Pink Floyd-Live at Pompeii: The Director's Cut (1972)

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Released 15-Sep-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Interviews-Crew-Director Adrian Maben
Short Film-Original Concert film
Gallery-Photo
Gallery-Poster-Odds 'N' Sods - posters, reviews,bootlegs,roughs and covers
Gallery-Poster-Album Covers
Featurette-History of Pompeii
Song Lyrics
Credits
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1972
Running Time 91:40 (Case: 93)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Adrian Maben
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Roger Waters
David Gilmour
Nick Mason
Richard Wright
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Pink Floyd


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Danish
Dutch
Finnish
Hungarian
Polish
Norwegian
Swedish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Pink Floyd fans need hardly wait to read my review - pre-order this DVD now! You will not be disappointed....

    Pink Floyd Live At Pompeii is a fascinating and unique rock concert film, and with this DVD release we can finally appreciate the full story behind it for the very first time. The film was based on an original idea by director Adrian Maben, who before this project did not even know the band directly. Maben's idea was to do a concert film that was different to the traditional rock concert films, which to that point had always shown a performance in front of a large crowd. His feeling was that this had already been done many times before, and had reached its logical culmination with the Woodstock concert footage. Maben also wanted to make a much more artistic film, something that would draw on a wider theme than just the concert itself. He found the perfect setting for his project in the eerily quiet amphitheatre of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, a setting that was not only visually interesting, lending itself to a wealth of related, spooky historical images on which to draw for themes, but also an acoustically interesting environment in which the band could play and record. The concept of this concert film was that the band would play to absolutely no crowd - they would perform for the camera only, thus creating the very antithesis of a Woodstock-type concert film. Floyd's idea, in return, was that if they were going to play in such a unique and sonically-interesting environment, then they wanted to record the event professionally, which for them meant  using the very best technology available, a 24-track recording console.

    The Pompeii concert proper was filmed and recorded in October 1971, over a very brief 3 day filming period. To put this time into the context of Pink Floyd's development, this was after the recording of the album "Meddle" had been completed, but just before its release date in November 1971. Certainly it was before Pink Floyd had really broken big with "Dark Side Of The Moon", not even conceived at that point. The Pompeii concert shoot in October 1971 was followed up by Maben with a secondary shoot in Paris in early 1972, where the group were re-filmed performing the songs Mademoiselle Nobs (a live re-take on the song Seamus, as featured on "Meddle") and Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, as well as a chance to film the band being informally interviewed. By the time of this follow-up Paris shoot however, Floyd had already moved on from "Meddle" and had by then written and were already playing live a 40-minute set entitled "Eclipse" - later to become "Dark Side Of The Moon".

    The project Pink Floyd Live At Pompeii was filmed originally for television, but with wider distribution clearly also in mind. It was screened for the very first time at the Edinburgh Film Festival in September 1972 and due to its immediate critical acclaim was then officially premiered theatrically in London in December of that year. So, when the Pompeii concert project was first conceived and shot in late 1971, it was made in the context of Floyd promoting their then new album, "Meddle", but by the time of its eventual release to the public in December 1972 the group had moved on and had almost finished recording "Dark Side Of The Moon".

    So it was that in January of 1973 director Adrian Maben had another idea, to do some further filming of the group, this time in the studio using the modern recording equipment and techniques for which they had become well known. Maben's idea (yet another good one) was that it would provide a nice complement to the Pompeii footage and the Paris footage already in the can to see another side of the group, this time creating their music in the studio. His intention was that this new footage could then be inserted into Pink Floyd Live At Pompeii for a newly intended re-release of the film, under wider theatrical distribution. Now by luck, it so happened that when Maben was invited into Abbey Road Studios to film in January 1973, Pink Floyd were putting the finishing touches onto what was to them at the time just "the next album", but what was in fact ultimately to become the biggest-selling, most successful, most influential and longest-charting rock album of all time, "Dark Side Of The Moon". Of course, it was just pure luck that "Dark Side Of The Moon" happened to be the album being recorded by Floyd at that time - it could easily have been another album if it was another time. That these circumstances should conspire to enable us to have the opportunity to see this fascinating footage now in retrospect, as a fly on the wall as rock music history was being made, is incredible, and this footage alone should make this DVD compulsory viewing for any rock music fan.

    The director's cut was conceived by Maben in 2001 for this DVD release and he explains what the new cut is trying to achieve in the featurette interview extra on this disc. Before you get too excited though, no, the director's cut does not add any appreciable unseen Floyd footage or any extra songs - there was simply no extra footage available to add that either hadn't already been used or hadn't already been lost/destroyed long ago. Rather, this director's cut is Maben's attempt to "update" the artistic concept, principally by inserting some recent footage and animation of space, which he sourced mainly from the BBC series The Planets and from NASA animation. This sounds a decidedly dangerous thing to meddle with (pardon the pun), but actually it works exceedingly well. The new footage is not overused and it serves to break up the at-times tedious visual style of the original film to noted improvement. The interspersing of footage of the sun during Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, for example, complements the material very well. The other new idea is the adding of some computer-generated imagery during the final song, Echoes Part II, giving a rough animatic of the city of Pompeii being consumed with volcanic ash - fascinating!   All in all, this new director's cut doesn't add much in terms of length, but in my view it does succeed in delicately improving and updating the visual presentation of the piece.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Track Listing

1. Echoes Part I
2. Careful With That Axe, Eugene
3. A Saucerful Of Secrets
4. Us And Them
5. One Of These Days
6. Mademoiselle Nobs
7. Brain Damage
8. Set The Controls For Heart Of Sun
9. Echoes Part II

Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer is overall quite satisfactory, but does have problems.

    The DVD is presented in a 1.78:1 16x9 enhanced aspect ratiio which has been achieved by cropping down from the original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame. This may turn many fans off straight away, however I did not have a problem with it. Yes, there is the odd headshot close-up or shot of Nick Mason's drum kit that appears a little cramped as a result, but by and large I did not find the cropping to be distracting and I did not find that the transfer suffered for any appreciable loss of image or impact as a result of it. The other thing to note here is that the source material is 35mm film and has been reasonable well preserved, so the DVD producers were arguably more able to "get away with" the minor "zooming into" the image without detrimentally impacting the image quality. (This zooming in effect is much more problematic for a video source or even a 16mm film source, as it highlights noise or grain issues more appreciably).

    Luminance in this transfer is for the most part quite satisfactory. Resolution and shadow detail are sufficient and many scenes display a pleasingly well defined image. However, there is also a small amount of grain throughout, which takes the edge off and gives the image a little softness, restraining it from being a truly spectacular transfer. These comments are made in respect of the concert/interview footage proper. There are also several pick-up shots used for the surrounding city and harbour of Pompeii (which may even be stock footage) and the quality of these pick-up shots is more variable, with grain at times more apparent. As an example of the variability in these shots, see for example the amount of grain apparent in the wide-shot sweep of the city starting at 20:19, and yet the shot that immediately follows this is in contrast very sharp. In any event, these pick-up shots are few and far between and the quality of the principal shoot itself is much better.

    Colours in this transfer are muted, as captured at the source, with the landscape of the Pompeii amphitheatre itself dominated by a very uninspiring palette of dull brown dirt, dull grey sandstone walls and dull dying green grass. The Floyd don't help much by wearing the dull, drab clothing that was de rigueur for rock bands of the day. There is some nice colouring used to good contrast effect with the occasional shots of the Pompeii city and its eerie artwork, but mostly the visual concentrates on the drab-coloured amphitheatre itself. The new director's cut does intersperse some bolder coloured animation sequences of space probes and planetary bodies, and the bold bright oranges in the shots of the sun used during Set The Controls for example provides much needed colour punctuation to good effect. In summary, all source colouring is captured faithfully in this DVD transfer. Blacks are solid and skin tones are generally fine. Some of the interview footage is in black and white but displays healthy shades and contrast.

    Film artefacts score well, with only the odd very minor and unobtrusive film fleck to note. Unfortunately, the film-to-video transfer is let down badly by some distracting instances of aliasing, manifesting prominently in wide shots of the amphitheatre (15:35), the Floyd's speakers (5:00 and 11:45) and amplifiers (40:12 and 43:11) and guitar strings (60:02). In fact, anything with fine detailed lines threatens to break out in this transfer, which is highly distracting. Thankfully, no MPEG artefacts are noted.

    A total of eight subtitle languages are provided on this disc and I reviewed the English stream. The subtitling itself is relatively accurate and well timed, with the font clear and easy to read. Frustratingly however, this stream provides a subtitle of the spoken word only, and so remains stubbornly absent throughout three quarters of the feature, only springing to life for the interview and studio segments. It does not provide a subtitle of the song lyrics, which in my view renders this subtitling pretty darn pointless for this particular feature.

    The disc is RSDL-formatted, but with the main feature apparently on its own layer and the extras (logically) on the other, as no layer change time was noted.   

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer is very clear, but the source recording lacks a little dynamic impact.

    There is only one audio track, being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround mix (at 224 Kb/s).

    Vocal/dialogue quality is strong in both the song mixes and the interview/studio footage. The only time I struggled to make out some lines was during a bit of the informal band footage, where the band is goofing around and talking over each other, but there are no issues when the band members are being spoken to and responding to questions individually in the interviews. The vocals in the songs are all clear and easy to make out; in fact, I have never heard Careful With That Axe, Eugene sung so clearly! There are no issues with audio sync.

    The music is well mixed and transferred to DVD, but it does show limitations of the recording technology of the day and the constraints imposed by the recording conditions. Certainly the acoustics of the Pompeii amphitheatre can be heard contributing, for better or for worse, to the mix of several songs, giving them a unique characteristic, for example the reverberations lent to the repeated echoes in Echoes Part I and to the rumble of the drums in A Saucerful Of Secrets. Highlights in this transfer for me include the nice clean bass (as in Echoes Part I and Set The Controls), some clean percussion (Set The Controls) and clear vocals (Careful With That Axe, Eugene). However on the minus side I found the mixes of One Of These Days and Careful With That Axe, Eugene to be crowded and not nearly as impacting in dynamic range as they might. The former song remains relatively front-centre weighted and lacking in substantive bass and Roger's "primal scream" in the latter comes across here more like a suppressed whinge! In addition, the mix of Us And Them is somewhat harsh, but OK let's put this one down to it not being the final album mix at that point. All in all, a decent enough quality audio mix that will showcase clean vocals, some nice bass and some decent percussion in parts, but a mix that fails to really kick you with dynamic impact. OK, it was a 1971 recording, after all.

    I noted a couple of very minor sound clicks/pops at 39:02 and 39:16, but otherwise this is a clean recording, and pleasingly for a recording of this age it is not marred by excessive audio hiss.

    I found the 2.0 Surround mix to be well suited and did not rue the absence of a full-on 5.1 mix for this material. The surrounds are used fairly constantly to varying degrees of volume but always added at least subtly with echoes or other ambience. They are also used more prominently to accentuate the guitars in Eugene, the organ in Saucerful, the wind at the end of One Of These Days and the vocal and instrument echoes in Set The Controls.

    The subwoofer is called upon to assist the front mains for bass, organ and rumbles in some songs to good effect, but it does not get a real workout.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are two excellent extras that really do enhance the understanding of this feature, a couple of text-based extras that give some added context, and then a bunch of fillers to round it off.

Menu

    All menus are animated and presented in the correct aspect ratio and audio specs as commensurate with the feature. All menu screens come with a brief audio underscore, before falling silent. I found the menus to be nicely, but minimally, themed. The disc first commences with a language selection menu and from there takes you into a main menu.

    There are several irritations with the menu system:  1/ it is extremely slow between screens (although much quicker/easier to navigate on my DVD ROM than on my DVD player), 2/ the layout with the cursor buttons makes navigation intra-screen sometimes non-intuitive, and 3/ the disc uses unconventional symbols to indicate the "back to last screen" and "back to main menu" options - these symbols are bizarre and non-intuitive and will have you scratching your head for a while at first until it finally becomes clear. In fact, one of these strange symbols I still can't figure out! - see discussion of Poster Gallery, and some of the other extras below.

    All the extras on this disc are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 (with only one exception noted below) and with 2 channel audio (where appropriate).

Featurette: Interview with Adrian Maben (24:11)

    This is the best extra. It is a newly recorded interview with the man who conceived and directed the film. Maben is passionate and great to listen to. He explains issues such as: how he came to conceive the project and the location of Pompeii and then pitch it to the Floyd, how and why he wanted to make a different kind of concert film, the logistical issues of filming, experiences dealing with the band members, the follow-up shoots in Paris and then again in Abbey Road studios for the re-release, his reaction to the project looking back now, and finally an explanation of the changes made for the director's cut. All of this information is highly insightful and I would strongly recommend watching this extra before the main feature, as it will give you a much better understanding of the context of the project and what it is trying to achieve. Indeed, I would put this down as a prime example of the benefits that the DVD medium can provide, as the exposition of this additional material significantly enhances an understanding of the feature over watching previous VHS and LD releases.

    The video and audio quality of this extra is high; it is a modern recording boasting modern quality production standards.

Original Concert Film (61:46)

    This extra is presented in its correct original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame. Note the comment above that the new DVD transfer has been cropped down to a 1.78:1 image from this original full frame - this can be verified by comparing, among other scenes, the split-screen shots used in Echoes Part I or One Of These Days between the original and new versions.

    In case you are wondering (as I was originally) why the run time for this original concert film is only 61 minutes, and not the 80-odd minutes you are probably used to seeing on VHS and LD, bear in mind that there were two releases of the film Pink Floyd Live At Pompeii, the original limited theatrical release in December 1972 - the version you see here as an extra - and then a wider re-release around, I understand, late 1973/early 1974, which included the additional Abbey Road studio footage. The VHS and LD versions you would have seen are of the re-release, not the original release, and so the inclusion of the original release here now as an extra on the DVD will be very much welcomed by Pink Floyd fans. Fans who find the cropping down of the original source image to 1.78:1 for the new director's cut will also be pleased to have the benefit of seeing the original source footage in its full frame original aspect ratio.

    The audio quality of this extra is fine, being largely the same 2.0 Surround mix as used in the feature. However the video quality is very disappointing, being marred by severe aliasing, distracting to the point of making this extra almost unwatchable in parts. As two of the worst examples, see the long slow opening pull-in shot of the amphitheatre at the beginning of Echoes Part I (from around 3:30 to 6:20) and the slow dolly track shot around the band from 11:03 to 14:50. Then, compare these same sequences to the director's cut feature. Whilst there is some aliasing in the director's cut version also, it is not nearly as prominent or distracting as in the original version extra. (It is worthwhile noting that the director's cut benefits from some new edits and cutaways inserted during these sequences to break up the footage, whereas the original version does not have these edits, so highlighting the problem over longer interrupted tracking shots.)  If you can get over these annoying breakouts of aliasing, then the quality of the rest of the video transfer on this extra is fine.

    Note that unlike the main feature, this extra has no subtitles available.

Photo Gallery (23 shots)

    Mostly just shots from the feature, rather than any new behind-the-scenes shots. In addition, some shots are repetitious, so this extra is just a filler.

    There is a strange blue symbol that appears with this extra and some of the other picture-based/text-based extras discussed below. I can't figure out what this strange blue symbol is meant to achieve. On my review disc, selecting this icon takes you through a few images of Nobs (the dog), before taking you to a completely random extra in any one of the eight languages, so you might be taken straight to the Pompeii history text screen with the text written in Polish, for example! What da?!.....  Selecting this blue icon on any of the screens on which it appears seems to have the same bizarre and useless effect.

Odds 'N' Sods

     This is a gallery broken down into Posters (3 screens), Press/Reviews (5 text screens), Bootlegs (5 screens, being covers of previous bootleg releases), Roughs (3 screens of what would appear to be pre-visualisation drawings) and Previous Covers (4 screen shots of the covers of previous VHS and LD releases). The Press/Reviews articles are quite informative and add value; the others are all of only limited interest.

    These extras include the mysterious blue symbol of Nobs the dog again!

Album Graphics

    This extra gives a total of 9 screen shots, showing albums covers or inner sleeve shots for the albums "A Saucerful Of Secrets" (1968), "Ummagumma" (1969), "Meddle" (1971) and "Dark Side Of The Moon" (1973). Several other Floyd albums since 1967 are ignored (presumably because no material performed in the Pompeii film was taken from them). Amongst the nine screen shots included here, only one is unusual and of mild interest, being a cover of the original Russian album release of "Dark Side Of The Moon". Otherwise, this extra is pure filler.

Pompeii Map/History

    This one is worthwhile; it shows 4 text screens giving a brief history of Pompeii and then 3 screens showing a map of where it is, which is helpful for anyone who didn't know, in order to help put the main feature into context.

Lyrics

    This extra provides the lyrics for Set The Controls and Echoes only. The lyrics to Us And Them and Brain Damage are not included presumably as these songs don't appear in full form in the film. As an extra, I found this one to be pretty frustrating, when what would have been much more preferable would have been to include the lyrics in subtitle stream form so you can read them as the feature is playing. Providing two only text screens as an afterthought at the end is pretty pointless in my opinion.

Credits

    3 screens.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This DVD is scheduled for release in Region 2 on 20th October - curiously, this is a good month after our Region 4 release date (17 September), so it would appear we are the first market worldwide to see this release. I cannot see a release date scheduled as yet for Region 1, but I'm sure it isn't far away.

    From my research, the upcoming Region 2 release will be identically specified to the Region 4 (and indeed this makes sense, as our disc is multi-zoned, confirming an intention for uniform worldwide release), so therefore opt for the local release for price, PAL resolution, and the earlier release date.

   Additional note 31/8/03: 
I am informed that this title was in fact officially released in Korea in June and in Brazil in July, but both of these releases were apparently in NTSC and in any event R4 is first off the blocks before the two major markets of R1 and R2.

Summary

   Pink Floyd Live At Pompeii is an amalgam of three different sources, the story of which is now made much clearer with the benefit of the extras provided on this DVD. The original October 1971 concert in the eerie setting of Pompeii is coupled with some fascinating early 1972 footage of the band being interviewed (this footage presaging some of the problems that would later manifest between band members) and some even more fascinating fly-on-the-wall footage of the band in early 1973, as they put the finishing touches onto what was to them then just "the next album", but what was to ultimately become the most defining rock album of all time.

    This fascinating material is presented on DVD well, in newly updated and improved format from the director and with great video and audio transfer efforts (hampered only by deficiencies inherent in the source recordings). The extras are highly insightful, once you sift them out from the fillers.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Abberton (read my bio)
Wednesday, August 27, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using Component output
DisplayToshiba 117cm widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderYamaha RXV-1000. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationElektra Home Theatre surround power amp
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora III mains, Orpheus Centaurus 1.0 centre, Velodyne CT150 sub and B&W DM303 rears

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Comments (Add)
Yeah baby! - Andrew Hutchison REPLY POSTED
Pink Floyd - rob harrison
Great DVD - jasenko@stelex.com.au
It arrive, I looked, I listend, I'm sending it back - rob harrison