Frank Zappa's highly acclaimed film from 1979 includes over three hours of outrageous Zappa musical performances and unique & bizarre Claymation from Bruce Bickford. This is the full-length version of the film as it premiered at the Victoria Theatre in T Touted as "a movie about people who do stuff that is not normal," Frank Zappa's Baby Snakes
chronicles a late-'70s Halloween stand in New York City (a zany enough proceeding in its own right) with digressions throughout the first half for backstage antics, band interviews, and some outlandish clay animation from Bruce Bickford, with whose work Zappa was obviously smitten. Onstage, Zappa is a live wire, the audience is appropriately rambunctious, and the band--an especially potent incarnation of the famous Mothers of Invention--is tight as could be. The film amounts to a three-hour musical carnival whose participants lack any trace of artistic or personal inhibition. Zappa, who died in 1993, always worked with consummate musicians, and Baby Snakes
showcases the cream of the crop: Terry Bozzio (one of the greatest drummers ever to command a kit), bassist Patrick O'Hearn, keyboard wizard Tommy Mars, and even pop chameleon Adrian Belew.
The DVD packaging, with its deluxe miniature dossier on Zappa and the film, is fabulous, and the sound and picture seem about as good as they could be, under the influence--that is, the circumstances. Undeniable are Zappa's intelligence and charisma, which flicker and blaze every second he's on screen. The progressive-leaning rock and jazz music is frequently interrupted for meandering spoken interludes and is certainly not for all tastes. But Frank Zappa was a force to behold, and Baby Snakes offers a unique cultural education for anyone bold enough to give it a spin. "Without deviation," Zappa wrote, "progress is not possible." Baby Snakes is one of Frank's most fervent contributions to progress. --Michael Mikesell