Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Motels" Should Be Obscene But Not Heard

Cleveland Press November 26, 1971

"200 Motels" may pass for sophistication in some quarters but sophomoric is a better description. It is a mixture of rock music and fantasy with very little story line.

Most of the telling is scatological with obscenities passing for both dialog and song lyrics. The humor and the message are mostly groin oriented. This may be the first time a lengthy discussion of genitals has been set to music.

The title refers to the world inhabited by a rock music group in a typical tour. The Mothers of Invention are featured. Ringo Starr appears in a cameo part made up to represent Frank Zappa who conceived this mish-mash.

Others are Theodore Bikel who has several roles but is mostly a master of ceremonies, and a couple of girls who play groupies, or maybe they are groupies.

Most of the time the performers are standing on a stage in front of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra which figures in some of the more elaborate musical scoring and which must be in greater financial trouble than most orchestras.

Studio sets are of the paint and cardboard variety, which is keeping with the fantasy, and there are animated sequences. The entire thing was made in England, shot on color videotape and transferred to film.

The result is an optical trip, a self-indulgent playing with technique. The electronic process is more flexible than film and more easily allows for fancy fadeouts, color reversal and melting images. It's more annoying than interesting.