Wattstax

( 3 )

Overview

Sub-billed as a "30th Anniversary Special Edition," the 2004 DVD release of Wattstax restored to circulation the film based around the 1972 Wattstax concert, mixing musical footage with scenes from the African-American Watts community and Richard Pryor comic routines. The DVD version is a notable improvement on previous prints on several scores. The soundtrack has been remastered in Dolby 5.1 digital; however, of greater importance, the original director's cut has been used. Actually, this doesn't change the ...
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DVD (Special Edition / Wide Screen)
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Overview

Sub-billed as a "30th Anniversary Special Edition," the 2004 DVD release of Wattstax restored to circulation the film based around the 1972 Wattstax concert, mixing musical footage with scenes from the African-American Watts community and Richard Pryor comic routines. The DVD version is a notable improvement on previous prints on several scores. The soundtrack has been remastered in Dolby 5.1 digital; however, of greater importance, the original director's cut has been used. Actually, this doesn't change the movie much, but there's one crucial difference. Legal reasons prevented the use of Isaac Hayes' concert sequence, including "Theme From Shaft" and "Soulsville," in the original release, where a different song "Rolling Down the Mountain" filmed on a sound stage to mimic the Wattstax environment had to be substituted. Now "Theme From 'Shaft'" is back where it belongs complete with an introduction by Jesse Jackson, as well as "Soulsville." "Rolling Down the Mountain" is still present, too, though only as one of the supplementary extras. The main bonus features are the two commentary tracks, one featuring Chuck D of Public Enemy and soul historian Rob Bowman; the other track contains quite a multitude of voices, among them Isaac Hayes, Stax executive Al Bell, director Mel Stuart, cameramen, Little Milton, and members of the Bar-Kays, Soul Children, and the Temprees. The commentaries are worthwhile and informative but might occasionally frustrate some viewers in that there's actually not too much direct observation of the onscreen action. The Bowman-Chuck D track focuses on the musical and social significance of the event with some rather long pauses at times. The other track is more centered on first-hand memories of Stax and the Wattstax concert with the use of so many commentators necessitating a pseudo-narrator that briefly identifies each voice prior to most of the observations; it's a necessary device, perhaps, but doesn't lend itself to the smoothest of flows. Other less interesting extras include a longer clip of Albert King's song from the film, "I'll Play the Blues for You" though this version still doesn't seem absolutely complete, and trailers for both the original 1973 release and the 2003 special-edition theatrical re-release. Altogether, it's still a rich viewing experience both for the opportunity to see some '70s soul performers in their prime and for the film's presentation of a slice of African-American urban life of the era.
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Special Features

Closed Caption; Audio and video commentaries by rap activist/musicologist Chuck D and music historian Rob Bowman; Audio commentary by Isaac Hayes, director Mel Stuart, executive producer Al Bell, and others; Rolling Down a Mountain: Isaac Hayes performs the original 1973 version's finale; Complete Albert King performance of I'll Play the Blues for You; Original 1973 and special-edition 2003 trailers
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Richie Unterberger
The 1972 Wattstax festival was the biggest soul concert ever, and it follows that the film of the same name is one of the most notable documents of soul music. It includes performances (usually very good ones) by some big and not-so-big names of the early-'70s scene: Isaac Hayes, the Staple Singers, Johnnie Taylor, Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, the Bar-Kays, bluesmen Albert King and Little Milton, and on down to more minor but worthwhile artists like the Rance Allen Group and the Emotions. It's not quite an eclectic across-the-board sampling of top-line soul music, since all of the acts were associated with the Stax label (hence the event title Wattstax). But as Stax was the biggest soul label of the day except for Motown, that's not such a notable limitation. Actual music from Wattstax is only about half the movie, however, as the filmmakers took a chance and integrated quite a bit of footage of African-American life from the streets of Watts (often centered around cinema verite monologues and dialogues) as well as numerous comic routines by Richard Pryor and a few musical numbers not staged at the concert itself. While this to a certain extent guarantees an uneven quality, it also makes it more than a mere concert film, but also serving as a reflection of early-'70s African-American urban life -- of which music, of course, was a big part. That's not to say the music fan won't find a number of memorable sequences here, like the outrageously costumed Bar-Keys' movie-stealing "Son of Shaft"; the Emotions' lovely gospel number, filmed inside a church; a sweaty Johnnie Taylor in a nightclub; and a chicken-squawking Rufus Thomas, who manages to avoid a festival stoppage when dancers overrun the field by coaxing everyone back into the stands with rap-like rhymes. Unfortunately, due to legal problems, the grand finale of Isaac Hayes doing "Theme From 'Shaft'" had to be cut from the initial release (another song filmed on a sound stage mimicking Wattstax had to be substituted), but Hayes' original concert sequence is restored in the DVD version.
Village Voice - Laura Sinagra
Not only documents the soul-titan concert held at L.A. Coliseum seven years after Watts burned, but illuminates the rue and kinesis of a city in full Black Power flower.
Washington Post
A candid, colorful and deeply meaningful sociocultural time capsule, one that captured the black community at the height of its political energy and optimism. Ann Hornaday

A candid, colorful and deeply meaningful sociocultural time capsule, one that captured the black community at the height of its political energy and optimism. Ann Hornaday
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 9/7/2004
  • UPC: 085393499723
  • Original Release: 1972
  • Rating:

  • Source: Warner Home Video
  • Region Code: 1
  • Presentation: Special Edition / Wide Screen
  • Language: English
  • Time: 1:43:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 13,606

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
The Staple Singers
Bar-Kays
Isaac Hayes
Luther Ingram
Jesse Jackson Participant
Albert King
Richard Pryor
Roebuck "Pops" Staples Himself
Johnnie Taylor
Rufus Thomas
Kim Weston
Technical Credits
Mel Stuart Director, Producer
John A. Alonzo Cinematographer
Larry Clark Cinematographer
Robert Lambert Editor
Robert Marks Cinematographer
Larry Shaw Producer
Charles C. Washburn Asst. Director
Richard Wells Sound/Sound Designer
Richard Wells Sound/Sound Designer
David L. Wolper Producer
Roderick Young Cinematographer
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Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Watts 1972 [5:22]
2. Setting Up [3:07]
3. We the People: Arrival [2:36]
4. Realizing You're Black [3:39]
5. I Am Somebody! [3:00]
6. Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing [2:17]
7. The Mountaintop [1:58]
8. Church; Lyin' on the Truth [3:01]
9. Peace Be Still [:00]
10. Old Time Religion [4:21]
11. Respect Yourself [3:22]
12. Black vs. Colored [4:29]
13. Son of Shaft [2:18]
14. Steal it or Take It [4:40]
15. I'll Play the Blues for You [3:11]
16. Walking the Backstreets and Crying [3:54]
17. Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone [3:14]
18. The Blue Note [3:59]
19. I May Not Be What You Want [3:10]
20. Brothers and Sisters [1:20]
21. Pick Up the Pieces [1:48]
22. Black Men vs. Black Women [2:12]
23. The Breakdown [2:32]
24. Do the Funky Chicken [4:57]
25. Curfew [7:57]
26. If Lovin' You Is Wrong [1:21]
27. Messin' Around; the Lineup [3:49]
28. Theme From Shaft [2:55]
29. Power Shake [4:52]
30. Soulsville [1:15]
31. End Credits [3:19]
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Menu

Side #1 --
   Play
   Scene Selections
   Special Features
      Commentary by Rap Activist and Musicologist Chuck D. and Music Historian and Author Rob Bowman
      Commentary by Director Mel Stuart, Director of Photography Lary Clark, Al Bell and Isaac Hayes
      "Rolling Down a Mountain" - the Original 1973 Ending Performance by Isaac Hayes
      Uncut Albert King Performance
      Vocals Direct From the Soul
      The 1973 Theatrical Trailer
      2003 Special Edition Trailer
   Languages
      English 5.0
      English 2.0
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 3 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    An absolute treasure! A must have for every American

    This is a great snap shot of Black America in the 70s. This is not so much an examination into the secret lives of Black Americans but rather the ability to peek in on the mood, intellect and beauty of this American people.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews