The Complete Monterey Pop Festival (Remastered) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review

Previously released from Criterion in 2009, The Complete Monterey Pop Festival collects three D.A. Pennebaker film’s: Monterey Pop, Jimi Plays Monterey, and Shake! Otis at Monterey. That version was previously reviewed at this site.

On the weekend of June 16-18, the Monterey International Pop Music Festival helped usher in the “Summer of Love”. Filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker and his team captured the event, which was edited down to 79 minutes. The participants included The Mamas and the Papas (John Phillips was one of the co-founders), Canned Heat, Simon & Garfunkel, Hugh Masekela, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Eric Burdon and the Animals, The Who, Country Joe and the Fish, Otis Redding, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Ravi Shankar. While the concert was known for launching Janis Joplin’s solo career and Hendrix lighting his guitar in fire, outstanding performances are on display throughout the film.

According to the liner notes, “This new digital transfer of Monterey Pop was created in 16-bit 4K resolution on a Lasergraphics Director film scanner from the 16mm original A/B camera reversal at Metropolis Post in New York. The 4K digital restoration was undertaken at L’immagine Ritrovata in Bologna, Italy, with additional restoration performed at Criterion Post in New York.”

Comparing The Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreamin'”. which occurred at night, some hairs and dirt have been cleaned up. Colors appear more vibrant and objects look a touch sharper. There’s a increase in posterization and grain, as seen on the faces of an audience member and when Dennis Doherty talks to Cass Elliot during the bridge. During Big Brother’s “Ball and Chain” which occurred during an afternoon, improvements in color and sharpness are also apparent but to a lesser degree.

Using the same transfers from the previous release, “the high-definition digital transfers of Jimi Plays Monterey and Shake! Otis at Monterey were created on a Spirit DataCine from the 35mm duplicate negatives. The digital transfer of the outtake performances were created from 16mm reversal prints.

“Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI Film’s DRS, while Digital Vision Phoenix’s was for jitter, flicker, small dirt, noise, and grain management” on all discs but dirt and debris is still noticeable.

The audio also appears to be from the previous release. “The original stereo soundtrack for Monterey Pop was remastered from the 35mm magnetic track. The stereo and 5.1 surround materials for Monterey Pop, Jimi Plays Monterey, and Shake! Otis at Monterey were created by Eddie Kramer from the original analog 8-track tapes made at the concerts by Wally Heider, and conformed to picture by by Ted Hall at POP Sound in Santa Monica, California. The audio for the outtakes was mixed by Howard Frank and Dennis Dragon from the original concert recordings. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD.”

Kramer’s work cleans up the hiss heard in the original tracks and improves the bass. There’s a good dynamic range from Simon & Garfunkel’s gentle “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” accompanied by an acoustic guitar to The Who’s bombastic “My Generation”.

Essentially a collection of additional footage which didn’t make the final cut from a variety of groups, “The Outtakes” (129 min) are now available on a separate disc. The performances can be watched all together, and they are separated into three days and by name of the band.

New to the collection is Chiefs (HD, 20 min) a short by Pennebaker’s partner Richard Leacock. Filmed during a convention of American police officers in Hawaii, it offers a look at folks in the ’60s who had a different mindset than the counterculture. It originally played with Monterey Pop in theaters, which is a surprise since it’s a bit boring and certainly a buzzkill.

The Complete Monterey Pop Festival remains a marvelous time capsule. While the video upgrade and single extra aren’t worth a double-dip, this three-disc set is a must-own for fans of classic rock and the ’60s.

Gordon S. Miller

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this site. "I'm making this up as I go" - Indiana Jones

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