200 Motels

By John Weisman

Rolling Stone, December 23, 1971

200 Motels
directed by Frank Zappa

United Artists

Maybe Frank Zappa and Dennis Hopper should get it on together and make a film. That way, we wouldn’t be subjected to the pretentious crap that they put out on two separate occasions, but could sit through one dreadful, boring, execrable flick and be done with it all.

200 Motels is, in a word, bad. It’s like watching the out-takes of a Mothers album. There is absolutely no substance to it at all. The film is,  one gathers, the perverted, distorted vision of what being on tour is like. And in the mythical town of Centerville, Zappa’s group live their plastic lives 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 at the action like a couple of malevolent spirits.

Sure, some of the techniques are interesting. The fusion of colors, for example, that, along with UV film and closed-circuit television, create many of the acidy distortions on the screen are inventive. A man is striped, for example, by a floor pattern that wraps itself around him. Or in an animated cartoon sequence, one of the group stows everything in the motel room in a case, and is finally reduced to getting high by smoking a towel.

All in all, it’s a visually-exciting bore of a film; a movie that, for all the brouhaha about it, induces somnambulism rather than excitement. 200 Motels is, ultimately, a big drag.