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Category:    Home > Reviews > Rockumentary > Rolling Stones Rock & Roll Circus

The Rolling Stones - Rock And Roll Circus (Concert)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B-     Film: B



Shot December 11, 1968 and shelved until it resurfaced in the mid-1990s, Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s Rock And Roll Circus finally comes to DVD in a good single-DVD edition.  Though The Rolling Stones were the hosts and used as the intended selling point, this is an all-star affair, featuring the following acts doing the following songs:


1)     Song For Jeffrey – Jethro Tull

2)     A Quick One While He’s Away – The Who

3)     Ain’t That A Lot Of Love? – Taj Mahal

4)     Something Better – Marianne Faithfull

5)     Yer Blues – The Dirty Mac (John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Mitch Mitchell)

6)     Whole Lotta Yoko – Yoko Ono & Ivry Gitlis joining The Dirty Mac

and by The Rolling Stones:

7)     Jumping Jack Flash

8)     Parachute Woman

9)     No Expectations

10) You Can’t Always Get What You Want

11)  Sympathy For The Devil

12)  Salt Of The Earth



Though the film only lasts just over an hour, there are some very valuable moments and many are one-of-a-kind events.  Not noted are some actual circus numbers, but they are purposely oddball and add to the uniqueness of what Lindsay-Hogg and the band was trying to do.  The best thing is that all the music performances, even the oft-criticized one with Ono, are all the artists at their best and is all top rate.  This is a Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band-inspired project and succeeds much better than most of the imitators, Lennon or no Lennon.


The full frame image originated on 16mm negative, which had been held by one of the Stones reps until he passed away and his widow found the footage.  Remarkably, it held up and did not deteriorate to the point of being lost.  Stones co-founder and lead singer Mick Jagger had the film shelved because he did not like the way he looked.  It was issued 1995 in 35mm blow-up prints on a very limited basis, then came out on video for a time.  This DVD has a transfer that is somewhat color consistent, but does not look High Definition in nature and has some troubles throughout that show digital hazing and even discoloration from the telecine work.  This is more obvious, the larger the screen shown on and was the same exact transfer shown via satellite in a special theatrical event at the Regal chain.  The great Anthony B. Richmond, B.S.C., shot the film and this was just before his brilliant series of collaborations with director Nicolas Roeg, especially on Don’t Look Now, Bad Timing (A Sensual Obsession), and The Man Who Fell To Earth (reviewed elsewhere on this site).  He also was the cinematographer on Rock film classics Let It Be, The Kids Are Alright, and Sympathy For The Devil (the last two also reviewed on this site).


His use of color is always exceptional and any film shot in color with a circus theme is going to pay attention to such things to begin with.  That comes through enough, but this transfer simply does not do justice to his work or the artists on camera like it should.  16mm from the time looks better than this and the Criterion Gimme Shelter is a great example of that.  The sound is here as Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo, but neither are not what they could be and after hearing the 5.1 mix in a theater, it is obvious that the nearly three feature-length commentaries have compromised the fidelity of the 5.1 mix.  Too bad there was not room for a DTS 5.1 either, but the sound here is by no means an indication of how good this really sounds.  The combination of picture and sound are acceptable, but not optimal.


Extras include a Pete Townshend interview, another Dirty Mac clip, three more Taj Mahal clips, Julius Katchen in action again, a monochrome clowns sequence, a cigar gag clip, stills gallery, video for the Fat Boy Slim remix of Sympathy For The Devil, and the three commentary tracks.  All interesting material here, the commentary contributors include Lindsay-Hogg & Richmond, Jagger, Richard, Faithfull, Mahal, Ono, Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, David Stark and David Dalton.  They cover the film’s length twice, then the third track starts in a later part of the film that the DVD does not make you search for.  Despite my misgivings about the performance quality of the feature, this is a must-see DVD for its content.  Not bad for a film that was almost lost for good.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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