock-band style.

Zappa’s group live their plastic lives in the mythical town of Centerville, amidst a gaggle of gargoylish groupies, their creative juices sapped by Zappa and his doppelganger, Ringo Starr (in Zappa goatee and moustache), who float in and out of the action like a couple of malevolent spirits.

Zappa and the Mothers have a series of surreal experiences that drive them to the brink of madness as they go on tour across America – occasionally accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

As with Zappa’s own brand of guitar hysteria, many of the interludes are imaginative, funny or mad (sometimes all three) and depend on the viewer having some knowledge of the fab world of pop.

Zappa was the one rock star who could make noise fun. His libretto, by the way, was declared obscene, and so what was conceived as a live show became this film instead.

Larry the Dwarf
Ringo Starr
Frank Zappa
Mothers of Invention
Rance Muhammitz
Theodore Bikel
Bif Debris
Don Preston
Cowboy Burtram
Jimmy Carl Black
Hot Nun
Keith Moon

Frank Zappa
Tony Palmer