Baby Snakes (1979)

R | 166 mins | Performance, Experimental, Documentary | 21 December 1979

Director:

Frank Zappa

Producer:

Frank Zappa

Cinematographers:

Phil Parmet, Dick Pearce, Rob Leacock

Production Designer:

John Williams

Production Company:

Intercontinental Absurdities
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HISTORY

       Although Frank Zappa is credited for the music in the film, the songs performed are not identified in the screen credits.
       In press materials at AMPAS library, director, producer and musician Frank Zappa (1940-1993) declared that the film “is a tribute to people who do stuff that is not normal, for, without the activities of the Not Normal people in every town, life would be pretty boring…and the way things are now, we could use a few laughs…” In an interview for the 25 Nov 1979 NYT about rock stars who use films as an extension of their music career, Zappa stated that editing Baby Snakes was similar to composing music in the sense that certain scenes reoccur like a theme in symphony.
       Zappa’s previous efforts as a filmmaker included the feature film 200 Motels (1971, see entry) and the 1974 television special for KCET, A Token of His Extreme, which also featured Bruce Bickford’s animation.
       According to a 26 Dec 1979 Var article, Zappa financed and distributed the film with his own money, at a cost of approximately $500,000. After viewing twenty minutes, Polytel, part of the PolyGram group of entertainment companies, offered to finance the project in exchange for global rights to Zappa’s records. At the time, Zappa Records had a contract with PolyGram’s label, Phonogram/Mercury, for rights in the U.S. and Canada, but Zappa was unwilling to “mortgage” his music career and extend that arrangement worldwide. According to Zappa, the PolyGram offer was too modest, considering that his records generally sold more copies abroad.
       The film ... More Less

       Although Frank Zappa is credited for the music in the film, the songs performed are not identified in the screen credits.
       In press materials at AMPAS library, director, producer and musician Frank Zappa (1940-1993) declared that the film “is a tribute to people who do stuff that is not normal, for, without the activities of the Not Normal people in every town, life would be pretty boring…and the way things are now, we could use a few laughs…” In an interview for the 25 Nov 1979 NYT about rock stars who use films as an extension of their music career, Zappa stated that editing Baby Snakes was similar to composing music in the sense that certain scenes reoccur like a theme in symphony.
       Zappa’s previous efforts as a filmmaker included the feature film 200 Motels (1971, see entry) and the 1974 television special for KCET, A Token of His Extreme, which also featured Bruce Bickford’s animation.
       According to a 26 Dec 1979 Var article, Zappa financed and distributed the film with his own money, at a cost of approximately $500,000. After viewing twenty minutes, Polytel, part of the PolyGram group of entertainment companies, offered to finance the project in exchange for global rights to Zappa’s records. At the time, Zappa Records had a contract with PolyGram’s label, Phonogram/Mercury, for rights in the U.S. and Canada, but Zappa was unwilling to “mortgage” his music career and extend that arrangement worldwide. According to Zappa, the PolyGram offer was too modest, considering that his records generally sold more copies abroad.
       The film opened at the Victoria Theatre in New York City on 21 Dec 1979, according to the 21 Dec 1979 NYT review. During FilmEx 81, the tenth anniversary of the Los Angeles International Film Exposition, the film played as a midnight screening on 17 Apr 1981, as noted in the program’s catalog.
       According to a 9 Jun 1987 LAT item, the film was the first videocassette release by Honker, Zappa’s home video label established in 1987.
      The following acknowledgment is included in the end credits after “The Cast” list: “and probably lots more people whose names we couldn’t find out, but whose assistance in making this film is greatly appreciated.” After the end credits, a written statement appears, “Give Yourself Up... You Are Completely Surrounded by Policemen If You Come Out With Your Hands Up, We Guarantee You Won’t Be Harmed.”
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
27 Dec 1979
p. 3, 6.
Los Angeles Times
13 Jan 1980
Calendar, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
17 Apr 1981
Section G, p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
9 Jun 1987
Section G, p. 1.
New York Times
25 Nov 1979
Section D, p. 1, 11.
New York Times
21 Dec 1979
p. 18.
New York Times
7 Dec 1993
Section B, p. 12.
Variety
26 Dec 1979
p. 13, 41, 45.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Intercontinental Absurdities Presents
A Film by Frank Zappa
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Photog
Photog
Lighting
Loader
Loader
Grip
House elec
House elec
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles and opticals
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Road mgr and human trombone
Iron sausage
Stage crew
Stage crew
Stage crew
Stage crew
Stage crew
Stage crew
Stage crew
Stage crew
Stage crew
Stage crew
Stage crew
Stage crew
Stage crew
Asst
Prod
Prod
Runner
Runner
Runner
Runner
ANIMATION
SOURCES
MUSIC
"Black Napkins," written by Frank Zappa
"Black Page Number Two," written by Frank Zappa
"King Kong," written by Frank Zappa
+
MUSIC
"Black Napkins," written by Frank Zappa
"Black Page Number Two," written by Frank Zappa
"King Kong," written by Frank Zappa
"Pound for a Brown," written by Frank Zappa.
+
SONGS
"Baby Snakes," written by Frank Zappa
"Bobby Brown Goes Down," written by Frank Zappa
"Broken Hearts Are for Assholes," written by Frank Zappa
+
SONGS
"Baby Snakes," written by Frank Zappa
"Bobby Brown Goes Down," written by Frank Zappa
"Broken Hearts Are for Assholes," written by Frank Zappa
"City of Tiny Lights," written by Frank Zappa
"Camarillo Brillo," written by Frank Zappa
"Cone Head," written by Frank Zappa
"Dinah Moe Humm," written by Frank Zappa
"Disco Boy," written by Frank Zappa
"Flakes," written by Frank Zappa
"I Have Been In You," written by Frank Zappa
"I'm So Cute," written by Frank Zappa
"Jones Crusher," written by Frank Zappa
"Muffin Man," written by Frank Zappa
"Poodle Lecture," written by Frank Zappa
"Punky's Whips," written by Frank Zappa
"San Berd'ino," written by Frank Zappa
"Titties and Beer," written by Frank Zappa.
+
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
21 December 1979
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 21 December 1979 at Victoria Theatre
Production Date:
Concert performance at Palladium in New York City: late October 1977
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Color by Deluxe®
Duration(in mins):
166
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

The documentary film revolves around concert and rehearsal footage of musician Frank Zappa and his band performing at New York City's Palladium during Halloween 1977. Clay animation sequences by artist Bruce Bickford, who also discusses his process and inspiration, appear throughout the film. Additional scenes consist of backstage and onstage antics with the band and their fans in the audience. Vocal and instrumental numbers include (in the order of their appearance): "Baby Snakes," "Poodle Lecture," "City Of Tiny Lights," "Flakes," "Pound for a Brown," "I Have Been In You," "Disco Boy," "King Kong," "Bobby Brown Goes Down," "Cone Head," "I’m So Cute," "Titties And Beer," "The Black Page #2," "Jones Crusher," "Broken Hearts Are for Assholes," "Punky’s Whips," "Dinah Moe Humm," "Camarillo Brillo," "Muffin Man," "San Ber'dino," and "Black ... +


The documentary film revolves around concert and rehearsal footage of musician Frank Zappa and his band performing at New York City's Palladium during Halloween 1977. Clay animation sequences by artist Bruce Bickford, who also discusses his process and inspiration, appear throughout the film. Additional scenes consist of backstage and onstage antics with the band and their fans in the audience. Vocal and instrumental numbers include (in the order of their appearance): "Baby Snakes," "Poodle Lecture," "City Of Tiny Lights," "Flakes," "Pound for a Brown," "I Have Been In You," "Disco Boy," "King Kong," "Bobby Brown Goes Down," "Cone Head," "I’m So Cute," "Titties And Beer," "The Black Page #2," "Jones Crusher," "Broken Hearts Are for Assholes," "Punky’s Whips," "Dinah Moe Humm," "Camarillo Brillo," "Muffin Man," "San Ber'dino," and "Black Napkins." +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.